As travel restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic continue, climbers around the world connected remotely through Facebook on May 17 to raise their glasses in a toast to the life of Matteo “Berna” Bernasconi, a highly regarded Italian alpinist who died in an avalanche while ski-mountaineering in northern Italy on May 12. He was 38 years old.
Bernasconi worked as a mountain guide since 2011, was a prominent member of the elite Ragni di Lecco (Lecco Spiders) club and is credited with numerous first ascents across the world, especially in Patagonia. Just this past February in Patagonia with Matteo Della Bordella and Matteo Pasquetto, he completed a new route on Aguja Standhardt–Il Dado e Tratto (7b A1, 600m)–and onsighted the first free ascent, and likely the second ascent overall, of 40? Gruppo Ragni (6c, 800m) on Aguja Poincenot, a route that was first climbed in 1986 by a team of Ragni di Lecco climbers and named to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the club. In 2017, with Della Bordella and David Bacci, Bernasconi topped out a previously unfinished route on Cerro Murallon, El Valor del Miedo (M6 A2 90+ degrees, 1000m).
Della Bordella recalled his friend in an email to Alpinist:
Even if he never spoke a single word of English, his empathy could reach well beyond language barriers.
He never acted as a protagonist although he definitely was; his modesty matched his talent. He was one of the few alpinists not influenced by others, but only determined to pursue his dreams. His heart was pure and open to other people and authentic emotions.
As friend and member of Ragni di Lecco, I cannot think about him without seeing the mountains of Patagonia. He elected those peaks as his favorite playground and was coming back to them regularly. To me, he was like a bigger brother and I think he was able to give me a lot more than what I could give to him.
As an alpinist, his most memorable adventures are linked to Torre Egger and Cerro Murallon. Torre Egger was our school, as hard, ruthless and harsh as one of the difficult and most remote walls of Patagonia could be. Cerro Murallon was all about uncertainty, joy and success, celebration of friendship and pure adventure.
As a member of Ragni di Lecco, outside our group his value and importance was underestimated by many. He was definitely the maker of the generational change for us. A change that led the group to a style of adventures where friendship, human bond and minimal style are elements of prime importance, typical of our founders and thanks to him, nowadays more alive than ever.
As a man, he definitely was a role model. His balance between passion, work, friends and family was an example for everyone. He was extremely professional and well regarded as mountain guide. He had lots of clients and colleagues who loved him; countless friends remember his deep social side and his authentic passion for beers after climbing.
His partner Marta and his 2-year-old daughter Kiki were his real and true life loves. His last desire during the COVID quarantine was to spend more time with his family and teach Kiki to climb.
In a May 13 article for Planet Mountain, Vinicio Stefanello wrote:
Bern was not one to put himself in the limelight. Actually, he never behaved like a leader, although that’s what he was. You could always trust him, in the mountains and even while sipping a bottle of beer. He was one of few words, but deeds never failed. He was the ideal companion. For many, even, an older brother. You felt safe in his hands. And many will remember him for this, as someone you could always rely on.