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It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do.
Jerome K. Jerome, Idle thoughts of an Idle Fellow, `On Being Idle'

Tue Dec 03, 2002

First ski

É stato una bella giornata e il primo sci della stagione. Abbiamo scelto Cervinia perche è pui in alto e communque aveva molti pui impianti aperto. Penso che la settimane prossima tutti I posti saranno aperto.

Ho dormito alla casa di Alberto, e cosi siamo partito alle 7. Ci incontrato Andrea, Elia, Lorenzo, Fede and Albertino alle casa di Andrea e siamo usciti Milano alle 7.40 (non è male per il primo prova!) Il cielo era tutto aperto e la vista della montagne era incredibile, stanno bianco, come panne su un ciocolato caldo. É incredibile come grande sembra monta rosa da Milano, in l'estate si vede niente, anzi non sembra che ci sono montagne punto.

C'era una fila lungissimo per il bighlietti, e poi per il funiviar. Ma eventualamente siamo arrivati alla stazione sotto di plateau rosa. (Ho pensato dei argentinian e albanian nella rifugio! mi fa ridere). Oh, Fede e Lorenzo scegliavano di caminare alla cima!!!! Fede con I snowboard e raquet, e Lorenzo con I sci e peli. Wow, non ho neanche visto un bravo telemarker fa una impressa cosi!

Non tutti degli impianti eranno aperto, ma c'era abbastanza e la qualità della neve era perfetto. Ho avuto pauro che non potrei ricordare come funziona il snowboard. Ma ero come una anatra in aqua. Non ho perso la mia forma, infatti (non ha voglia di soffiare il mio tromba) ma è andato a gonfie vele, forse sono pui bravissimo! Abbiamo fatto un po' fuori piste a rotto di collo fino è venuto il ghiaccio alle fine del giorno.

Tue Dec 10, 2002

Christmas dinner

The Christmas party, no its never to early, and this weekend ours was kindly hosted by Max of Brusson in his winter retreat high in the Val d'Ayas, an offshoot of the Aosta valley. The most difficult part as with any trip was organising to get there. We left Milan at diverse hours and in three groups. The first, the 'early morning' party keen for some afternoon skiing leaving at 9.30, only to be found cueing to re-enter Milan at 10.00 to collect the forgotten snow chains. The 'afternooners', keen for some extra zzzz's left at 3ish, and the 'we would have left early but we were to busy' party left at 5.

The early morning party did indeed get their skiing at Champoluc, if you haven't been go because it's great. The lifts carry you deep deep deep into the mountains. You experience a complete loss of direction guided only by the lofty summits of Monta Rosa. Keep an eye on the time however as you have to go up to come down.

The afternoon parties arrived together, the afternooners were an unknown quantity arriving in a untested 1970's VW van with a driver barely acquainted with an engines requirements for fuel. It was fortunate that they did arrive because they had the food. So, there must have been 9 of us in total, all quietly satisfied with our relative personal achievements during the day. The meal was fantastic and the english introduced crackers to the unsuspecting italians. Just when you couldn't thinks things could get even better The Pash introduced their own distinct brand of party games surprising even the unsuspecting english.

Sunday was the warm down and a bit of an anticlimax. With most of us skiing, it was not nearly as sunny as it was supposed to be. Fog enveloped the mountain at midday along with Alberto after he shot rather to enthusiastically down the wrong piste. We were reunited at 5 as he was spat back out. Naturally a beer followed.

Tue Dec 24, 2002

Ice time

My sources had told me that ice conditions in Aosta were good, so Nick and Adam arrived from the UK with great expectations for the following 10 days, but first stop was Longoni's opposite Bergamo airport for those last minute essentials such as batteries, lengths of tat and warm clothes.

Despite these small oversights we were in general well kitted out. We had planned to camp, which seemed a novel but particularly stupid idea to every campsite I had contacted. In fact they had blatantly refused to let us stay, so not wanting to go against local knowledge we had relented and reserved a caravan at Les Salasses in Lillaz, and if things went well we could transfer to tents after. Of course it never happened.

Lillaz at the head of the Valle di Cogne is a beautiful, peaceful and isolated place. It contains some of the best ice climbing to be found in Italy, except not this week. The weather had apparently been quite warm, fluctuating between 0 and +5.

But we were here to climb, and used to thin Scottish conditions, so optimistically leaving the campground at a sociable hour passing under the ever-watchful eye of Giuseppe, our mentor and excellent host for the week, he gave us a look that clearly said both; where do you think you are going at this hour and do you know how warm it is. He looked like he knew what he was talking about, so treading now with a bit more caution we approached the valley. Today was only really meant to be a reconnaissance day to check out conditions and test fitness. Early on signs were not good, for both categories. The perfectly formed cascades of ice that we had in our guidebook were nowhere to be seen, and throughout the day small avalanches and rockslides came crashing down the south facing side of the valley. We had seen enough to persuade us that climbing could not be an option. But we had had an enjoyable trek along the valley, and tried snowshoes for the first time to which we were all now fully converted.

That evening in Cogne at the Bar Licone we quizzed other climbers what they had been doing, it appeared there was not much ice in the whole valley. So much for my sources! But we were not finished yet, and the following day after working the guidebook a bit, we decided to try Lillaz Gulley, it was close to our caravan, well protected from avalanche and very Scottish in nature. In fact it wasn't so close and 2 hours later after fighting through trees and deep snow we arrived at its foot.

The ice was melting, but not flowing so we decided to give it a shot. The first pitch was only 25 meters but took 45 minutes to climb. The others followed more quickly but in equally poor style. We sat under the small overhang eating our lunch, whilst small volleys of rocks occasionally tumbled by. It was obvious we were not going to exit in the light, so we took the easy decision to retreat gracefully practicing all manner of snow slope descending techniques on the way.

Our ice climbing holiday was over, so we headed into Courmayeur for Christmas. We were very fortunate to find a cheap room right in the center of the village as guests of Giuditta Rossi, and we were happy to be spending the day skiing with fantastic views of the Peuterey Ridge. The next few days were spent alternating between Courmayeur and La Thuile to find the best conditions. The weather had now taken a turn for the worst and the combination of cloud, powder and inexperience led to some strange and disorientating floating experiences.

The final day was filled with a relaxing cross country ski along Val Ferret, a thoroughly agreeable activity, interrupted at mid point for a toasted sandwich and a glass of vin chaud. Once of the main piste and under the shadow of the Walker Spur and Grande Jorasse the size of the surrounding mountains really becomes apparent, and our short trip was an intimidating if wondrous experience.