With four of us left, we split up further: Denis and Andrea, never daunted, decide to go to Konkordiaplatz, continue toward the Grünhornlücke, and return to the Konkordia hut, while Ruggero and I are satisfied with the basic plan that includes climbing to the hut directly from Konkordiaplatz.
Konkordiaplatz is a glacial version of a real city square, much larger than the Parisian one whose name it mimics. It’s an immense white plain at the confluence of five glaciers, where, it’s said, a jumbo jet could land. At the eastern end of the plain rise the rocky spurs on which the Konkordiahütte is placed, the hut that over the years moves higher and higher. Of course, it’s the glacial plain below that’s sinking, but the fact is that the difference in height continues to increase. Since the last time I was here, the metal staircase to the hut has been replaced with a much higher and more direct structure. We meet people who are forced to clip in due to dizziness.
We finally reach the hut. It’s full and we are assigned to the winter quarters. Better this way — we’re out of the crowds and we even have a little room to ourselves. Even if we have to deal with the most treacherous stretch of the entire crossing, the short icy path that connects our annex with the main building, wearing our Crocs. The sun is out, which is helpful for climbing skins, shoes, sweaty shirts. A potentially lethal mixture of odors that disperses without a trace in the thin air. We immerse ourselves in the life of the hut, which is always the same, made up more of time to pass than time that passes. Almost a waiting room, filled only with small things and basic needs, dinner above all. And photos, always, of the immensity of the landscape, of the people, of the details of this Alpine microcosm so populated and so far from everything else.
It is precisely the immensity that puts us to the test the following morning. Having returned to the glacier early, careful not to slide off the stairs, we recross Konkordiaplatz and move onto the wide and almost flat Grosser Aletschfirn again. A long journey awaits us, with always the same steps and a precise direction, toward the Lötschenlücke. We realize once again that this is one of the few Alpine places where those who’ve experienced the Himalayas relive many of the same feelings: the grandeur, the expanded distances, the never reaching your destination, the dots in the distance that remain dots for hours. The glaciers of the Jungfrau-Aletsch region are small-scale models of the frozen Baltoro belt, or the great Khumbu glaciers.
It’s like this also for the last descent into the Lötschental — infinite, a sort of slow decompression, a gradual return to civilization, until Denis’s final observation: “Nice, but next time more elevation gain, fewer kilometers, and a bit steeper gradient.”