UNESCO World Heritage RhB

Bernina: mountain of legends and passion

Bernina: mountain of legends and passion - UNESCO World Heritage RhB

The Bernina is Gian Luck’s greatest love. In the truest sense of the word: the guide from Pontresina knows the mountain like the back of his hand. His enthusiasm is infectious. Patrick Burger from the Bellaluna cultural centre in Filisur prefers to admire the 4,049-metre giant from a distance. And recommends it to his sporting guests. Two stories. One mountain.

"When I finished school it was already clear to me that I wanted to earn a living outdoors." An aim that Gian Luck has clearly achieved. The 31-year-old native of Haldenstein spends his life in the mountains: as a mountain guide in Pontresina, as managing director of the climbing school in Pontresina – and as president of the Graubünden mountain guide association. And why did he decide to settle down here in the Engadin? "I practically work in my own front yard. The Bernina range is where I feel most at home." But it was also love for his girlfriend that drew him towards Pontresina. A move he doesn’t regret – on the contrary. Gian Luck spends around 200 days a year showing visitors Piz Bernina and Piz Palü. "It’s such a great feeling to see people’s eyes light up and feel their joy. I get to share an outdoor experience with them that they will never forget. And that makes me happy." Gian Luck’s eyes also light up as he talks, waxing lyrical on the subject: "The Bianco ridge is also called the ‘stairway to heaven’. You stand beneath the long white ridge that stretches out endlessly towards the blue of the sky. And from the summit you can see the Alps in all their glory: from the Ortler to Monte Rosa and all the Bernese peaks." The people he guides are looking for an unforgettable mountain experience. Every participant requires prior knowledge of alpinism and must already have completed a number of demanding tours. Because the Bernina is by no means an easy climb. The Pontresina mountain guides generally offer a 2.5 day tour, including an overnight stay. On the first day, you walk about eight to nine hours. From July to September is the best time. Gian Luck: "Sunrise on the Bernina is absolutely fantastic", he enthuses. And where passion comes into play, myths and tales are never far away. Gian Luck also has a story to tell: "At the end of the 1970s, there was a cat living on the Diavolezza, known as the Palü cat. It sometimes accompanied tourers up the Piz Palü. It followed in their tracks right to the top. One day when two climbers were on their way up the Bumillerpfeiler, the weather turned bad. Arriving at the summit, they decided to pitch camp there. They awoke in the middle of the night, hearing miaows, and were convinced they were going mad or about to die. Imagine their relief when they opened their bivouac sacks to discover that the Palü cat had sought refuge there."

Of course, Gian Luck is happiest when he’s up on top. But he also finds the Bernina "otherwise" beautiful. For example, when viewed from the train on a trip through the UNESCO World Heritage site. "Anyone who has ever travelled on the Bernina Express and enjoyed the splendid views of the Bernina range is unlikely to forget this wonderful landscape. Alpine lakes of every colour and the lasting force of water, which has formed our valleys. And here and there an animal, timidly surveying its surroundings. What could be more beautiful?" asks Gian Luck, a passionate mountain guide who takes a philosophical view of a region that means everything to him.

Text: Angela Cadruvi 

The Bernina Express: an exceptional experience
Experience one of the most spectacular ways to cross the Alps: the Albula and Bernina Lines link northern and southern Europe in wiggly lines and without cogs. The panoramic journey on the Bernina Express past the glaciers and down to the palm trees is one of the main highlights.

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