Sunday, July 15, 2012

Another barefoot trip to Lake Pieno Sia

What a fascinating day. I don’t usually go hiking on Sunday but at the moment I’ll take any hiking time I can get so Sunday it is.  I repeated my first ever serious barefoot hike to see what had changed and whether I had improved. Well what had changed was that instead of putting shoes on for the initial climb and again on the difficult bits on the way down, this time I left home barefoot, stayed barefoot for the entire 6 hour hike and returned home barefoot. Nothing like freewheeling in shorts, a t-shirt and barefeet down 9 km of mountain road on the scooter with the temperature up in the high 30s. Exhilarating.
Today was the Tre Rifugi mountain race which takes in two thirds of my planned route so I expected a lot of people. The first three runners passed me half way up and there was a wet sponge and refreshment post at a certain  point (not that they offered me any) but other than that I’d already reached the turn off point well before the main runners came into sight. But looking up to the Manzol Pass as I passed by was horrendous, full of people, dozens of them presumably there to cheer the runners on. How sad. What a depressing thing spectator sport is. Every time a runner passed the staging post some total fuckwit sounded an air-horn. Great. You come to the mountains for peace and quiet, miles from anywhere, and get an air horn. Bollockbrains. As I said, I did expect some human activity but no way did I imagine someone would haul a frigging air horn up to 2600m and I imagined even less that he’d actually sound the damn thing.
Mind you I’m sort of less inclined to be critical of humanity today as I’m beginning to appreciate this herding instinct that everyone seems to have. After I’d been at destination (Lago Pieno Sia 2,566m) for 40 minutes or so I asked some through hikers what the situation was like below. One woman compared it to Ikea on a Saturday. I can well imagine. Apart from two groups of hikers I had the whole lake to myself despite being only 8km from the riotous assembly below.
The climb up was absolutely comfortable, just like walking in the garden. The final half hour on the decent was a bit tiring as the 300 plus runners had  totally demolished the path leaving a lot of sharp stuff on it. Still, though I had shoes in my pack, I didn’t need them. An amazing difference.
On the way down the people I did see noted but ignored my bare feet which I’m grateful for. I was not in the mood for explanations. Perhaps there’s some good in humanity after all.
After hiking with Baldrick who carries sod all in his rucksack I have started to do likewise. Today I regretted it. “Dangerous and irresponsible...” would have been the summary in the press on Monday after my helicopter medivac. “...due to being barefoot with no suitable back-up clothing”. Jesus’ foreskin was it COLD. Absolutely freezing. A strong, icy, multidirectional Scandinavian wind was tearing about the lakeside to the point that  it was impossible to find a sheltered spot. My shirt was drenched with sweat and to get warm I had to find a hollow and wrap myself in my poncho and lie down in it I was shivering so much. I took my shirt off and literally in 5 minutes it was bone dry. But I only lasted an hour up there. In fact there were people with jackets on, hoods up and gloves further down. So I’m going back to carrying my usual load. Better safe than sorry and if I’d had hat and gloves and a fleece I could have spent the entire day up there.
When I got back to the scooter I was amazed and grateful to the conglomeration of humanity following their instincts at the refuge. Even more people along the road down. Hundreds of people all herded together taking the sun on the rocks in the river, dozens of people with picnic tables by the side of the road and to crown it all, one couple sitting in a rock and rubble dump next to a mountain of manure listening to the radio as they ate their plate of spag bol.. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Looking down at the Barbara refuge from a hundred metres higher up you could see how humanity works. A vast expanse of flat land near the refuge with clots of people all within spitting distance of each other, while in between the clots, large areas of emptiness. And the clots thinning out the further away from the car they were until right at the end of the glacial basin, nobody at all. Even up at the lake a bunch of hikers were all set to sit right next to me to have their lunch until I managed to convince them to carry on up to the Dar Moine pass to see the view. Go figure.
No photos unfortunately as the camera is bust. But I’ve added on a link to the first barefoot hike.

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