Friday, June 4, 2010

Off we go again

So, first trip after month long holiday in the UK; 6 Kg over weight, stagnant lungs, atrophied leg muscles and horrible acclimatisation to almost-sea-level (the Scottish borders, Suffolk and kent) and what an action packed day it turned out to be. On the road a five thirty, off in the jeep up a wonderfully steep and in places gravity defying dirt road to get to the top of favourite mountain to at long last do the ridge onto the next mountain (previously turned back twice because of lightning and once because of snakes). Baldrick is of course against the use of 4x4 but I feel that if they built the bloody road in the first place all environmental damage that can be done has already been done. So a half hour drive to save a two hour slog, well, no hesitation really, if it’s legal, which it is, camel trophy it is. Good fun imo.
Anyway, we got to just before the top and I agreed to stop (it‘s called compromise). We get out of the car and one of us then discovers that he has forgotten his boots and is wearing clogs. So it’s a wonderful early morning drive and controlled slide back down to the tarmac and then another half hour back to the guilty party’s house to pick up the missing boots.
After doing this it was too late to do another 90 minute drive up (way too hot) so we changed direction and headed off to sus out the back route up to our beloved Mt. Frioland. This involved another wonderful half an hour up a spectacularly beautiful road (see green photos). As we had intended to do an exposed, hot hot hot ridge walk we had no snow gear, no map and not even any flanges on the trekking poles and nothing but a vague idea where we were going and no path to follow. So the sight of vast quantities of snow was not welcome. No gaiters and with shorts on, every slip up to our men’s bits in the soggy snow was accompanied by a sharp intake of breath and mutterings of “shit” and Italian translations thereof. But actually as trips go it was fun. We climbed up 700 metres all told which wasn’t bad for a first trip and had lunch in sight of Frioland which we reckoned after a three hour climb was still another few hours away. But there was too much snow to even consider attempting it even if we’d had the energy. It’s amazing how much a month’s inactivity can render you pretty much useless. While on the subject of useless, the dog, who has been limping dramatically for a couple of days suddenly and miraculously gets better as soon as it jumps out of the car. Obviously a long walk is serious medicine to a pitifully wounded dog. I hadn’t expected to see her so gleefully bounding over the avalanch debris. Such joy to have an honest dog.
I was nice to see a red deer hind grazing down in the woods on the way up and some marmots when we were up having lunch and an unusually brilliant red red-fox on the way down; in such a fantastic natural setting you sort of feel out of place and rather privileged to see them. We saw a red squirrel too, too common usually to even deserve a mention but curiously, the red squirrels here on the shady side of the valley are actually pitch black and those on the sunny side of the valley are a deep, dark, reddish colour neither very much at all like  you imagine red squirrels to be. Obviously different populations separated by the Pellice river have developed different colourings. Odd.
I tried an experiment for lunch today and did a bowl of couscous with various additions like cheese and ham and tuna and egg and so on. I must say I was very pleased with the result. I forgot my spoon so Balders kindly whittled one for me out of a stick of  larch. It was admittedly a little narrower than I usually like my spoons but I discovered an advantage that will ensure that in the future I always bring a minute spoon – you can’t bolt your food if you can only scoop up a cubic centimeter or two at a time. Vitally important considering the  extra weight now adorning my midriff.

I also found a great wild camping spot – a little flat circular grassy bit in the center of a vast mountainous basin (see photo) with fast moving water everywhere. Just got to find a decent tent now (see next blog probably)
P.S. Just dived into a hot bath and vociferously discovered that I have amazing sunburn on my calves, backs of arms, bald patch and back of neck. Will I ever learn? I actually learnt only yesterday that you can still get brown if you use sunblock (which I have never used in my life) but of course I forgot to take it with me. Twot.

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