Saturday, December 6, 2014

Utopia, Fuck! Channel four. Fuck

I just watched Utopia, the channel 4 series about eugenics. Interesting. Well written storyline, pushed all the right buttons, but it was far more interesting as an insight into current british tastes in TV than anything else. Three things characterise this series: language  and blood and nonchalant killing.

The language is amazing. It’s like they wrote the script, sent it in, and the thoroughly modern editors or producers said ‘come on Dennis, not enough fucks in it. Put some in’. So Dennis, not a swearer himself particularly, put some in. But not being very good at it, either swearing or dialogue, he put them in in all the wrong places and had the wrong people using it. Then the producers saw that there were still not enough fucks in the series and asked Dennis to put in some more. But his ineptitude caused him to put them in even worse places, so bad in fact that the rather mediocre actors  often had a hard job of making the fucks sound genuine; delivery was almost always flat which it usually isn’t with fuck. I suppose the film, as a thriller was supposed to be thrilling, but the result, at least from where I am, was rather more humerous than I imagine they had intended. Some pretty corny dialogue puctuated with inappropriately placed stilted and monotone fucks and of course the gratuitous violence, certainly caused me to raise a fucking eyebrow or fucking two anyway. Most memorable was “Ah shit. Glock 22. She’s CIA. Means she knows next to fucking nothing” delivered like it was a request for three baps in a bakers after a long queue. In the second series, slightly fewer fucks, well in the first episode anyway set in the 70s (I can’t be bothered to watch the rest, too samey) but we had the surprisingly late introduction of the ubiquitous british ‘cunt!’, which I hadn’t noticed in the first series. I imagine that the second episode, set back in the present, will be again peppered with fucks. Remarkable was the almost total lack of any of the lesser swear words or those useful little discourse markers and space fillers apart from fuck, you know, the words people use in real life. Really odd. Maybe, just a theory here, the censors won’t allow too many other swear words in as too shockingly near to reality. So, well done BBC.

The second thing that characterises the series is the british love of blood and brains being sprayed onto walls. They do love that. It’s repeated ad nauseam every chance they get and even when it’s not necessary at all. It’s obviously designed to gratify the overweight peroxide blond and tattooed fastfood eating brits called Gary and Madison shitting themselves with excitement at each spray of blood and I imagine it succeeded. There certainly was  a lot of it. Again, well done BBC, know your audience and all that.

The third thing that stood out for me, something I’ve noticed a lot in UK films over the years, is this inclusion, almost obligatory, of the disinterested and nonchalant execution. Has violence has become so commonplace in the UK  that people are not worried by this trend in TV programmes? Probably yes. I suppose in a country so sanitised by the censors, anything they can get away with is taken as far as humanly possible, even if it does defy all logic and reality.

So all in all I was rivetted to this series. People’s heads being sprayed everywhere, extreme violence, interesting scenses of torture and fear written in to as many scenes as possible and not a fuck in sight, but plenty of fucks in the stilted every-day fucking conversation. Excellent work BBC.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Free snigger

It’s always good to have a snigger at people’s misfortunes, especially when there’s a happy ending so I thought I’d recount something that happened this spring so you can snigger away guilt free. I was hiking way up high, around 2600m  and there was still a lot of icy, compact avalanche snow in the lee of the ridge. I spent quite a while hiking over it but as it was still hard and dry because the sun hadn’t got to it yet it wasn’t that much of a problem. But to avoid a long section on which the snow seemed to be colder than it had been up to that point, a bit wetter maybe, I followed some footprints of a group of hikers I presumed had passed earlier that morning, before dawn or late the night before, and which seemed to be going in the direction I was going in. Walking in ready made footprints is always easier than slipping and sliding on virgin icy snow in an attempt to make one’s own, so I was, for once, quite glad to see traces of humanity. Apart from the tracks there was no sign of people at all, and most agreeably I saw nobody all day.
At a certain point the tracks led over a wide snow bridge spanning a pretty much raging torrent. I crossed cautiously but without a hitch to reach a snow free area beyond and there I continued my hike on rock which warmed gradually as the day wore on as the brilliant sun beat down on it. In fact, because it was such a nice day and I had no need to rush,  I extended my stay beyond my normal time and started my return journey, back the way I had come, cutting down across a snow field and  aiming for the snow bridge, sometime after four o’clock.
I’ve crossed snow bridges before and have always taken great care, they can be killers especially after the snow had been warmed by hours of hot sunshine, so I was quite surprised at  my incompetence when I found myself half way across it having taken none of the usual precautions at all. In my defence, I think maybe I hadn’t realised exactly where the bridge was as I had obviously approached it from a different direction; maybe it  looked the same as everywhere else, but that might just be an excuse. Either way, a split second after realising my stupidity, I stopped dead in my tracks metaphorically as well as literally because it was my barefoot tracks that alerted me to where I was. Mistake. Before I had time to throw myself backwards I plummeted downward, face-palming furiously as the snow gave way beneath me, only saving myself from an accusation of absolute, extreme and Darwinian stupidity by widening my arms to prevent myself falling right through. Unfortunately the gods were definitely trying to teach me a lesson. There was something spiky and sharp evidently protruding from the stream bed beneath the snow and it went right into my foot driven home with some force I might add. So thus it was that I found myself in the cringingly  embarrassing position of being buried up to my armpits in wet snow, suspended over a raging torrent of melt water at up at a desolate 2600m at the end of a peopless day with no chance of help and with something nasty sticking into my foot and icy water pummelling my legs.  Of course after spitting venom at the universe and inventing a few new and what I thought were very good swear words and having quite run out of ideas for any more, taking it more or less for granted that the situation would not get any worse and thus not require any further new ones,  the sun chose exactly that moment to pop behind a huge cloud for a quick cuppatea. ‘Twas a tad chilly and I was also a tad annoyed. I couldn’t push myself up because the only thing that my feet could touch was the sharp point and I’m not much of a hero and I did not want to faint or anything wimpish like that. There was nothing to grab hold of and I was wedged in tight with my rucksack still on my shoulders. Nice view though.
Of course as I am here to tell the tale I was not swept to my death under the ice, not did I bleed or freeze to death. With some difficulty, I wiggled my rucksack over my head allowing a terrible wind to blast up out of the hole and pummel my sweaty back with icy air and, trying desperately not to slip backwards into the now large and rather whaline blowhole to disappear under the rather noisy water below, I clawed a few hand holds strong enough to wriggle myself out with and prolapse myself onto the ice. Not decorous by any means. In fact I invented some new grunts and straining squeals too in lieu of swear words just for the occasion. My ears still burn red thinking of it. The shame, the embarrassment, the loudness of the squeals.
By the time I had got out and flailed myself across the rest of the bridge to safety, well, comparative safety anyhow, the snow was pink with blood looking very much like those shots in BBC documentaries - before the era of political correctness and contrived squeamishness - of the ice after a polar bear has killed and devoured  a seal. Had I had the presence of mind to do so, it would have been worth rubbing out a few tracks and forging some bear prints just for the fun of it, but I really did have other things on my mind.
I read somewhere that you’re supposed to roll in the snow when you are wet, which I did. I can’t say I feel that it worked. I just felt colder if anything and a little sillier and the bits that were dry just got wet. So somewhat of a fail there. My hands and feet were blue as were my nether regions, in view of the fact that my trousers and rather attractive camouflage underpants had been dragged half way down my legs in the effort to de-stopper myself from the hole. Modesty prevents my describing the state of my willy after being dragged walrus like across the snow, but large was not a word that could have been used. I cleared the snow out of my clothes (at this point I’m supposed to say shivering uncontrollably but actually I wasn’t at all) and pulled them back to their correct places
I dug my shoes out of my pack and tried to get my pierced foot into one but it had swollen up way too much and my fingers were too numb to undo the laces. I washed my foot in the stream, sitting on the snow just to increase the fun, and the swelling seemed to deflate, presumably with the cold water  which oddly seemed to be of a warmer cold than the cold cold of the snow. The swelling at the top of the foot went down  just enough to enable me to get a sock on and lever the shoe over it. I know I will be thrown out of the Grand Order of Barefooters for such a confession but really I was  very, very glad that shoes existed in the universe, albeit shoes of the tennis variety. So I started to hike, or hobble, back to the refuge where I had left the scooter. It usually takes me two hours barefoot. It took me four. After twenty minutes or so, when  I got off the snow, the bleeding seemed to have stopped and I took my shoes off again to try to maintain, or rather regain, some flexibility which did actually seem to work. And towards the end of the trail I was walking quite normally albeit with some considerable discomfort (that’s heroic terminology for ‘it was bloody agony’). So here’s the fun bit. When I got down to the refuge there was no way I was going to give anyone there cause to snigger or think ‘told you so’ because of my bare feet, I still had some pride left, so I sat on the warm grass some way away and washed the caked blood off in the river and tried to clean the wound as best I could. I must have looked distressed because a lady came up to me and in terrible Italian seemed to be asking if I needed help. Now considering that, globally speaking, I’m in a relatively obscure valley up a  backwater in the Cottian alps way off the tourist routes it came as quite a surprise to find out that she was English… and a nurse too. How cool is that? She very efficiently cleaned and medicated my foot, put a bandage on and got me to swap my socks around and sent me on my way with an anadin of all things. She even kick-started my scooter for me. I think that is really neat. I always carry shoes with me but  I am always even more careful now to ensure that I have some in my rucksack. It took a month for the wound to heal and I still have a hard lump under the skin as a sort of keepsake. Lessons learned: never assume you are safe, never lose concentration no matter how nice the weather and never pre-tie your emergency shoes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to walk on beech leaves and a certain cure for constipation.

For all those that suffer from chronic constipation, I have found the cure. If you have a normal appreciation of height and are not some freak who likes hanging off cliffs suspended by a length of nylon rope and stuff, this is for you. Guaranteed to relax the bowel two or three times within just 40 minutes and all you have to do is walk. OK, it’s a strenuous walk but how much do you want to be cured? You really want to stay constipated for ever? The culmination of this hike is perfect for your needs. A rapid induction of sphincter twitches through the use of a narrow path, long, very long vertical or near vertical drops, dried grass folded over the path in the direction of the drop just like a thatched roof and the occasional gust of strong wind and slip of foot will guarantee a successful motion. Bring toilet paper and a lighter (to burn the toilet paper with you peasant) but leave the comic book, you won’t have time to read it. A stake and convenient length of rope may prove useful for those who move around a lot while moving their bowels. A word of warning for constipated barefooters. This hike is not for you. The combination of dry feet on dry grass is lethal and lethal does nothing for constipation until impact at which point no relief or benefit is gained. Should normal near death experiences not suffice to create a wonderful and relaxing movement, wimpering and snivelling on the tricky bits will usually speed any reticent turd out of the bowel in case sheer terror alone can not.
But now to the main title of this blog. How to walk on beech leaves. For those of you who are little experienced in such pastimes, this will seem perhaps a little odd and you may be at a loss to understand just what it is all about and why the need for explanation. For those (I’m presumptuously presuming here,  a number of readers of this blog beyond the singular) already experienced in this activity, perhaps you may poo-poo this and claim previous knowledge and expertise but however, maybe not. So, as an expert in walking down steep inclines covered in a thick carpet of beech leaves I am now able to categorically state that the best method is the imitation method. At leaf densities in excess of 1 leaf per 10 cm2 and on an slope anything other than horizontal, lean forward beyond the reasonable, bending slightly from the waist, dangle your arms in front of you like  in planet of the apes or the monkey bit in 2001 Space Odyssey,  and project your head forward, again, beyond the reasonable in the style of and in imitation of, a stereotypical Disney ape man. Comic effect can be obtained by jutting the jaw forward and/or making grunting noises should you so wish.  In this bodily position, of a slightly unnatural feel initially, you will of course continue to slip as before, you must expect this; nobody has yet conquered the beech leaf. It is naturally devoid of friction. Slipping is inevitable. Had Galileo known of beech leaves he could have formulated a perfect theory. When you know the beech leaf, you know that most of the universal laws no longer apply. Although it is true that in a non-beech leaf world, gravity acting on a body, in this case you, will be influenced by the vectors inherent in the degree of slope and modified by the amount of friction as no doubt  expressed with an appropriate equation and calculated with sines and cosines and all that lovely stuff,   but in a beech wood, none of this has any reasonable application. Gravity acts and that’s it. There is no impediment. To all intents and purposes you are in freefall. So how to avoid the consequences of such slippage? Well, simply by leaning forward to the point of stupid thus, when your feet slip from beneath you, your body, already leaning forward, will jerk backwards from 20-30° or whatever you can manage, to vertical instead of from vertical to horizontal backwards  flat onto your arse as you would have had you been silly enough to adopt a normal, erect and dignified  position.  In any case, there is no way you can walk down through a beech wood and remain dignified. Either you start off dignified and fall on your arse thus looking like a complete wally, or you can start off looking like a wally and not fall on your arse. The difference, a sore arse or worse. 
So there you have it, two excellent remedies for common ailments offered free on this blog.

Click on photos to enlarge

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mountain Machismo

To the people I met today. Dear people, if you are going to approach me in the mountains and ask me directions because you are a hundred meters too high and heading in the wrong direction and heading into the mountains in freezing temperatures at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, you can expect me to be nice and friendly and help you to find the route you're looking for... and to suggest that it might not be advisable to undertake such a hike so late in the day. Sorry if that offended you. And no, I don't believe you had a torch with you. Your friend said no and you said yes. I'll take the first answer. So as you were most evidently lost and with little idea of where to go and what conditions you were going to encounter, just accept the information you are given with good grace and go on with your day. Why should it bother you that I don't have shoes on my feet? It's not an indication that I'm not prepared or not knowledgeable about that area. I am. The fact that I have a huge rucksack with everything I need to spend the night on the mountain if necessary and you have a little day-sack with you and that I am not lost while you are lost should make that abundantly clear to you. I'm not trying to be better than you. It's not a competition, You approached me, not the other way round and no, I would have preferred not to have seen anyone today. So no, I'm not interested in hearing how much experience you have. The fact that you're lost tells me how much experience you have. I just know where you want to go and how to get there and can offer advice because I have been there myself a couple of times. No need to get all macho about it. If being barefoot means my information and advice is not valid, then ignore the information and advice I give you. If you were so sure the route I indicated was the wrong route, why ask in the first place and why follow it if you thought it was the wrong way? Sheesh! Besides I got to within 50 yards of the summit barefoot in below freezing temperatures with a significant wind-chill before having to put on shoes and socks, so I guess it can be done, can't it? Maybe the fact that I did it is in fact, an indication that I can do it. No? It doesn't make me a superman. It just means I have more experience than you when it comes to hiking mountains barefoot. A thank you would have been nice too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Artistic Underappreciation

How about this, weeks and weeks of asking people and pouring over maps and scouring the hillside for the only (as far as I know) prehistoric rock paintings in the valley located on a flat area above a rock shelter in an area with hundreds of rock shelters, and I came up with precisely nothing. One day after telling Le Breton about it, he bloody well goes and finds it. Amazing. Unfortunately we were both rather underwhelmed when we got up there to see them. The place is fantastic, quite suggestive, a rock shelf built up from underneath with a huge wall of stones and overlooked by a decent sized overhang of rock. But the paintings themselves, well, yes, not impressive. Apparently, according to those who saw them before pollution got to them,  they are composed of three grids, 11 human figures (seemingly holding hands) arranged in two rows, one arrow like figure (others have said it's a tree)  and two upside down human figures. All you can really see though are the grids. Impressive of course that they are still here after 6,000 years despite or maybe because of the disinterest of the authorities. They seem to be slowly getting covered by concretions on the left side of the paintings and of course it's impossible to tell if there are any under the build up but what is frustrating is that a minute intervention would easily have resolved the problem at practically zero cost. However, after my initial spitting of froth and venom at the authorities for not doing anything, I'm now pretty much convinced that it's much better they forget about them. Never once have the authorities ever done anything except fuck everything up and ruin what they come to save, so despite these things, as far as I am aware, being the oldest art in the valley let's hope they get forgotten so those with the patience to hunt them out and go and see them, like with the rock carvings, can continue to have the joy of discovery and see them in their original state and not covered disproportionate works in concrete and rebar. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Interesting Discovery

 Rather a different sort of hike today. Very interesting. The Breton was told about a wooden bridge over the torrent Subiasco by a local. (if you’re reading this local man, the Breton is coming for you). Talk about taking the piss. It seems there is no bridge. However we did not know that this morning so, despite the Breton’s broken ribs, we thought we’d look for it and found a likely looking path following a contour and aiming for the gorge through which the river runs. As it turned out it wasn’t a path at all but an ancient bealera, an artificial  water course. We followed it for an hour or so,  casually at first signing French walking songs about flowers and toads and laughing with carefree abandon **,  then with a little more concentration helping our feet with our hands, then on our hands and knees crawling (this was the part, had I been concentrating on le Breton instead of concentrating on not falling 20m off a crumbling ledge into the river, I would have doubtless  have learned some new French swear words). Some parts were suspended over emptiness and held up, seemingly, but prayer and hope alone. Others built up from underneath with tall dry stone walls and at one place a perfect dry stone column. The channel itself was an interesting mix of ancient and not so modern with huge carved stone channels,  and dry stone containment walls with flat stones, ‘lose’, put in vertically to  prevent the water running out and in some parts old mortar of the type you get in castles, and bits of modernish stuff with 1700s  type rebars and extremely hard concrete. But the whole lot looked as if it hadn’t been used for anything in a couple of centuries. Of course, almost to the end, we reached a point that was impassible with broken ribs and a healthy fear of death so we had to turn round and go back, descending with the invalid Breton down to the river for lunch on a rock in a patch of sun and where the poor guy found a beach to play on. Bretons likes beaches. After following the channel back to what would have been the arrival of the water, ended curiously in a torrent which sort of defeats the purpose of a couple of kilometers of water channel methinks. Bit of a mystery.

So that was the end of the morning. The beginning started with a hike up to Besse above Bobbio Pellice and the discovery of an interesting stone carved with cup marks and a basin connected with channels in the style of some I found above Bonnet. Like the other carvings we’ve found along the Subiasco river, they face west which considering I’ve never come across any west facing carving before, was very curious.

 **that bit’s not true but serves to give an idea of the nonchalance with which we were walking

Le Breton expressing joy at being on  a beach and having found a pebble
Lovely water
Cup marks, basins and channels

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Wimp

OK, I'm a wimp. I freely admit it. But believe me, the sound that a covey of three grouse make exploding from shoulder-high rhododendron and raspberry scrub in thick fog as I was nervously fighting my way through shoulder-high rhododendron and raspberry scrub in thick fog is just like the noise a disturbed wild boar will make when disturbed just before it eats you. I confess that despite a pocket full of pepper spray against free-roaming Maremmani shepherd dogs, a wicked looking knife wholly unsuitable for peeling apples and a boar-rogering trekking pole with tungsten point with which to face down any marauding wild thing, I was thirty yards in the opposite direction and still running before the grouseboar had even decided which way to go. I mean why do they do that? Why do they wait until you almost step on them? I'd been shouting 'piggy piggy!' and tapping my pole and whistling for the last half an hour so there really is no excuse. I have a sneaking suspicion they do it on purpose. Seeing the amount of environmental destruction the boars had caused on my hike today I did not want to surprise one. I was very certain I did not want to surprise one. Any animal that can dig a hole 40 cm deep and dig out a 20 kg rock WITH ITS NOSE just to get at a skinny 3 cm long root is not an animal I want to be creeping up on and I was a tad nervous. The grouse know that. The bastards.

And what's with the rain Oh sky gods? I hike three and a half hours up to the shieling sweating like a pig for all of 7 minutes of sunshine, progressively adding layers as the temperature dropped and the sun turned to fog and then thick fog and then Victorian London type thick fog with the sole purpose of examining the place for rock carvings and as soon as I get there you make it rain?! Come on, play fair.

And what's with the weather forecasters these days. Can't you ever get anything right. Zero degrees at 3,600m you said. You want evidence? I took a screen shot of it. So you said zero at 3,600m and I'm at 1,800 m. You do the maths. Why was there sleet? How do you expect me to trip about on rock with a hundred metres of vertical nothingness below me looking for faint etchings on licheney rock when there's sleet on it?
So all in all an odd sort of day. I didn't find any carvings either, or wolf scat just another disgusting shieling littered with bit bits of orange and blue nylon rope, bits of rusty metal and rotting plastic and in this particular shieling, dozens of pink plastic cups (now in my possession). Why can't you shepherds and cow people clean the fuck up behind you? Have you no respect? And you want me to respect your job and side with you against the wolves. Fuck off.

And hunters too. Most of you can sod off too. There was one idiot hunter today who lost his dog right at the start of the hike and spent a good couple of hours calling it. Ever heard of peace and quiet you fuckwit? He yelled the dog yapped. What he couldn't see was the dog had fallen down onto a grassy outcrop and couldn't get back, so it went down then it seemed to shoot off up the gorge yapping hysterically. Interestingly the yapping continued right up until just below the shieling. I could hear the actual yap with my left ear and two seconds later the echo off the rock face behind me with my right ear. All good clean fun.

However, I must say, in lieu of barefooting today, I wore some shoes from the odious Decathlon. It's a shandal, a sort of shoe sandal affair, cut low, good grip, full of holes on all sides and on the top. Excellent shoes I will reluctantly admit. When you sink up to your ankles in that cow-shit and mud spring-water soup so beloved of cow men it seems, by the time you've sloshed thorough the next puddle your feet are rinsed clean as any water going in, gets shot out through the holes with the very next step. OK my feet look like prunes now but that's beside the point. They do work.

Took shelter in Barma D'aut on the way down (a rock shelter full of goat droppings). Lot's of people in the area. Well, five anyway. The mountains are getting to be just like Auchan on a Saturday afternoon tch!tch! But nobody came into the rock shelter and it was tipping it down outside which might have been why.

Oh and just in case anyone flies in from, say, Australia or Belgium to walk up the Valley of the Invincibles to the Subiasco shieling, take some chalk with you. Going up was OK but coming down in the thick fog was tricky at points. I had to climb back up twice after heading off along some very convincing paths which eventually stopped in a thick tangle of shoulder-high rhododendron and raspberry scrub. Chalk would have been very useful.

Sectin of hanging path
Barma D'Aut rock shelter

The Valley of the Invincibles

Boar rootings all the way up the path

The path

Barma D'Aut rock sheter from the inside

Looking down from Barma D'Aut

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pass of the Billy Goat to the Gianna Pass

Interesting trip with the courageous Mrs. Baldrick to try to connect Colle Dar Moine to Colle della Gianna despite being warned against it. The weather was fantastic and we plodded along at a slow old pace peering into this, looking at that until we got to the Pass of the Goats. or more correctly apparently, pass of the Billy Goat (don’t ask me why). From the pass we cut across some lunar looking landscape to Rocce Fons. which is where I got to the last time before turning back. Last time I started to descend and then turned back because of the fog. Seeing where I had been jauntily rock hopping, now there was no fog, I gave myself a slap on the wrist for being so nonchalant about it.  We took it a bit at a time, reserving the right, if we felt the risk was too great for our  physical constraints, me, backache, Mrs. B, knee. to turn back. The whole descent is on scree and rotten rock and even what look like solid hand holds turn out to be huge lumps of loose rock too.  But most of the top section was treacherous under foot and under hand and looking back after 10 minutes or so we soon changed our minds about wanting to face the known again. For once, facing the unknown was infinitely preferable.  There were a couple of tricky exposed passages along (sort of) ledges each with it’s own overhang, meaning we had to remove the rucksacks and throw them ahead to pass under. I had expected to do the route barefoot but seeing the type of terrain I thought it better to put shoes on unfortunately I only had sooth soled tennis shoes with me which made the going probably far worse than barefoot so every pace was checked and double checked. The route was quite easy to find as there are numerous cairns marking  the way. Every time I see a cairn and am thankful for it, I remember a regular on the OutdoorsMagic forum,  the personification of the word dumbfuck,  who confessed to always destroying cairns wherever he went. Thank god he lives in Scotland because without cairns where we were it would have been really difficult.  I suppose, to anyone used to rock climbing, this brief descent would be child’s play, but neither Mrs. Baldrick nor I have any sort of head for heights so we were quite pleased with ourselves to have done it.
We had a leisurely lunch in the windbreak at the Colle della Gianna, as like every time I have been to the Gianna, the wind was freezing.  The trip back to the car was interminable. I’m pretty confident that I will not be going back to the Colle della Gianna again. Compared to the Colle Dar Moine it’s a bit of a let down and both a horrible climb up an even worse slog down. Too may cows too (I hate cows and sheep) and as punishment for trying to avoid cows with calves, I got yet another healthy shock off an electric fence. It cured my headache though. What with plodding and peering and leisurely relaxing, the whole circular route took us 10 hours but you could probably do it in 7 if you went at a decent pace. I was most impressed with Mrs. Baldrick’s courage in tacking the tricky bits on the ridge especially seeing her nervousness about the sagacity of the descent at the start.
Oh look, a yellow marmot

Bit of an embarassing photo innit?

Next cairn, just round corner

Now where?

Mrs Baldrick spies on mountains

Space the final frontier

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Trip to Colletta delle Faure

View from Colletta delle Faure
Excellent trip today up to Colletta delle Faure (Blacksmith’s Pass according to Avanzini). Not  that high up, it’s only 2,100m, but quite spectacular. The whole trip was characterised by falcons and buzzards and eagles, most looking down on them as they wheeled below. I’m not sure what the falcons were but there were dozens of them, all the same fawn colouring, literally, all over the place but in different places to the buzzards of which there were  three groups of three or four. Most interesting though was what looked like a gathering of short-toed eagles  but so far away it was difficult to see I counted 19 of those. Absolutely amazing.
Three hour hike up but I went a little way along towards the shieling and cut up along a narrow path, round the back way as it were which was much quicker so had I gone the usual way I’d have taken maybe a quarter of an hour more than the official time which for barefeet is pretty good going.
 I thought I’d spend some time there but unfortunately in about 10 minutes it went from crystal clear skies to dark menacing, heavy clouds. It’s very open so I put me shoesis on me footsies and legged it down in an hour and a quarter. Not must to report, just a lovely trip.

Another interminable road
but nice for the feet
Conca del Pra

Back road to the Faure
view towards Col Giulian

reason for the quick descent

Friday, August 17, 2012

Well Done Ecuador

Holy shit this story about Asange is disgusting. Well done Ecuador. Apart from the moronic flag waving, tabloid reading  inhabitants of the newly renamed Banana Republic of britain or the Kleptocratic States of a-mer-ri-ka or pathetic little non-entity like sweden, nobody really believes these charges against Asange do they? Bit of a bloody coincidence really, aren’t they? Just THE perfect excuse to get the poor guy extradited to the u.s. for a bit of american injustice via, probably, kangaroo court and lethal injection.
I’m really getting fed up with hearing about the so-called freedoms enjoyed in these completely out of control countries who’s patriotic inhabitants keep shouting loudly and incessantly about them, going on an on about how free they are but who actually, as is really plain for anyone on the outside to see, already have far less freedom than most other countries in the first world. Usual thing, those who actually have freedom don’t tend to keep going on about it. Like all this rampant patriotism, usually the sign of a worthless state, the more nasty the state becomes, the more people have to convince themselves it’s actually wonderful, the best, and the more therefore, they wave the flags like crazy. The number of flags of course being in direct relation to the crapiness of the country and the unthinkingness of the populace. I never did really believe in the Greatness of the Banana Republic of britain and especially not the Kleptocratic States of America but now, they truly have exceeded all decency, eroding everything that made them (at least) respected in the world.  Put to shame by little Ecuador. I’m sure Ecuador has its problems but at least, at least two people in their government can distinguish between right and wrong. So again, well done Ecuador.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

20km barefoot hike

Can it get any better? A foot burning frosty start from the Barbara Refuge at 6.50, weak sunshine up  the steep bit, with no wind, then nice warm sunshine when the wind got up around  9 o’clock and perfect weather with a gentle breeze and sun on my back rather than in my eyes all the way up to Pass of the Goats (Colle D’armoine). Despite being August I was passed (as usual) by only two pairs of people heading for who knows where. I didn’t see them again so once again the mountains were all mine. Cresting the pass the view was to say the least, stunning with Mon Viso crystal clear for about 10 minutes. The idea was to do a circular trip Barbara, D’armoine pass, Gianna pass, Barbara. so I didn’t hang about and followed what looked like a cairn trail up from the D’armoine pass. After crossing a boulder fall to skirt a nameless pimple on the landscape, with some difficulty considering the bare feet, the landscape transformed into something almost lunar. Curious rounded terrain littered with flattened rock debris seemingly on top of the world and absolutely beautiful. The sort of featureless place you get lost on in the case of fog, even with the cairns. The sort of place you wouldn’t be surprised to find a yurt on. I had a sort of pre-lunch there, next to the yurt, of curried courgette risotto. Must remember to take that again next hike.  By the time I had dropped down to Rocce Fons the cloud from the bloody Po bloody valley was swirling all over the place. I had a perfect sight of a huge eagle below me circling in an out of the cloud together with what looked to be a kestrel and I started to drop down onto to the ridge that leads, or so I hoped, to the Gianna Pass. At that point of course the cloud dumped on me, I mean, why wouldn’t it? Visibility zero, instantly rather cold and rather scary. Below me was a steep slope into  a nothingness of fog which may or may not have even been the right way. So I abandoned the decent, turned round and climbed back up again. Despite never being a scout I had already taken a bearing on the nameless pimple before the fog came down  so followed that back to the D’armoine pass and thence back to the scooter. Round trip 20 km or so and  eight hours of just me and the mountains, except for a bunch of very friendly foreigners on the way down. I had real lunch - a hard boiled egg - in what has to be one of my favouritest places in the mountain - lago Pieno Sia. Lots of squidgy quasi-mud to splat my feet into. Luverley. And, surprisingly, not a rusty piece of tin can in sight. Well done humanity.
Oh, and to the obnoxious people who asked me where the lake Losere was and snorted at me when I told them it was at least an hour away - na-na-nana-na! Bit more than an hour wasn’t it? Hahahaha!
Lake Pieno Sia

Mon Viso

Oi, where's me yurt?

Rocce Fons 2,696m

Looking down to the ridge leading to the Gianna Pass

Top of the world with Wardruna on the MP3

Lake Pieno Sia

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bothy at Bric Boucie

 Still pushing the boundaries of the unexpected. Considering my aversion for humanity polluting my world, going up to a bothy on a Sunday was really going against the grain. However it was a fantastic day. A  04.30 start under a marvelously starry sky followed by a spectacular dawn and then by an interminable four and a quarter hour trudge up some pretty steep paths to Colle delle Boine (Pass of the Marker Stones) 2,412m through the gate (yes really) and then... oh my god... down hill before climbing another 200m up a horribly steep bit to the bothy Nino Soardi at 2,630m.
I was greeted at the refuge by my friend with a pair of clogs waiting for me on the path in which to rest my weary tootsies. As it happens the plates of meat were in perfect form, absolutely relaxed and comfortable.
I must say I was quite surprised at the set up at the bothy kitchen, fridge, solar panels - you name it they had it. I had lunch there with a surprisingly friendly and jovial bunch of people and had a great time listening to all the stories and anecdotes and watching the Ibex, marmot, and the climbers tackling Bric Boucie. The views were stunning.
I am beginning to notice that I’m surprising and getting much, much closer to animals barefoot. Being alone and making hardly any noise I suppose. A marmot came out of it’s burrow a foot from where I was standing drinking and seemed to regard me as part of the mountain until I tried to get to my camera and I passed above a  dozing chamois standing below the path without it even noticing me. Now I have a camera again maybe I can get some decent shots at last.
I walked down barefoot too and think I have found my current limit - 7 hours on predominantly scree-covered paths. Trouble is you have to go slowly so it’s just about as slow down as it is to go up.

Sorry about the layout but this bloody blogspot really is terrible for laying out photos. They keep making complicated changes, none of them ever for the better, without ever sorting out the basics first.

Down,  then up to the  cleft

The view into France