This was my first Via Ferrata route for some time. Sue went for a walk to the Nuvolau with Chris, Helen and Simon, and various others from Collett's Dolomitic empire. One of our reasons for staying with Collett's is that we can split up like this and still have company. Whilst Sue would dearly love a Via Ferrata day, her injury prevents it, and I'm reluctant to do them alone.
My day started with a stroll down to the Boe Gondola, where over twenty folk from various Collett's locations slowly assembled for today's Via Ferrata experience. Eventually we actually caught the gondola, and then the Vallon chairlift, from where it was a short stroll to the start of the VF.
I could tell it would be a slow ascent by the time it took a large group ahead of us to 'kit up' (install newly hired climbing harnesses and VF kit, etc). But our own group (pictured) wasn't much quicker.
"Let's go" I suggested to Pete at about 11am, as the way ahead cleared. So we set off. After about 5 metres of easy wire the three Old Faffing Italians ahead of us engaged in a hugely slow faff on a vertical section, during which one of them paused for some time, hanging precariously off the wire, to deal with a telephone call.
Italians love to talk!
'No matter', I thought - the rest of the 'coachload of Italians' up ahead looked even slower!
Eventually Pete and I were afforded the space to tackle the wall of rock. 'Huff puff' - we soon realised why the Italians had been so faffy. The Pic da Lech route, graded 3B - a mid grade VF - had plenty of good resting places in between thrutchy ascents and airy traverses. We spent a lot of time at such resting places due to the slowness of the group ahead.
After making sedate (I'm being polite here) progress for over an hour, Pete and I found ourselves sitting next to the three Elderly Italians, looking up at the rest of their party making very heavy weather of ascending a couple of ladders. We watched, bemused that anyone could make anything so simple look so hard. English voices floated down.
So it was not an Italian coach load, just three old boys irretrievably sandwiched between two parties of English incompetents.
Mutterings under the breath..."Shoot ze Inglese fools".
With an echo..."Shoot ze incompetent Inglese fools" - I blame Pete for that!
Anyway, the English Incompetents huffed and puffed their was up the ladders whilst we gazed up, directly into the sun, in bafflement. The colour of my face tonight is testament to the aeons it spent in that position.
With the ladders clear, the Aged Italians strolled on up them (if indeed it's possible to stroll up a ladder). Then it was our turn.
I knew it was easy. I'd been here before. I'd waited at the foot of the second ladder for many minutes whilst Sue had tried to coax a small Italian boy upwards, finally resorting to impaling said child on a stemple and hurling the whole lot at the little blighter's idiot father.
I had explained all this to Pete. "So that's the reason for all the loose stemples" he observed.
Pete was next up. "I can't reach" he pleaded. "Stand on the top rung" I suggested. He made some rather rude gurgling noises before emerging triumphant at the top of the VF with knees oozing copious bodily fluids by way of proof of passage.
Next up was Nicola. She's shorter than Pete and her "I can't reach" plea was a little more justified than his. By some psychological miracle I overcame my usual state of terrified vertigo and helped her up, leaving Kev (next up) to look after himself and the following person.
Pete and I strolled up to the summit, said hello to the three Italian Elders and confronted the Incompetent English. It turned out that Collett's had dispatched them as an advance party from Chalet Barbara in Arabba, clearly for the purpose of laying siege to the mountain. There must have been over 30 Collett's guests on this route today.
And we complain about coachloads of Italians!?
The views from the 2910 metre summit of Piz da Lech, to numerous Dolomitic peaks and valleys, are stunning. We savoured them together with our lunch for an hour (1pm to 2pm), during which about half our party, in various states of bruisedness arrived on the broad summit.
I have yet to discover what happened to the rest of them, as Pete and I, being the only members of the group mean enough to buy one-way lift tickets, decided to commence our 1350 metre descent to Corvara. It was a most pleasurable two and a half hours, punctuated by a welcome coke at the Boe gondola station and culminating in a long, slow beer near Chalet Bracun.
An excellent day out - 8km with 400 metres ascent, in about 6 hours. Thanks for your company, Pete, I really enjoyed our day together.
Back at Chalet Angelo, Sue was luxuriating in the sauna after her own sociable day out, and the atmosphere was delightfully convivial, everyone having enjoyed another fine day under the bright yellow orb that just now remains a constant feature of the Dolomitic skyscape.
[Hello Paul, hello Helen. Wish you were here? Surely not, it's a bit hot!]
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