The knights who say, “Ni!”

Ni!

We have taken a couple of days out of the mountains while Mrs P recovers from the lurgy and while the weather up high sorts itself out (bit damp). There’s not much rock climbing in this area so we have spent a day and a half at a medieval festival in Schluderns, Italy.

The festival went on for 3 days though we only spent a day and a half wandering around.

The premise of these events is that hundreds of people who are fascinated with a particular medieval period in history live their lives as medieval characters every weekend throughout the summer with like minded people and all their best mates. It sounds really nerdy and, in some respects it may be but, that doesn’t stop it being great fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to dress up like a warrior and hang round the tavern with their mates?

One day I’ll be tall enough to join in this conversation

The only issue is that it provides a stark illustration as to why wars will never stop…

Lots of shiny sharp things to buy

…the thing is that some people (men. Ok, me) just want to feel tough. I can’t explain just how much I wanted to buy a sword.. and a helmet. Oh, and one of those spikey things on a stick and, and… a bow and arrow… and…

“…And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here…”

Oh yes. Mr P got to play. He will of course remember, with advantages, what feats he did that day…

Shakespeare: Henry V

Mrs P’s recollection on the other hand may be different as she channels her inner bard to describe a grown man desperate to dress up and play with all the toys.

“And gentlewomen the world over shall think themselves lucky the are just about anywhere else…”

And..

“He will of course, with gusto, exaggerate what feats he did that day (no change there then).

And that old favourite..

“I may be pretending to have fun but seriously, can we go now?”

She loved it really.

Enough said.

Mrs P did enjoy it really. There were horses…

Horsing around in Italy

…and camels…

Put one more sticky fingered, crying child on my back and I will really get the hump

…and budgies…

Who’re you calling a budgie!?

Most of the re-enactment folk hang out in their authentic camps…

Should we get a couple of shields for Gandalf?

…while their kids authentically beat the c$%p out of each other with sticks.

Who needs WiFi?

So, this goes on for days and I can thoroughly recommend it. Just don’t blame me if you come away with a sword.

Here’s a few pics to convince you to seek one of these events out.

I’m Asterix. No, I’m Asterix…
In the arena the actors put on a great show
Finally, a use for those old curtains

I confess to a little costume envy here (and not just a little hair envy). Though I should imagine he is jealous of my incredible good looks (see below).

Mr P wonders what they do with all the dried horse poo as he tries the Moroccan coffee

The action in the arena was great…

A knight charges through fire while two small children get in the way.
Some great bands
Some elaborate costumes…
…and some less elaborate costumes

All in all we had a great time.

Mr & Mrs P. Having a great time

Anyway, enough of the good olde days. We are off back into the mountains tomorrow. Going to climb the Ortler. The highest peak in the Southern limestone Alps. 3,905m (12,811ft).

This requires a night in a hut so don’t expect any updates until Tuesday at the earliest.

I’d best go check Mrs P hasn’t packed too much stuff…

Oh dear!

Arco

Last time I wrote anything I fell asleep mid sentence so, I must confess to slipping standards and the need to catch up. We have been in Arco for 3 days now and would love to stay longer. For this post I am going to throw caution (read: data) to the wind (read: Vodaphone) and try to recount 3 days in pictures. Wish me luck…

Arrived late Monday 19th August all campsites full so hung around down by the river with all the other cheapskates.

It may not look much but its home (and feee. Yay!)

My guidebook for this area is sitting at home in Berkshire so borrowed a book from the neighbouring van and took some photos.

Copyright be damned (bought book next day)

For those interested in how such diagrams help it goes something like this;

    Find crag (Climbing area) A dark art all of its own
    Try to make real rocks look like diagram – this is akin to a vet using a Walt Disney drawing of Pluto or Goofy to operate on a real life dog
    Select climb from diagram – use same analogy as above but now we have to find the dogs appendix
    Climb 30 metres of rock using a description of a mere 5 words e.g. follow crack to tricky overhang. (Thanks for nothing description!)
Mr P pretending to climb when he is really just crawling along the road towards a bush

This is day one of climbing near Arco. South facing slab and super hot so, I’m wearing a buff under my helmet to keep the sun off my neck. Lunchtime, I take helmet off. Mrs P takes photo, I assume because I look cool but no, it is because I look like a pillock.

‘Fashion is art and you body a canvas’ says Mr P

I have included a definition of the word ‘pillock’ for my non-English readers but I think the picture says it all

Met up with some old friends back at the campsite. Mr & Mrs McD. We first met this splendid pair last year in Switzerland. We all went off to do a via Ferrata above the village.

Mrs P always keeps a small Scottish person in her back pocket in case of emergencies

The return trip passes through Arco and its assorted bars and pizza restaurants. We succumbed to temptation and stayed for both.

The following day, 21st August (Aside: Happy Birthday Mrs P’s brother) we set off to higher climes (and climbs) to a crag 550 metres up. A lot cooler and both lovely and quiet.

Did a climb called Winnie the Pooh (5a+) which I’m not entirely convinced the bear after which it was named would have been able to scale. Fun but no honey.

Mr & Mrs McD joined us and had a great time. Both nearly 10 years older than us Mr McD only took up Climbing a week ago!

Mr & Mrs McD reading a book entitled, ‘teaching old dogs new tricks.’

I also climbed a 6a+ without crying (well, not while anyone was watching anyway). Mr McD took a couple of nice shots of me on the way down after the falling off bit.

6a+ route. If you look closely you can see both me & Mrs P
Mrs P. The best belayer ever!
Can I open my eyes yet?

That brings us to today. Thursday 22nd August. Just a few climbs on a crag local to Arco followed by a visit to Arco itself.

When we were last here in 2006 it was a pretty quiet place with lots of climbers but only 2 climbing shops and not much else. It’s changed though…

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Arco

Every other shop seems to be a climbing shop.

A display of shiny climbing things in shop number 20

I was very good, I only spent €3 on a pair of laces and I bought Mrs P a small gift for being the best belayer ever.

Our favourite pizza restaurant however has not changed. Still perfect pizzas at reasonable prices in delightful surroundings.

Ristorante Pizzeria ai Conti, Arco
Perfect pizza, perfect surroundings, perfect company

We must leave Arco in the morning but have vowed to return for longer next time. So much to climb. So much to see. (So much pizza to eat!)

Walking back into Arco after a tough morning climbing

Tune in tomorrow as we head back to the South Tyrol…

Otzi (The ice man)

Monday 19th August (bit behind)

We first met Otzi back in 2006. We were hanging out in the Otztal valley hoping to climb but the weather had taken a serious turn for the worse.

Trawling through tourist info leaflets we found that behind our campsite was Otzidorf.

Travel Back in time to an era where Ötzi ‘the man in ice’ lived. Said the flyers.

So, off we pottered for a very informative if rather damp few hours finding out about Otzi the iceman.

It turns out that Ötzi, also called the Iceman, is the well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE. When he was discovered, by 2 climbers in 1999, poking out of a glacier they thought he might be from the war, just 70 years ago but, it turns out that he is about 5,300 years old. I’m usually happy if someone thinks I look a few years younger than my current 55. Ötzi was mistaken for a man 5,130 years younger! That’s either one serious skin care regime or some blooming awful guess work from the experts on the spot.

Anyway, we’ve been to the outdoor museum, we’ve been within a few miles of the spot he was actually found. Time to visit the museum in Bolzano, Italy dedicated to and housing the man himself.

Click on the image for more info…

The museum is excellent and I thoroughly recommend both it and the city of Bolzano should you find yourself in that part of Italy.

The museum tells the story of the find and the research undertaken in the decades up to now. Strangely they only got forensic scientists involved relatively recently to reveal the possible scenarios around Ötzi’s ‘murder‘. Pause for dramatic effect…

… [pause ends].

You can’t take photos of his body so, no pictures here. (The National geographic have a good site where it can be seen) His body is kept in a frozen state and is visible via a viewing area with the exhibition culminating in a full size recreation of him.

Ötzi the Iceman

Looking good for a 5,300 year old murder victim

After a very educational visit we headed off for lunch. This turned out to be very expensive because it also involved a couple of visits to shops as follows:

  1. Book shop: €36 – Climbing Guide book to replace ancient one.
    outdoor shop: €60 – lightweight trousers for Mr P for next years trip!
    Outdoor shop No. 2: €240!!!!! Mountain trousers and top for Mr P who has lost so much weight over the last few years that everything is falling off him (and other such vague excuses)
  • We can no longer afford to eat. Ever!
  • Those concerned that this spending spree is somewhat Mr P centric may be heartened by the fact that some years ago a similar shopping spree took place that just involved Mrs P.

    Moving on, which is exactly what we did, we then drove south for a couple of hours to Arco. We were here in 2006 also. Sleepy little town at the northern most tip of Lake Garda. I’m sure nothing has changed…

    Blatant discrimination…

    Don’t worry, this is not a tale of anti-British behaviour. No-one has taken us to task over Brexit. We have not been refused entry to anywhere just because we share a nationality with Nigel Farage. So calm yourself dear reader and read on safe in the knowledge that there are absolutely no scenes of mild (or otherwise) distress in today’s post.

    Mr P, a shadow of his former self

    Today is a rest day which is a good job as Mrs P has picked up a rotten cold. How does that even happen? Wouldn’t it be fascinating if you were able to look back and see exactly where you picked up a cold? Was it from the man who served us bratwurst? Had he not washed his hands properly? Did Mrs P inadvertently rub her eye having been near the coughing man? Can boot camp give you a cold? Can you catch a cold from a glacier? (Glaciers are cold, catch a cold. Geddit?… oh, please yourself!)

    Either way, the poor lamb is feeling like that famous non-existent cartoon character that I just made up, Snot filled the Bogeyman. For my American readers a bogey, in this instance, is neither a golf score nor an imaginary evil spirit but a piece of dried mucus that comes from inside your nose. (Noun. British; informal). Too much information? I think so.

    Mrs P, off to find some tissues. (The Ortler in the background is 3,905 m high and on our to do list).

    Anyway, she’s not a happy bunny so it’s a good job today is a rest day.

    So, lets move on to discriminatory happenings…

    We moved to a nearby and considerably cheaper campsite today.

    Camping im Park, in Glurns (Trust me, I’m not making these names up.)

    It is lovely and less than half the price of last night’s stay.

    Anyway, this sorry (1st World problem) tale concerns a conversation that took place on arrival at the campsite with a delightful girl on reception, whose English incidentally, was probably better than mine (in my defence, I am half Brummie, half Canadian). Let’s call her DGOR cos we all love a good acronym.

    DGOR: “The showers are 50 cents. Ladies get four minutes, men get three…”

    German man behind me (GMBM) laughing: “Well that’s just discrimination.”

    I have to admit that I agreed with him whole heartedly.

    DGOR: “It’s not discrimination. Women have long hair.”

    GMBM and I shared a glance, both far from hirsute we conceded that we could only agree with her on this point. Where’s Russell Brand when you need him? (Now that’s not a sentence I ever thought I would write.)

    Anyway, lovely campsite apart from the discrimination. #baldist

    Fingers crossed that Mrs P is feeling better soon. There are mountains to climb for heavens sake.

    Glurns, the smallest town in South Tyrol.

    We head out for a gentle ride into Glurns (see photo above). It is advertised on their website as, ‘…the smallest town in South Tyrol where little has changed since the 16th century.” This obviously does not include the 80 foot crane in the photo but does include their attitude to visitors. Don’t get me wrong, they are a very friendly bunch but, obviously believe that your average visitor is likely to die of bubonic plague before they find the information centre so why bother with any signs?

    Anyway. Early night as we are off to see Ötzi tomorrow. We first met him in 2006. Very excited…

    Sometimes it pays to make a mistake.

    Saturday 17th August. On Saturdays there is a single 7am gondola from Sulden up to 2,500m which, if you get your skates on, allows you to climb Monte Cevedale 3,769m and get back before the final gondola down at 5pm. If you miss it you face a 2.5 hour 600 metre hike down into the valley. Having missed a gondola before it is not something we intend to repeat.

    All looks good. However, I’ve made a mistake. How can this be? I’ve done my homework. I’ve looked at the map. I’ve carefully read the route and we have packed our kit accordingly. Mistake!? Moi?

    With hindsight maybe I should buy a new guidebook. Glaciers change, routes change. And over the last couple of decades that change has been huge. When was my guidebook published? Hang on… just checking… erm… 1990. Just the 29 years out of date then!

    A lot of exclamation marks in those last 2 paragraphs. I think you deserve a photo by way of respite.

    Following groups into the glacier. Our objective is beyond, above and a bit left of everything you can see in the background

    Shortly after taking the above photo I realised my mistake. The previous night I had said to Mrs P, “We won’t need helmets. It’s mostly glacier.” Muppet! The map clearly showed a quick trip over the Eiseeepass. The reality showed a horrible, 150m high, choss ridden, rockfall zone of a gully filled with guide led groups comprising people with little or no idea of the danger of throwing rocks down in those below.

    Dynamic risk assessment time… stuff it, we’ll go over the Suldenspitze (peak) and access the glacier system that leads to our mountain that way. What can go wrong?

    Summit of the Suldenspitze 3,376m with a cross made from old bits of artillery from the war.

    Turns out nothing can go wrong and we get 2 mountains for the price of one. Result! Three of you count the fact that we must return over the same peak. Lovely, if rather crevassey (made up word meaning lots of crevasses. I shall write to the Oxford English and ask them to add it) glacier route and a bimble over an easy peak. Admittedly we had to descend a hundred metres the other side but, this supposedly slower route got us well ahead of a group we were climbing with just before they opted for the choss gully. Tortoise and hare.

    Past the Rifugio Casati at 3,269m after 3 hours and onto the Vedretta (‘glacier‘ I think) del Cevedale.

    Colder than 2018 so better ice on the glaciers at this time of year.

    We are now out alone in the middle of a few groups of climbers but near none. Stunning views. Glorious ice. Thin air. So, slowly, slowly. Mrs P may have a different view of my interpretation of the word ‘slow.’ However, she is on the end of a rope 15 metres behind me so I can’t hear if she complains. La, la, la… (to be honest, she never complains. Just gets on with the business of enjoying and being ‘ard.)

    The final 200m or so is steep. Traversing a 50 degree slope (don’t fall off) leading to a circa 100m long narrow ridge. 70 degree ice slope on your right leading to certain deathville and a ‘best not think about it drop‘ on the left leading to the same place but with a somewhat faster acceleration approach. It’s fine though, the ridge must be a good 50cm (1.5 feet) wide of solid ice with the odd hole added for amusements sake.

    The wide angle lens doesn’t do it justice. It also fails to show how far down you would fall either ( a looong way.)

    Stunning views from the summit and a strange reminder of the futility of war.

    The summit of Monte Cevedale 3,769m
    Mrs P enjoying a grand day out

    just shy of the summit are the remains of an old guard hut. Very small, very exposed. This area was the scene of ferocious fighting during WW2 between the very nations who are now sharing a friendly lunch together. My futile message to world leaders is; ‘Stop fighting. The little people, who outnumber your millions to 1, really don’t care. Just let us have a quiet lunch together.’

    That’s World peace sorted and it’s only noon. Time to go down. It took us 4 hrs 45 mins to the summit, last gondola is at 5. Easy. Gravity is on our side.

    Stunning view of the Konigspitze 3,851m

    Descent via a restorative as we return past the Rifugio Casati. Coffee for Mr P, Coca-Cola for Mrs P. (Odd, she never drinks Coca-Cola!?)

    Back at the gondola at 4.15. 9 hours on the go. Mrs P loves a good boot camp/grand day out.

    Back with Gandalf at 5pm and drive down into the valley to find a campsite with a shower. It’s been 3 days of free camping so a shower is long overdue.

    Great day. Great area. More things need climbing but for now, a couple of rest days beckon.

    The goats in the machine

    Catching up on a couple of days here. Yesterday (Thursday 15th August) we moved up to Sulden in the Ortler Stelvio National Park. Or ‘Italy’ to his friends.

    We arrived late afternoon and wanted to go for an acclimatisation hike i.e. over 2,600m. Bit late to hike up from the valley so we dig deep into our pockets and take a chairlift up to 2,348 (how much!?). With the luxury of very light bags, containing not much more than lunch and some water, we headed for the Düsseldorfer hutte at 2,720m.

    Easy life

    I don’t think we have ever hiked to a hut without huge rucksacks.

    Lots of stunning flowers…

    A flower. Latin name; Plantius blueius
    Another flower. Latin name: Flowaria Pinkium

    There is a chance I got the flower names wrong.

    Lunch by the hutte and then a bimble up to 2,820m. If you live at a lower altitude, and trust me, Berkshire is a lower altitude, you can start to feel the height at around 2,600m. Just slightly difficult breathing while walking. Not too bad. This little jaunt will help to kid our lungs that we are mountain goats next time we head up high.

    At the end of our walk we encountered this little lot…

    The goats whisperer strikes again.

    I think I must’ve looked like someone they knew because they all came careening towards us as soon as I appeared. Bleating and clanging their bells. Surrounded, we were worried they would follow us down and we would have to pay for the lot of them on the chairlift and find space for them to sleep in Gandalf (though they would probably have been happy on the roof).

    To shake them off we walked slowly away carefully avoiding eye contact and saying things like, “Looks like mutton for tea.” and, “Which way to the abattoir?” They seemed to take the hint and wandered off to bother some daisies.

    The weather drew in as we walked down. A portent of the huge storms that would hit the valley later that evening.

    Mrs P stares the incoming storm in the eye (doesn’t look that bad)

    Spent the night in a car park at the bottom of the chairlift. No facilities but our favourite price i.e. free.

    The following morning (today, Friday 16th Aug) we headed straight for a coffee shop. Coffee was however only secondary on my agenda with our real reason for visiting being to check out their porcelain facilities and the quality of their paper (excellent, since you ask).

    Today is a rest day. We spent a lazy morning followed by an afternoon of packing for tomorrow’s big adventure. We are off to climb a local mountain, Monte Cevedale (pronounced… erm… dunno. C-v-daul. Seems unlikely). 3,757m.

    Gondola up to 2,581m then wander up the moraine for an hour or so to about 2,700m before getting on the glacier and climbing another 1,000m to the summit remembering not to fall down any pesky crevasses on the way. Estimated time to the summit 4.5 hours. Gonna be a long day.

    Spent the afternoon packing…

    A minor Gandalf explosion

    …and practicing the techniques for rescues on glaciers, in case we fail in our main objective of not falling down any crevasses.

    Mr P pretends he knows what he is doing while Gandalf looks on

    There may not be a post tomorrow. Either too tired or stuck in a crevasse. Will try to catch up the next day. Will definitely big up our mountain exploits soon so stay tuned.

    Who invented the boiled egg?

    Another (and final, I promise) culinary tale… I assume that way back, shortly after the saucepan was invented, some hapless cave dweller accidentally dropped his very last egg in the pan of water he was boiling up to make tea (tea, as you know, has been around FOREVER).

    “Darn!” he said. Or some other prehistoric expletive. Some minutes later, when he was able to retrieve his only meal and was forced to eat it, he discovered he had inadvertently, and fortuitously invented the boiled egg. (Definitely a man by the way. A woman would NEVER be so careless.)

    Other happy ‘mistakes’ over the millennia have probably been the cause of such tasties as; cooked meat, toast and cheese etc.

    Well, I had just such an incident happen to me (though probably less likely to catch on) the other evening in Gandalf. Happily drinking my mug of chamomile tea I reached over to pluck a tasty looking cornichon (pickled gherkin to the less posh) from a bowl. Oops! Butterfingers, into my tea it goes. Tea too hot to remove said pickled comestible straight away it languished at the bottom of my cup for a few minutes before being removed. The cornichon was no worse for wear neither improvement or otherwise. The tea on the other hand was, well… let’s say that it is unlikely there will be a brand of chamomile and gherkin tea bags sold in the shops any time soon.

    I shall not mention food again. Promise (fingers crossed firmly behind back).

    Back to the trip.

    This lovely shot before the sun came out to play

    The weather yesterday was perfect for climbing so, we did just that.

    I may look the part but Mrs P did all he work

    Nassereith, Austria is such a great spot. An area of nice easy climbs where we always seem to meet English groups. This time a group from Birmingham University. So, a little translation was required for Mrs P from Brummie to posh Southern.

    Another section of harder climbs was rather busy so we only did one there. I say ‘we.’ I mean Mrs P who led a very steady grade 5 called Inspiration. I just held the rope.

    Look what I did!

    Later we moved over to Italy a few days sooner than planned and spent a fruitless time casting around for some guide books/maps as we plan to head into the snowy mountains soon.

    The Ortler (3,905m) from our campsite

    Beautiful drive over the Reschenpass. If we can avoid the Italian drivers we may even survive long enough to do some climbing.