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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'

Sun Jul 07, 2002

Campanile Basso

Dear Journal, so this was it, I had finally been persuaded into climbing something big, just quite how big I didnt realize until it was too late.

You see I dont know much about the high mountain routes, in fact I had never heard of the Campanile Basso in the Brenta Dolomites. Despite this myself, Andrea and Alberto arrived undiscovered at the start of the trail under the cover of rain. Despite having no thoughts of climbing the next day we went through the motions following the trail to the rifugio driven more by hunger than ambition, arriving just in time for a bowl of soup, much to the displeasure of the cannibals amongst us.

We met here the Pash (Richard, Lucy and her pop), the poet and some of his friends. Richard of course was hopeful for climbing the next day, we thought him mad.

However much to his delight, after an impossible night in the rifugio he was proved right. The day was clear and bright, just perfect for this climb we were about to do. We arrived at the base towards 10 and met another two parties on the climb. The tower looked big, but not that big, and not at all scary - ignorance can be a great thing. If however we had arrived from the other direction I think things would have felt very different.

The route (the Fehrmann takes the tower first up a corner, and then a slab to arrive on a shoulder after 450m. Another route is then taken for 150m to scale the final tower.

Richard set off at speed taking Alberto with him. Richard has a speed and fluidity in the mountains not evident at the crag. Andrea and myself dropped woefully behind after a couple of wrong turns, heavy rucksacks and general incompetence. The poet passed below with his group of companions trailing behind on a via ferrata. After shouting up to us some unprintables (something about starting late, and not being high enough on the route) he disappeared as quickly as he arrived leaving us in solitude.

The corner provided the technically most difficult climbing, but the slabs at the top were the most exposed. A tricky traverse out of a cave would lead us to the security of the ledge. It was now getting late however, and without a guidebook we were none to certain what to do next. Although we had completed our route we didnt have time to go for the summit, and we did not know where the descent was, sometimes ignorance has a way of getting you back. Fortunately we met Richard and Alberto descending with lunatic smiles stretching across their faces, they had reached the summit.

Circumnavigating the tower on a small ledge led us to the abseil rings, which after 4 or 5 impressive rope lengths deposited us on the poets via ferrata that we then followed back to the base of our route. Our descent provided us with fantastic views of the Campanile, now revealing its true height and exposure in the warm orange evening light. Our route seemed improbable.

The rifugio was reached at 10 pm, just in time to take a celebratory beer. Our final bottle of wine was also consumed to lighten our loads for the walk down, we had to return to Milan that night, which we did at 4.30am, exhausted. Richard and myself made it to work for 9, Alberto somewhat later, and Andrea not at all.

Mon Jul 29, 2002

Aiguille Dibona

Dear Journal, our objective was the Aiguille Dibona in Le Massif des Ecrins. The usual crew were present, Andrea, Claudia, Alberto and I Pash. First however we had to meet the french man - Fluffy - in Briancon. Fluffy was living a hermits life in Paris paying penance for his sins and exuberances notched up while living the high life in Milan. Fluffy appeared in fine form to be greeted by us cleverly disguised as french citizens.

As usual in these cases I hadnt the faintest idea what the Dibona was, so once again blindly following my companions we started the trek up to the rifugio. It was steep, and the Dibona remained hidden until the last moment. It was stunningly pointy. Our Refuge du Soreiller we found directly below the Dibona and was well occupied but not particularly accommodating or friendly. Somehow we were served an entirely different menu to all the other guests, which seemed to raise some eyebrows. We just blamed Richard.

The morning was a little chilly, and a thin vale of cloud draped over the mountain. Richard and Lucy went for the classic Voie Madier route, while the rest of us went for the visite obligatoire. Of course it would have been to easy to start form the normal point, and we found ourselves on the less frequented alternative. Andrea led off first in typical nonchalant style leaving Claudia with an expression of concerned apprehension, matched only by the look of fear in all of our faces. Happily we rejoined the main line of the route, along with all the other parties out that day.

Andrea was climbing strongly, consuming metres quickly. I however never found my focus and found the climbing nervy despite the bolted protection, this combined with climbing as a three made us a little slow, and we soon dropped behind.

After negotiating some tricky overlaps at mid height I felt fatigued and uninspired. So we were obliged to retreat. Descent was easy, and we were soon at the base. Our other two teams reached the summit together, but Andrea and Claudia chose to descend completely by abseil, becoming somewhat lost and wet when a storm covered the mountain. Lucy and Richard choose better, a short abseil and walk returned them to the rifugio quickly and safely.

So for me a slightly frustrating weekend, I could blame it on the quantity of potatoes and cheese consumed the night before, but in reality it was lack of preparation and motivation to succeed.