Well I think I just about reached my physical limit this weekend. I am definitely no longer a spring chicken, rather perhaps, an early summer chicken. Saturday Riccardo and I intended to go up to a refuge so he came up with family (women doing women’s things, babies doing babies things and men playing about on mountains) but the weather was threatening storms with lightning and as the route up was very exposed and as we were going to leave about seven or eight in the evening we thought it best to postpone this trip and choose an alternative destination instead.
So after a good dinner we went to bed late and got up at 4 am to set off to climb the mountain which I see every time I come out of my house but have never been up.
Every one I spoke to has an idea of the best way up it so we took the eastern approach which seemed the most logical. Big mistake. We drove up as far as possible, up to a sheiling at 5400 feet, and were already hunting for the track at 05.30. This proved to set the scene for the entire trip and a lot of the path was spent either guessing or scanning the boulder fields for cairns. We knew it would be a long trip as the mountain is 8971 feet high but we didn’t bargain on having to walk right round the bloody thing before we started on the final ascent. The approach is really heavy and there is no respite, it’s a steady climb all the way and just when you are getting used to the slope and getting into some sort of rhythm it suddenly veers vertically up to a ridge sucking out any energy you may have had left. The long but very dramatic ridge had still more upness in it and some clambering over rocks and boulders and around steep bits-ness too and always on the higher side of 6,500 feet. Just when we were about done in and beginning to lose the will to live the path started to circle the mountain instead of going up it. But it wasn’t a level path and there was a climb up to each buttress and then a drop down into each gully seemingly without end. We began to debate whether mass suicide would be an option. The views up to this point had been really fantastic but then the afternoon fog came in early and not knowing the route or how far there was still to go we were a bit worried about the going back. Getting caught in an electrical storm up here was to be avoided and the cairns were difficult enough to spot going up but going down practically impossible and in the fog totally impossible.
I think Riccardo would have done it quicker on his own but It took us five and a half hours up to just 8500 feet but with only four or five hundred feet to go in the end with the fog and darkening skies and the never-ending succession of bloody buttresses we gave up and turned back. I was a bit pissed off as this is another walk I am doing for the guests and it means I’m going to have to do the whole thing again sometime soon but they say that it is a wise walker who knows when to turn back and as it took us three hours to walk back I think in hindsight we were wise. Speaking for me after 8 hours of continuous walking over this sort of terrain with a burning, pulsating heel I was beginning to lose control over my feet. So all in all an enjoyable walk but not the best route up this particular mountain. So I’m now going to have to find another route. What hardship and suffering.