Mentor in the MountainsFrom The Field
In Conversation with Mountain Guide Carlo Cosi
Growing up, there are few people who can say they know in their hearts exactly what they want to do with their lives. Carlo Cosi was 16 when he decided his future: becoming a mountain guide. Combining all his passions – skiing, climbing, and travelling – every day was a no-brainer. We spoke to Carlo to find out what inspired him and what life as a mountain guide entails.
When did you first go skiing and spend time in the mountains? What was it that made you enjoy it so much?
Carlos: The first time I put on my skis I was three years old, and every holiday since then I have gone skiing with my parents under the wall of the Roda di Vaèl in the Dolomites. Right from the start, I loved the feeling of freedom that this sport gives you. I immediately fell in love; it was like flying. For years I ‘skied’ on the carpet in the living room at home, imagining myself in the mountains.
You mentioned that you got your passion for the mountains from your dad and your grandfather. What was it about the stories of your grandfather that really caught your interest?
My grandfather was considered the strongest Paduan mountaineer of his time, and one of the pioneers of this activity in my hometown. He climbed walls that are still considered difficult today – and this was 60 years ago, without today’s technologies, and with hemp ropes tied around the waist.
He died very young in a car accident and my grandmother’s stories made him a superman in my imagination. My father followed in his footsteps a little, but I followed my grandfather’s example even more, and with all my might.
What does a typical day on the mountain look like for you?
Go out and climb or ski – no matter how difficult or where, but just go out into my mountains, return home tired and with a new adventure to tell.
What’s it been like in lockdown for you, when you’re so used to be outdoors every day?
The first days of lockdown were a bit depressing. There were perfect conditions for skiing, with sunshine, blue skies, and new powder to draw – it seemed like a nightmare! Then with the increasing number of deaths and bad news from Italy and all over the world, we understood that staying at home was the best thing to do. Depression turned into motivation and we started training at home to be even stronger for whenever we could go out again – and it worked!
Where in the world would you most like to climb?
I’ve climbed in South America, including Patagonia and the Andes, Yosemite, Utah, Pakistan, Morocco, Turkey, Spain, Greece, and Chamonix, but my favourite place remains the Dolomites; they are unique. Unique both in winter and in summer. I love travel and I often journey away from the Dolomites, but I have not yet found a more beautiful place.
Being on the mountain day in, day out in all weather conditions must involve some high-stress situations. What are some of the measures you take to control those situations when they arise?
Control is essential. Never panic; take a deep breath and think. You must always know how to listen to the mountain, see every slight change or sign of danger. It’s not easy at all, and sometimes you feel it in your stomach that you have to go back.
What has been your worst experience on the mountain? Can you talk us through it?
I lost a good friend on Laila Peak in Pakistan doing the first ski descent. It was the worst time of my life – one of those things you don’t wish on anyone. It took me a couple of years to get my mind as free as it had been before.
Are there any climbs that you think you could have completed but were just too risky?
Yes, I have turned back many times. Going back when you’re on a climb is sometimes more difficult than continuing, but someone said that the greatest climber is the one who comes back home. You learn a lot from the times you turn around without completing your objective. You come home, you train more, and you go back.
How long do you hope to be able to explore the mountains for and guide people as you do now?
As long as possible – it’s too good!
What advice do you have for any budding climbers or adventurers out there?
Go outside and enjoy it. You don’t have to look at the grades or at the extreme descent; just do what you like and makes you feel good.
What do you hope to achieve in every one of your climbs?
Have as much fun as possible and get more and more experience to become the best mountain guide I can be. My next goal is to become a guide instructor. I like the idea of teaching and passing on my passion, not only to a client but to people who will become my colleagues.