Mirco Dezulian

Carved from the same material as the mountain itself

“When you’re a real mountain-dweller, you want to spend all your time in the mountains. It’s like when somebody lives by the sea, they get obsessed by the sea, they love the sea, and so they become a fisherman. It’s the same thing, and that’s how it’s always been for me. That’s why I’ve become a mountain guide and the custodian of a mountain hut”.

Mirco Dezulian grew up and still lives in Vermiglio, the last municipality in Val di Sole, on the border with Lombardy. “I've got strong roots in my hometown. I could never live anywhere else. It’s exactly where I want to be. I like the environment itself, the ring of mountains that circles it like a crown. I’m crazy about it”.

It’s the perfect place for a mountain guide, and a strategic location. In just a short time, you can be in Adamello, on Cevedale or on the Brenta, and it takes just over an hour to get to Arco.

Stories from Trentino: Mirco Dezulian

The mountain guide

Mirco is one of around 200 Mountain Guides in Trentino, as well as a rescue volunteer. “The rescue service is a part of our culture. It’s just what you do when you’re born in the mountains in a little village where Alpine rescue has a presence, has a station. As a child, you see these men in their uniforms and you fall in love. That stays with you as you grow up”.

A date he will never forget is 14 August 1984, when 11-year-old Mirco asked his father to take him to Presanella. “He got a guide to keep us safe,” recounts Mirco, “and from that day on, I wanted to be a mountain guide too”.

“I didn’t understand everything it meant to be a guide, but the call of the mountain, Der Berg ruft!, as the Germans say, was something I already had inside me”.

First and foremost, I’m a mountain man

“Even before being a mountain guide, I’ve always been a mountain man at heart. I love going to chop wood in the forest, even if someone gave me the firewood as a gift, it wouldn’t be the same. It’s something we mountain-dwellers love, smelling the resin on your hands and thinking as you work about how warm it’ll keep you in winter. I’m a born mountain man”.

Living in the mountains is a vocation. At a basic level, you have to like yourself, or mountain life becomes difficult. After all, when the tourists go home, you’re still there, maybe left with almost nobody else around, where it might rain for days on end as you cope with your solitude. From June to September, Mirco and his wife Erika live in a hut which belongs to the Società degli Alpinisti Tridentini (SAT) society of mountaineers, a section of the Italian Alpine Club.

The solitude of the mountains

“There are those times”, says Mirco, “when you’re up there and it’s snowing, you’ve got no television and nobody to talk to either because you came alone or because it’s the last few days of the season and the staff have gone and your wife has returned to the valley too, and during those days, you’re on your own. Completely”. But if that’s just the kind of life you want, you get through it, and you even enjoy that solitude.

Stories from Trentino: Mirco Dezulian

“There are those times”, says Mirco, “when you’re up there and it’s snowing, you’ve got no television and nobody to talk to either because you came alone or because it’s the last few days of the season and the staff have gone and your wife has returned to the valley too, and during those days, you’re on your own. Completely”. But if that’s just the kind of life you want, you get through it, and you even enjoy that solitude.

The mountain is synonymous with struggle, sweat, your heart hammering, eyes taking in vast panoramas, and finally that moment when you reach the summit. This is what the mountain means to Mirco. The chance to accompany people to places they’d never have made it to alone. “You often see people start to cry because they're so moved and so happy when they get to the top. That’s when you feel that you've really made a difference. You’ve helped someone achieve something that they could never have done without you”.

But in order to understand what being a “mountain man” really means to Mirco, you have to meet him in person, listen to him speak and see the joy, the life and the humility in his expression, his ability to form a sincere rapport, the serenity he seems to radiate.

He loves the ice and ski mountaineering. Over his 49 years, he has climbed mountains on all five continents, including the Cerro Torre in Patagonia in 2004, one of the world’s most challenging peaks. “That pinnacle towering towards the sky, at the mercy of winds from the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Antarctic!” But Mirco is not interested in discussing the sporting adventures he undertook with a mixture of courage and recklessness, especially in his youth. 

Mirco talks about when he is responsible for a group, perhaps a group of young people with whom he must decipher the skies and decide whether to stay going or to stop. He talks about the experience that allows you to recognise danger in advance, for yourself and for others.  “Of course, there are situations that you really grow a lot from. I think that anybody who’s gone into the mountains has, at a certain level, found themselves in a situation that will give you the experience you will later draw from with your clients to ensure their safety and to stay in control of the situation at all times”.

The custodian

“At first I was a tradesman, a bricklayer and tiler. That was until I was 26, until I renovated Rifugio Stavel Francesco Denza for SAT in 2001-2002. I arrived as a bricklayer, but I came prepared. I already had all my papers and the REC” (a food safety qualification).

Mirco’s grandfather, also a bricklayer, had previously worked on the hut in the 1970s. An aunt of his, and later his mother, also worked there, and “my mother always told me afterwards to try and take it over because she could see my passion for it”. “After work, I remember that I would wash my hands in the water tank of the cement mixer, change my clothes, and rush off to evening REC classes. They were looking for a bricklayer to manage the team working up there, so I went up and I found that I liked it”.

He married Erika, a psychologist with previous experience in the field because her father had managed Rifugio Capanna Presena. He told her his plans for the Denza hut, and Erika said yes. We were just kids, newly married. I was 26, and she was even younger”. Occasionally, Erika still works as a psychologist for ski instructors and mountain guides. She has branched into sports psychology and helps them to manage stress. “In summer, she's up here with me. We stay for 3, maybe 3 and a half months. It’s been that way for over 20 years, and we like it. We will only stop when we don’t enjoy it any more, as long as SAT let us”.

In the mountain hut, Mirco plays the accordion, the guitar and the harmonica. He carries bread up and down and works the cableway, transforming himself like Archimedes into a plumber, tiler, carpenter, confidant. Erika takes care of everything else, all the details that are at the heart of custodianship. Above all, when the lightning, storms and cold set in, the mountain hut must be a place of shelter and refuge. Those are the times when Mirco feels like a true lodge-keeper, the custodian of his own mountain hollow, the Stavel Arena, and those who pass through it.

Mirco, what is the mountain for you?

“Life”.

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Published on 23/02/2022