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journal

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 Sep 03, 2002

Violet Towers

I didnt know anything about our intended destination in the Dolomites - the Violet Towers except for their colour. I was there with Andrea, Alberto, Max, Richard and his friend Dave. We met in the valley and used the mini bus shuttle service to arrive at rifugio Gardeccia, and then hiked the short path up to rifugio Preuss. Here we took advantage of the service cable car to port our sacks up to rifugio Alberto directly at the foot of our towers.

Saturday morning we were out early, and rewarded with perfect weather and no competition for our route. Our intended itinary was to climb all of the three towers starting first with the Spigolo Delago, then the Fehrmann finishing with the Winkler. Climbing in pairs we set off up the first, Torre Delago. The climbing was magnificently exposed following an arete on easy ground, and considering its popularity not polished. The summit was reached without problem, and our next objective Torre Stabeler stood just 5 metres away, but unobtainable directly due to the shear drop that separated the towers. First we had to descend by abseil to the base and then recommence the climb.

Richard was already way ahead, and bad route finding by myself put us further behind. (It pays to take a guide). The crux corner pitch had good climbing and was well protected. The summit was reached without incident, however the descent proved to be more problematic. It arrived without warning, the storm. Andrea and Max were secure on a ledge, Richard and Dave were way ahead on the ultimate tower, myself and Alberto were half way down the descent, first light rain, then hail, then heavy rain and thunder. The gully we were descending turned quickly into a waterfall, and we had no choice but to continue to descend.

Its incredible how difficult a rope becomes to pull through when wet, and shivering from cold I wished for my waterproof as my windcheater was proving to be highly inadequate. Of course we reached the base, and the storm passed. Continuing the adventure was never an option as we couldnt think of anything else other than to take a hot chocolate in the warmth of the rifugio. Andrea and Max arrived later, curiously appearing dry. Richard and Dave we could see still half way up the Torre Winkler. Richards rope had jammed in descent and he was re-climbing to retrieve it. As we were to learn later he considered to continue to reach the summit, but was over ruled by Dave. They arrived back to the rifugio completely dry. Apparently they had found a cave to shelter from the storm.

The towers once again looked splendid until enveloped in a new blanket of cloud. We comforted ourselves with some beers and vowed to return to the Torre Winkler, the final tower. The following day we descended. The setting was magnificent, and resting at the Preuss we watched a continuous line of day trekkers marching like an army of ants up the steep path to the towers. Rifugio Alberto proved to be very accommodating, with friendly staff. The rooms were clean and the food was good, even if most of the dishes were based on Polenta.

Tue Sep 10, 2002

Rockmasters

It was a perfect weekend in Arco for those of us who prefer to watch others climb instead of doing it ourselves with the Rockmaster 2002 competition. Set against the backdrop of the impressive vertical walls of Arco and a bluer than blue sky we were treated to a spectacle of climbing at the highest level.

Saturday I was diverted into climbing at Massone, but the real proceedings got underway on Sunday with the worked difficulty event for both men and women. The competitors had tried this route earlier in the week, and this was a second chance to gain extra metres. The competitors masked well the difficulty of their undertakings (8a for the women and 8b+ for the men) with an incredible display of strength and technique. Despite finding a cunning no hands rest under the roof Legrand failed to top out. This glory went to Ovtchinnikov, but Chabot took overall victory as his combined metres were greater. Sandrine Levet took victory in the womens event climbing in fine style just pipping the Belgian Muriel Sarkany. The young Slovenian climber Natalija Gross climbed elegantly and delicately to take 4th, just behind compatriot Martina Cufar.

The mens bouldering event took place shortly after. It was a KO competition over 4 problems. Things got a bit confused when all competitors failed the third problem, however some fast talking by the Italians solved the problem and the event moved onto the final problem with 3 competitors remaining. Malcom Smith was looking favourite until the final hold which he failed to maintain with both hands. The Italian Mauro Calibani on his last attempt finally won the event after failing low down on the two previous attempts. The format of this event (as for the womens the previous evening) proved to be fast paced and highly entertaining.

The final event of the day was the duel. Climbing on site (8a and 7c respectively) the top 4 placed men and women from the mornings spectacular climbed side by side on identical routes, the victor being either the first to the top, or the highest placed. In the first semi Levet took victory against Gross and Sarkany beat Cufar in the second, both climbers falling near the top. The final was a closer affair, Levet this time topping out to take victory. In the mens Alexandre Chabot pipped Petit in the first semi, whilst in the second a careless slip by Mrazek handed victory to Ovtchinnikov. With only 10 minutes of rest the climbers were out again for the final. Chabot put in a stunning performance climbing quickly to top out again and take the victory. It was an interesting format that allowed us to see the different climbing styles of the competitors.

Commentary came at us in Italian, German and English from an ever-enthusiastic front man, against the standard extreme sport soundtrack. The event was very well supported by a large crowd, organized with good facilities but with inadequately small glasses for the beer.

Thu Sep 12, 2002

Matterhorn

Dear Journal, the day I nearlly climbed the Matterhorn. Sitting here at home minding my own buisness quietly waiting to go out for dinner the phone rang to the ominous voice of Richard. Didnt sound good, he had a plan, it was to close to the weekend to be anything else. Then it came, 'do you want to climb the Matterhorn this weekend?' The fear shot through me like a rocket.

Living this close to the mountains you put yourself at this kind of risk. The matterhorn becomes a weekend climb. My instant reaction was no not on your life, I need to prepare, theres no food in the house etc. But then it is also a mountain that I really want to climb, and I should take the opportunity. Anyhow I tried to cover my bases mumbling something about acclimitization, snow, gear etc and left Richard to find out more information and to give the poet a call.

He rang back a few minutes later, the moment of truth... No, its not possible. Ah well, it will still be there next year. Now its time for dinner.

Space

Dear Journal, moved my bed through 45 degrees. I feel a lot happier even if the space seems strange.

Tue Sep 17, 2002

Sunday bike ride

Dear Journal, I am in recovery from two exhausting but fantastic days mountain biking.

Saturday we made from Como to Bellagio traversing the mountain ridge that splits the great Lago di Como. I made the trip with I Pash, starting from the funicolare in Como thus avoiding the tedious and steep ascent up the road to Brunate, putting us straight onto interesting ground.

The route is dotted with convenient rifugi in which to take a coffee or snack. We decided to stop mid route to enjoy a plate of Pasta at the Stuppani rifugio, only to be overtaken by the couple who had been tailing us since the start. The man was wearing an incredibly clean pair of white socks in the italian knee length style.

Despite a lunch break of over an hour we quickly retook first position to reach the high point of Mt. Ponciv. From here we could see all the way down to Bellagio, and as soon as the white socks arrived we parted down the long descent into Bellagio. The descent was incredible, and without suspension painful. Initially on grassy but steep ground until reaching the road at the Martini rifugio, and then a thin technical rocky path down into Bellagio, described to us by a rotund aging italian cyclist who had apparently just ascended it as easy. We arrived in Bellagio bruised but ecstatic, and just 10 minutes until the last ferry back to Como, and just 5 minutes before the white socks.

Sunday we went into Switzerland for a downhill ascent from Mt. Tamaro. Parking at Rivera we took the ski lift as high as possible, but still we had a short sharp ascent of 300 metres to the summit. Richard was in fine form, and aided by his low gearing made it without rests. The weather was perfect with fine views across to Lago Lugano and into Italy. We traversed below the summit at 1961 metres over rocky ground before descending the path towards Arosio in the valley. The path quickly entered the trees, and the riding became fast and exiting interrupted by the occasional steeper section that required attention. The path went on like this for some two hours before re-ascending into Arosio where we stopped for an ice cream. The final steep descent into Manno rounded of the trip, and all that remained was 45 minutes along the road, painful, but worth it.

It would definitely be worth a return trip, infact from the summit of Mt. Tamaro it seemed that a traverse along to Monte Lema would be a fine outing.


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