Archive For April 4, 2014
We shouldered the heaviest packs that any of us had ever carried on this trip. The payback? Ski mountaineering from comfortable camps in some of the most wondrous scenery imaginable. We enjoyed blissful, absolute silence throughout.
It was bitterly cold as soon as the sun went down and scorching hot by 2pm which meant to get good, safe skiing we had to rise early. Brrrrr.
We burnt a lot of energy and when in the valley, ate a lot of food. The waitress at Denny’s couldn’t believe that the four ‘skinny’ guys would eat what they’d ordered for 4am breakfast. Easy. Same for the delicious hog ribs washed down with Fat Tyre beer at Rusty’s Western Saloon. Top stuff all of it.
Spending my life in the mountains I have met many kind, friendly mountain people. Bernard, our hotel owner in Prägraten am Grossvenediger was definitely one of those. We met at breakfast. He was a lovely man with a gentle, cheerful manner which was impressive considering that he had been out with the mountain rescue until two in the morning. A Polish lady had fallen 30 metres into a crevasse near the top of the Gross Venediger. She had been skiing alone on the glacier, in bad visibility and plop. Head injuries, broken femur, broken humerus and so on.
Bernard’s father was still part of the picture in his family owned and run hotel. The father’s hobby was sculpting stone and on paying the bill Bernard presented me with a beautiful Christian cross carved in serpentine and polished. It sits on my bookshelf alongside the misbaha prayer beads from Damascus. I have no need for either but they were kind gifts with a meaning to the good people who gave them.
Charlotte started day one with no transceiver signal for the simple reason that she wasn’t wearing a transceiver. Oops. Back to the hotel she went with Gavin to search everywhere. No transceiver. On opening her rucksack for a check, despite knowing it wasn’t there, it was the first thing she found. Charlotte is fast so she and Gavin soon caught us up so no inconvenience to the rest of us.
Mountain guides do not escape the curse of forgetfulness. I remember parking in the upper Ben Nevis car park after the long forestry road approach. Two clients for one of the great Ben ice classics. I took out my kit – no ice axes. A colleague after a particularly stressful afternoon finally made it to the top of the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Looking down at his feet he saw to his horror that he was still in his trainers. I could go on.
This was a bumper year for Dolomites snow. Excellent conditions and glorious weather enabled us to complete a magnificent six-day SW to NE traverse.
If I had to choose a favourite day it would be that which started with the sunrise breakfast at the Rifugio Lagazuoi. Next came the skin and climb on hard snow in the morning sun to the summit of the Ciadin de Fanes. The hard work done early we smoothed our way effortlessly down the shady N side before the long, beautiful journey down the Travenanzes Valley to the road. Travel on skis – Magic!!