Piero Costa, Yang Chun e Angiolino Binelli

It is 22nd September 2007 and in Val Rendena it is a bright, sunny day. Today the village of Pinzolo is on holiday; it is celebrating the 36th edition of  the Silver Plaque for the International Alpine Solidarity Prize.
This year the Prize’s echo has reached as far as China, to the Himalayan foothills, in recognition of Mr. Yang Chun, a forest warden for the county of Dali, in beautiful Yunnan province.

Yunnan (abbreviation for Yunlingnan, which means “south of the Yunling mountains”) is in South West China.  It covers an area stretching from the tropical forests of Xishuanbanna on the southern border with Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar, as far as the lofty peaks of mythical Shangri-la, on the northern border between Tibet and Sichuan. The province is unique for the variety of its scenery and also for the variety of peoples living there. Of the 56 ethnic minorities recognised in China, 25 live in Yunnan, making up about 40% of the total population of the province (about 45 million).


Cang Shan

Yang Chun did not set out on his journey westwards by himself, but in the company of Mrs. Tang Lu, a local guide in the county of Dali.
Why are Yang Chun and Tang Lu now in Pinzolo, one a prize-winner and the other an interpreter/companion? How did the echo of such a famous international mountain Prize manage to reach as far as the Chinese uplands of Yunnan? Because solidarity in the mountains does not recognise borders and embraces the whole world!

Dolomiti di Brenta

The story of Yang Chun and Tang Lu is indelibly linked to that of the Italian Piero Costa.
The link joining their stories is unique and special.  It is made of solidarity and gratitude, the link joining the rescued with the rescuer.
Their stories intertwined in faraway China, among the peaks of majestic mountains. In 2004 Piero was holidaying in Yunnan with two friends, Simone and Lorenzo. On the morning of 11th January, they decided to take a trip up the Cang Shan mountain, a majestic mountain chain surrounding the plateau of the county of Dali. They reached the Seven Dragons Waterfall (2600 metres above sea level), so named because of its seven drops. It was a splendid day; the snow edging the smooth stone of the waterfall was thawing in the sun. Piero and Simone climbed towards the waterfall’s last drop to take a photo. Suddenly, Simone slipped on a thin layer of ice hidden under the snow. He managed to stop himself less than a metre from the waterfall’s drop. Piero tried to retrieve him; he dropped down to a ledge and secured him by making a rope out of the cords on a knapsack. From that point it was not easy to get back to the path. Piero tried. But just as he was crawling along, the soles of his boots slipped, he lost his balance and tumbled downwards to finish with his outstretched legs between two rocks, breaking a leg and passing out. His companions got to him and put together an emergency splint with two branches and a scarf. Lorenzo helped them to carry him to a safe place to await help, which had been called for by a young Chinese person who had seen the accident happen.

Lago Er Hai Dali   Lago di Valagola (Parco Adamello Brenta)


The recovery team arrived in less than three hours. There were four forest rangers and four local inhabitants, with a wicker chair carried between two bamboo sticks. Yang Chun was their leader. After receiving the call at the centre, he had organised the rescue team in a flash. Piero was put on the sedan chair and the team started off for the valley, followed by Lorenzo and Simone. It takes nearly four hours to reach the bottom of the valley. From there a car took the invalid to the best hospital in the county, the Sixtieth Military Hospital of Dali. Here, Piero found out how serious the fracture was. They recommended he stay in hospital for two weeks before the operation. But Piero wanted to come back to Italy. He contacted Tang Lu, the guide who had accompanied them a few days before on a trip, to ask for help. Tang Lu helped Piero and his friends with all the logistics of returning to Italy. She also found a wheelchair for Piero. On the afternoon of 13th January, Piero found Yang Chun and Tang Lu waiting outside the hospital door, ready to take him to the station. On the platform, as they waited for the train, Yang Chun wished Piero “Yi lu shun feng”, a journey with a following wind, while Tang Lu got on the train to accompany him to the airport in Kunming. The journey went well, as Yang Chun had wished.Today, as we watch Yang Chun receive the Silver Plaque, my mind goes back to that difficult time and I am reminded of the words of Seneca: “The life of those who forget the past is extremely short and troubled.  They ignore the present and fear the future; when they reach the final moment, they belatedly understand that they have spent a long time getting nowhere.

Cascata dei 7 Draghi Cang Shan   Cascate Nardis (Parco Adamello Brenta)  



The writer has a Master’s in "Gestione dell'economia locale" (Management of the Local Economy). He is a member of the Guardia Forestale (Forest Wardens) of the Contea of Dali, where today he holds the position of head of the local district. He has taken to heart the values of environmental protection, and he runs the local office with conscientiousness and generosity, and with excellent results.





© 2006-2008 EcodelleDolomiti