When I work with children, it always strikes me how they dive completely into the scheduled activities and how they are able to be surprised. For three years I have been organizing camps, both in the summer and in the winter, for children and young people up to the age of 14 in Valgerola, in the Orobie Alps in the North of Italy. Now I know them, I know how they react to the activities I suggest. More than adults they are ready to open up to the explanations and notions that I try to convey - and we also talk about technical topics, not really immediate - and I realize that the knowledge they accumulate day after day remains over the years, it really becomes part of their own being.
It's nice to take the kids on this journey. It is not just a matter of letting them know about a territory or passing on hiking and climbing techniques, but of seeing them grow and become a little more autonomous and responsible than when they started the camp. Not to mention when I see them forget smartphones and tablets after half an hour, just to enjoy 100% the adventure they are experiencing: the mountain also has this power!
The participants in my camps come usually from families that are already used to going to the mountains. What I try to do is to teach them to move safely in this environment, also tackling unexpected meteorological conditions. But most of all I try to explain them how to respect the mountain and to show them how fun can be to pass some time there, plunged in the nature. As I always say, the boys then move from the backpack in "expedition mode", or loaded with a thousand things apparently indispensable, to the "essential backpack", that is the typical one of who is prepared, knows what he’s going to face and brings what it's really useful.
While working with children, you realize that for them emulation is the key to learning correctly: you become their model, the person they copy to learn how to move and master a certain technique. It is a responsibility, of course, but it is also a great satisfaction to think that you are creating emotions, an indelible memory for the mountain lovers of tomorrow.
Cristian Candiotto, known as Cinghio, has been a mountaineering instructor since 2001, mountain guide since 2014 and instructor of the Lombard Alpine Rescue. Since 2006 he lives in Valtellina, where he can unleash his passion for the mountains and for mountaineering in every season.