Least said soonest mended

Saturday 31st August and Sunday 1st September will be travel days to get us back within easy driving distance of Calais and the Channel Tunnel. Or, as the French call it; Le Place from which Le Stoopide Brexit people come. (Zoot Allors!) You think I’m joking? They’ve already changed the signs at customs, as follows:

  • EU Nationals ➡️
  • Roast Beef Eating Foreign types ➡️
Johnny Foreigner this way…

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Possibly because I am writing this in the tunnel between Calais and Folkestone.

So, dear reader, let’s go back in time, way way back to Saturday 31st August. We have a cunning plan. It’s a dreadful plan but, at this point it time, we are blissfully unaware of just how uncunning our cunning plan is.

It all starts well, a carefully plotted early morning flit from the campsite. No rations (read: breakfast and a cup of Rosie Lee), bypass the guards (read: ‘the people in the tent next door), avoid the searchlights and crash (read:,’raise‘) the barrier doing 98 (read: ‘quite slowly actually‘). Steve McQueen would’ve been proud (read: ‘ashamed‘).

Call that an exciting escape?

By 05.30hrs we are on the road and by 06.30 we have negotiated the 4th longest road tunnel in the world.

Are we there yet?

The Arlberg Tunnel is 16km long. The sun wasn’t quite up when we entered the tunnel but it certainly was when we came out the other end. Weird!

All good so far, but did I mention that the sun came up? That’s where the trouble really began.

It got hot…

A picture of it getting REALLY hot!

I should mention here that Gandalf has no air conditioning. His only concession to hot weather comfort is electric windows. There is also a thermometer inside the cab to rub your nose in the fact that we have no air conditioning.

The thermometer inside Gandalf reads 37.8 degrees C or, for our US readers, 100 degrees F.

“Open the windows!”

I hear you chorus.

This is not as good an idea as you might think. We are traveling on motorways and the noise with the windows when open is horrendous, besides that, any air that does rush by at deafening velocity is akin to that kicked out by your average hairdryer. So we opt for the stifling still heat as opposed to the deafeningly noisy heat.

To add to our woes we had decided to alternate 2 hour driving stints but, for some reason, had not considered any breaks. This was a mistake. It turns out that Mr P does not do well without his morning hot drink and a spot of food. In fact he can get quite grumpy so, when Mrs P misses the turn off the Autobahn adding a whole 15 minutes to the 6-7 hour journey, Mr P in his lack of hot drink, no breakfast and overheated state gets quite unnecessarily fractious.

Mrs P, being the saint that she is ignores him. Best way. He falls asleep.

Several million hours and a couple of driver changes later and the temperature in the van has at no point dropped below 6 billion degrees centigrade (about 42.8 billion degrees F for our US readers). We finally arrive on the outskirts of Verdun with just one simple task left before we can go to the campsite and break free of Gandalf’s searing, suffocatingly oppressive, oven like grip. Time to get fuel.

This is a mistake.

Fill up with fuel and pay. (Miraculous, since most French petrol stations refuse to employ human beings and then refuse to take our good old English bank card.)

Then, horror of horrors, Mr P fails to negotiate a carefully camouflaged bollard and does damage to our home, our friend, the van we all love, our very own Gandalf.

Poor Gandalf

This has the effect of turning Mr Ps already dark mood to inky black.

Nice campsite though

To précis the rest of the afternoon and evening I will simply say that Mrs P was very patient.

The evening was rescued to some extent by Mrs P taking a very grumpy Mr P out to dinner (Mrs P: “Can you believe it, he even complained about having to eat late!”).

Well, enough of my failings as a loving husband for now. I shall catch up on Sunday and Monday in my next post.

Spoiler alert: Mrs P’s patience is less tested as Mr P cheers up.

What to do, what to do…

…as Pooh Bear once said. Friday August 30th and it’s our last day in the mountains. Do we climb or do we go for a walk? Decisions, decisions.

Much as we would like to do both we eventually decide on a hike. And, since time is limited we are going to cheat.

Cheat

We take the chairlift up from Hoch-Imst at 1,000m to 2,050m. We only have a freebie map. It’s one of those horrible 3D affairs designed for people who can’t read maps. This kind of map is infuriating.

To cheap to buy a real map

I have this theory that we can walk from the top of the chairlift at 2,050m, over the Hinteres Alpjoch (2,425m), down to the Mutterkopfhutte (1,934m) and back up to the chair lift. However, the Hinteres Alpjoch is not marked on the map. Maybe it doesn’t exist. Maybe it is the one have indicated. Maybe we should’ve bought a map! Maybe, maybe, maybe… However, it’s a stunningly beautiful day, we are wearing walking boots and have made sandwiches. Only one way to find out…

We quickly find a summit of sorts…

Summit number 1 of the day

…and stop to pose with the ubiquitous summit cross.

Mr P. Proud summiteer

From where we can see our possible route.

Slight pointy bit in centre of picture. That’s our summit… Maybe.

Time for a few flower pictures I think…

The common Dandelion. Alpine style
One of them butterfly things
A drop of water caught on a leaf. Leafius dampus

In the UK such a walk would be rammed but, there’s just us. This is because we have passed the magic, 20 minutes from the chairlift zone. Few users of such mechanical uplifts will go beyond this point without the imminent promise of a cup of tea or beer.

Near the summit Mr P encounters the prettiest Mountain Elf ever. Anywhere.

We found the top of the Hinteres Alpjoch (2,425m). Disappointingly there was no cross by which to pose. Just a small yellow, plastic sign so, I took a picture of the ground instead…

A pretty bit of ground near the summit

Anyway, lets go down to the Mutterkopfhutte. Where is it?

Do I smell coffee? There it is!

The sign says 1.5 hours but we are ‘ard and have gravity on our side. So, 45 minutes later…

Guess where?

I was going to suggest a coffee but, strangely, the word ‘beer‘ came out instead. Go figure!

Under the influence of ein kleines Bier, I decide to try a ruse on Mrs P. I tell her that I am taking a picture of the reflection in her sunglasses when really I am just after a close up. She’ll never know.

The prettiest mountain elf ever, part 2

She returned the favour…

Mr P after Mrs P discovered his ‘little ruse’

We finished it all off with a short but stiff (and rather Tolkienesque) walk back to the chairlift.

Is that you Bilbo?

The above picture is a vain attempted zoom in on the lone walker on the path. I hope he’s insured, I’m sure his wife was right behind him about 30 seconds ago!

A splendid last day in the mountains.

Back at the campsite…

Gandalf in Imst

…Gandalf is patiently waiting.

Tune in tomorrow for the tale of our, oh so hot, journey North.

Before you go blaming me…

Thursday 29th August 2019

If you are feeling under the weather what would you choose to do? Duvet day, raise at noon and spend the rest of the day reading books? Not Mrs P. The following is what Mrs P chose to do (of her own free will I might add) because she needed an ‘easy day’...

The rest will do me good.

This Via Ferrata (or Klettersteig in German) is in Nassereith, Austria and, while short (1.5 hrs) it is quite hard. Graded ‘D’, they only go up to ‘E.’

Basically this is cable pull ups for an hour and a half.

So not necessarily what Mr P may have considered the wisest of choices for the recovering Mrs P. but, we all know who’s in charge, so onward and upward.

Anyway, it seemed to work…

Mrs P with Nassereith and a bloomin’ great drop in the background

…and a great time was had by all.

Mr P showing off his not letting go skills
Stuff the climbing, check out the new trousers!
Mrs P on the other hand doesn’t need new trousers to look cool

It’s difficult to show the height of such a climb but the following photo attempts to do that by zooming in on a couple of climbers on the route.

If you look to the right of the zoomed image a 3rd climber is shown in real size.

There was even a fun bridge over a gentle abyss comprising only 3 cables. One for your feet, one for each hand. Got some good video but unfortunately the bandwidth here is not sufficient to load to the blog. Sorry.

Tomorrow, Friday 30th August, is our last day in the mountains before we begin the long, depressing drive home. Now I admit I am 24 hours behind with my updates but, tune in tomorrow to find out what we got up to.

Here’s a taster…

A taste of things to come.

See you tomorrow…

Life through a macro lens

Wednesday 28th August

When life slows you down, for whatever reason, and the journey focuses more on the minutiae of every step than on the summit in the distance, the focus of your eye readjusts and is drawn to such things as the beauty in a leaf.

Foliagus niceus

The delicacy of a butterfly (or maybe a moth? Who can tell?)

Butterfly Wingclipoffius

The myriad, and potentially poisonous, mushrooms.

The Probablykilluifuateit mushroom
The definitelykilluifuatit mushroom

Even the insects at work…

2 bees. (Or not 2 bees)

…and other things for which I have run out of adjectives…

The impressively named Coneubelieveitnoadjectivestodescribeit
That rarest of creatures Wifesansrucksackus

The walk on which we found all this carefully annotated and taxonomically accurate (yeah, right!) flora started and finished at this place…

The Marienberg Abbey, Schlinig, Italy

The Marienberg Abbey is a Benedictine Abbey founded in the 12th Century.

(Guess how many people live here. Go on, guess. You’ll never guess)

The whole place has undergone a massive renovation project that started in 2015 and continues today. I’d guess in the tens of millions of Euros and maybe as much as a hundred million.

(Did you guess yet? Go on, you know you want to.)

Mrs P asks the Big Man how many people live in the Abbey
Mrs P confessing that she now knows how many people live in the Abbey

It is a HUGE and very impressive building

How many?

It houses a new library containing 135,000 titles. It also has a very nice coffee shop with the poshest Art Deco tea spoons I have ever considered stealing (Heaven forfend!)

And you’ll never guess how many monks live there…

Ok, I’ll tell you…

11.

That’s ‘eleven!’ One more than 10. One less than 12. I say this simply to emphasise that I have not missed out a digit or two. Eleven monks.

That’s 12,272 books each! (And about the same number of rooms. Each!)

They should sell up. They’d make Russian Oligarchs look positively destitute.

But, back to the small, pleasures in life.

Happiness is a flat place to pitch Gandalf …

…and a cold beer shared with Mrs P

See you tomorrow…

What’s the furthest you would travel for pizza?

A very nice pizza but, was it worth the journey?

The answer, well, our answer is, round trip, 66 miles.

Now that may sound like a long way, and, don’t get me wrong, it is but, add in the fact that, to complete just one way (33 miles) of this trip took almost 2 hours and involved:

  • Leaving Italy
  • Going to Switzerland
  • Returning to a Italy
  • Going over the Umbrial Pass (2,501m)
  • Taking a minor detour to the Stelvio Pass (2,757m)
  • Tackling more than 90 hairpin bends
  • Ascending around 1,842m
  • Descending around 1,657m

I think you will agree that that is an insanely long way for pizza.

It does of course beg the question; ‘Why?’

Well, are you sitting comfortably? I shall take you back to my last post when I said…

“…We are off back into the mountains tomorrow. Going to climb the Ortler…”

We’re going to climb The Ortler… Oh no we are not…

Now you may remember that Mrs P has been a bit under the weather. The Ortler is graded PD+ (for a idea of a PD+ grade climb see our Allalinhorn trip last year). We decided that, discretion being the better part of valour, we would leave the Ortler for another day. We will definitely be back as it looks stunning.

Anyway, we are sat in our campsite wondering what to do instead…

Where’s Gandalf? (No prize but can you see him?)

…and we decide to go and climb the Monte Zebru (3,703m) from the Rifugio V. Alpini-Bertarelli. The guide book says; “… park in the big car park, (the other side of the Umbrial Pass), take a Jeep to the road head and then walk for a few hours to the hut.”

So…

Looking down towards Bormio from near the top of the Stelvio Pass

…over the Pass we go. Get to the big car park and…

…big!? Define ‘Big.’ There are already about 12 cars parked up. Practically on top of each other in true Italian style and literally (and I do mean ‘literally’) nowhere else to park within 10 km. Even then only about 5 of the spots were long enough to cater for the not very long Gandalf. We investigate alternatives but, sadly, it looks like a wasted journey. Only one thing to do (well, 3 actually):

  1. Find campsite
  2. Eat pizza
  3. Sulk.

So, that’s the story of Gandalf’s long quest over the misty mountains to do battle with Smaug get pizza. Tolkien would definitely have written a better story.

The following day we went all the way back over the pass (another 90+ hairpins). Don’t consider doing this in your white behemoth Campervan by the way. There is a 10m length restriction and in places the road is barely wide enough for a car.

How it was all meant to be…

So, back in the Val Venosta, as a consolation prize, we decide to go climb possibly the easiest glaciated peak in Italy, Piz Sesvenna, 3204m. What can go wrong? Well…

…It turns out that Mrs P may be a bit more ‘under the weather‘ than she has been admitting.

We set out from the van for our 2 hour, 600m climb to the Sesvenna Hütte. It’s a lovely day…

A picture of the day being lovely

But, Mrs P is struggling.

We stop for a rest…

Mr P admires the view (of his new trousers and laces).

…and a contemplate…

A rather fed up Mrs P failing to appreciate either Mr P’s new trousers or his new laces (she is obviously sick).

…we head back to the van

Poor Mrs P.

I think I’ll have a bit of a lie down now.

Will she pull through? Will our normally athletic, dynamo of a heroine return to her peak of fitness in time to partake of more daring adventures before we must begin the long journey back to Blighty?

Tune in next time to find out.

Possible spoiler alert. Should Mrs P fail to rally, I can assure you that she, and in fact I, will bravely undertake gentle scenic bimbles, heroically visit restaurants and cafés and, casting caution to the wind, finish of the day with schnitzel, chips and wine (distant relatives of Crystal, Tipps and Alistair).

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.