Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 29 July 2023

Friday = Isabella Day (53)

With mum on holiday, Isabella didn't need anyone other than mum and dad to look after her.

However, we turned up in Didsbury after seeing off Heather, who had been staying with us for a few days whilst she did some Peak District mountain guiding.

Isabella mistakenly and understandably expected to be whisked off to Timperley. "I want car!" But she had to get used to a walk to Fletcher Moss park. There wasn't even time to go to the Didsbury playground, as Sue explained...

Fletcher Moss has lots of this (below), and no play apparatus as that would need hard standing, and this area of Didsbury is geared to soaking up any flood water and avoiding any flooding of the nearby houses. Can you spot the moorhen?

However, we found plenty for Isabella to do in the well kept gardens, including quite a bit of running around and hide and seek.

And a bit of dancing on one of the viewing platforms.

Then Isabella needed some lunch, and we needed to go home.

Thursday 27 July 2023

Sunday 5 December 2004 - A Christmas Walk to Monsal Head

A scan of these postings reveals records of quite a few of our pre Christmas walks. I've tried to identify them here. However, these walks started in the early 1970s (the earliest 'programme currently on my file is from early 1976, but we started before then), and at that time comprised meetings at which a walks programme for the following year was planned. More recently they have just been a get together, with numbers inflated beyond imagination. These few pictures from 2004, and a diary entry by Sue, are from the era before pub lunch bookings were necessary, and even a bit of 'planning' may have been achieved on this walk.

Here's Sue's entry for the day, together with some low quality pictures taken with our original digital Olympus camera:

Jenny, Richard, Martin and I arrived at the tea shop in Tideswell just before 10:00 am to find Andrew sipping coffee and eating a tasty cheese toasted sandwich. We happily joined him for some nice coffee, then I investigated the shop's hand made cards,  having just made my own.

The car park further down the road already had Graham and Tove, Don and Liz, and Sue and Phil getting boots on, and after handing out caramel shortbread, we set off at 10:40. For early December it was a lovely day - blue sky, no wind and quite warm.

There was mud underfoot along the dale. Litton Mill was no longer the building site it was previously -  now converted into apartments it was quite smart.

Litton Mill

Miller's Dale


A view from Monsal Head to Upperdale Farm

At 11:50 we crowded around the usual tables in the Stables pub at Monsal Head Hotel, sweating with the heat of the log fire. Graham and Mike turned up too, having set off five minutes later than us from Tideswell.

At 12:00 there was a rush to order beer and food, and everyone enjoyed a nice lunch whilst discussing various plans for 2005.

At 1:30 it was a rosy-cheeked bunch (was it the Theakston's Old Peculier?) that set off along Monsal Dale, stopping again to admire the weir. 

A team photo by the weir

Once in the woods, the trees provided the desired cover to get rid of excess liquid, and we lingered at the top of the hill (Bull Tor area) to enjoy the sun and wait for Graham. Just before the sun set, a tea stop meant more caramel shortbread, and a chance to try Martin's frisbee. It was so light that the light breeze moved it easily.

The light was fading as the cars came into view at 4 pm, and after removing muddy boots, everybody headed home.

Note the details of this year's 2023 Xmas Walk are:

A Christmas Walk on Sunday 17 December 2023 - starting at 10:00 am from The Leather's Smithy, Langley. (SJ 952 716) Lunch after the walk at 1:30pm. We will follow the route described here.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

14 to 22 July 2001 - A Dolomites Trip based at Camping Dolomiti in Cortina

This is a lengthy transcript from one of our early visits to the Dolomites. It brings back memories of this and many other similar trips. Note that Via Ferrata references are from the Cecil Davies translation, prior to publication of the Smith/Fletcher guides. For anyone wishing to relate these entries to a map, I think Kompass 617 and/or Tabacco 1:50000 sheet 1 are what you need to perhaps rekindle your own memories. The photos are a mixture of photographed prints and scanned slides, the latter being of better quality. The diarists for each day are indicated in brackets.

Saturday 14 July (Martin)

Friday night's smooth trip to London Colney was followed by an equally efficient taxi ride at 5:30 am to Stansted.

This trip comprises:
Sue and me
Linda - who is with us on the flight to Munich and who we picked up in Didsbury
Gill and Marcus - who joined us at Stansted, having unwittingly queue jumped by pretending to be Business Class customers
Dave - who flew to Venice on Friday
Rupert - who joins us in Munich from Newcastle via Paris
Chris -  who joins us in Munich via Heathrow, and
Nick who potters into Munich from Amsterdam.

So after a good night on Helen (Sue's sister) and Alex's sofas, Linda, Sue and I uneventfully log in at Stansted, meet up with Marcus and Gill, and arrive in Munich on a hot day about 10 minutes late at 11:10. The only disappointment so far being Lufthansa's pathetic muesli bar breakfast. (But at £80 the flights were cheap.)

We reached the Alamo car hire queue at 11:45. By 2 pm we had reached the front of the queue and discovered additional drivers cost £3 a day, not £3 a week as Sue thought she had been told. On the other hand, our two Corsas were upgraded to Astra Estates, which is really good news. We now have 3 Astra Estates and are confused by two of them being identical. Whilst waiting we discovered that Alamo had five absentees that day. The staff who had made it in took over 2 hours to deal with about 20 cars! Meanwhile, Rupert arrived more or less on time. Chris's plane had broken down and was two and a half hours late, so he arrived just as the cars were being issued. Nick arrived a bit earlier just as his driving license was required. By the time all was sorted out we had Nick in control of a silver car, Rupert and I have a dark blue one, and Gill and Marcus also have a dark blue one.

So the convoy departs Munich at 3 pm. Half an hour later we pull into Feldkirchen services for baguettes and drinks. Gill and Marcus continued with a luxury lunch, illegally imported from the UK. The outside temperature rises to 31.5°C, but these Astras have aircon, so we are in a comfort zone. Gill and Marcus also have CDs. Those who have brought tapes in accordance with my kit list have been foiled. Continue in good weather past Innsbruck as far as Bressanone. Here Nick shoots off, abandoning the rest of his convoy to a poor supermarket in Bressanone. There is a delay whilst loose change to release a trolley is obtained. Then, loaded with goodies, we set off on the last lap to Cortina, via Dobbiaco, which we reach at 8:15. Nick's car has gone directly to Cortina where the Co-op was open until 8:00 pm, and by 8:30 the entire group was installed on three luxurious flat pitches at Camping Dolomiti, Dave having arrived the night before.

The campsite man very helpfully united the three separate groups and calculated the nightly cost per person to be 13,666 lira. Pasta etc meals / brews were concocted in no time at all for all except Marcus and Gill, who adjourned to Cortina for a pizza. Unfortunately they were disorientated by the geography and one way system, and our failure to tell them that the campsite is down the Venice road. After all this - asleep well before midnight.

Sunday 15 July (Sue)

A leisurely start was made as a result of a long day on Saturday. The sun on the tent made it rather too hot to stay in after 8 am, especially with a down filled jumper on - used for warmth last night.

Everyone had a leisurely breakfast and gear sort out, enlivened by Martin's search for two brown envelopes containing money that he claimed vehemently he had given to either Nick, Linda or me. Denial all round, followed by apologies when I found them in the brown wallet.

The whole group decided to take up the suggestion of tackling Averau, a grade A via ferrata, from Falzarego Pass (2117m), but knowing the hours of opening for the Co-op were short on Sundays, that would be the first port of call. We left the sunny campsite about 9:45 in two cars and were through shopping at 11 ish. Cortina, as usual, was full of smartly dressed folk, ambling along the pedestrian main street.

Armed with yellow bags full of food that wouldn't go off while sitting in the car all day, we set off up the road to the pass.

Gill and Marcus were suitably shocked when we pointed out the rock castle of Averau, which was only 1500 feet above, but looked impressive and sheer. Once past the hordes mingling around the shop, we were walking through meadows full of wild flowers - lots of kidney vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, alpenrose, blue meadow cranesbill, and lots of others. 

Although cool when we left the car, we were all warm on the gradual ascent. Further on, a patch of snow provided some entertainment, although most of the (snowball) aims were poor. The party straggled out as the path steepened, and the wind was chilly at the col. The path contoured around the back of the mountain to the Averau Rifugio, from where we headed up to the start of the via ferrata on a narrow path across scree (1 pm).

At the base of the wires, the group spread out to eat a sandwich, whereupon spots of rain started to fall! There weren't many such spots, and everyone donned harnesses pretty efficiently, but then we had to wait for several people to descend.

Interspersing novices with the more experienced, we managed to climb up with no great difficulties apart from Gill's dead fingers, brought about by the lunch stop. The main problem seemed to be the zypers getting in the way. Once we were all up the via ferrata, there was a rocky path to the top of the mountain which had lots of variations. Linda and I ended up scrambling the last section; that freaked Gill and Marcus out as it wasn't protected. Eventually, all (except Dave who remained below the wires at the lunch spot) topped out and spent a few minutes signing the visitors book and taking photos. 

There were more spots of rain, but it wasn't that that hastened our descent! I felt my forehead - not a normal sensation, then noticed Linda's longer hair standing on end! There was clearly rather a lot of electricity in the air, so we beat a hasty retreat. (Martin stayed a while to write an appropriate entry in the visitors' book fastened to the huge cross.)

Despite looking threatening, a storm and more rain didn't materialise and we got down to the hut safely. Marcus particularly deserved the hot chocolate we all indulged in, as his adrenaline level had been fairly high.

At 4:00, it was time to go separate ways. Martin, Dave, Linda and Chris chose to continue along AV1 to Cortina, while everyone else would return the same way as they came up. At the col, this plan deteriorated, with Nick, Gill and Marcus continuing along the planned descent route, and Rupert and me choosing the higher level route along a crest. So, some more ascent and a little bit of scrambling to reach two more summits. Views all round were good, particularly of some high green meadows not far below, scattered with pines and the odd building.

Our path joined the main path through more meadows before returning to Falzarego Pass, where I waited with the rucksacks while Rupert fetched the car from further up the road. The others had only been back a few minutes when we reach the campsite at about 6:10. Tea was brewed in the sun and everyone looked suitably relaxed.

Martin, Linda, Dave and Chris had reckoned on returning to the campsite between 7 and 8pm, so I put a brew on at 7:30, knowing it would be needed. The water boiled and was put on one side when they didn't appear. Hunger got the better of me and the olives were opened along with the wine. At 8:00 pm, bets on their arrival time were placed, the latest being 9:15. At about 8:15, Rupert and I started cooking, and had eaten when the others rolled in at 9 pm. Excellent penne with seafood in tomato sauce, which only required reheating for Martin. Their descent had been rather long and there were some battered feet. Sleep came easily for all ...

Gill writes:

As the 'breakaway' party descended towards the cars, Sue proposed another climb but Nick dug his heels in said "I've made the decision to go down, and down I am going". In the end only Rupert and Sue headed on up again whilst Nick, Marcus and Gill, starting down and coming upon a signpost, decided to take the 419 path to vary the route. It turned out to be a good decision as the path encountered a pretty little stream and then passed through meadows abundant with a colourful variety of flora, resembling a fairytale landscape.

After stopping to rest for a brief spell by a beautiful little lake to enjoy the reflections of Averau, the three continued down across the lower slopes to finally reach the car, having spent an interesting and fairly tough day discovering the challenges of via ferrata for the first time.

Linda's Report:

Saturday pm - after having drunk leisurely cappuccinos and hot chocolates oozing whipped cream, the 'B team' consisting of Chris, Dave and Linda set off under the leadership of Martin for a late afternoon stroll back to Cortina. "We'll be back by 7 pm." We set off up Nuvolao. At the summit photos were taken of the curvaceous bronze sculpture against the background of Cinque Torri and Averau. The sculpture celebrated Mr Riccardo dalla Favera's 800th ascent of Nuvolao (obviously he too kept a diary).

A few short scrambles down and a walk through more flowers (common spotted orchids seen for the first time) took us to the hut at Passo Giau which displayed a rather less appealing sculpture of a motorbike raised up on a post.

We continued along the path of Alta Via 1 (AV1), now a lovely narrow path through meadows. The mountains soared up and were lit beautifully in the low afternoon sunlight.

Over the pass at Forc. la Giau, which got the hearts pumping, then down and around to Forc. la Ambrizzola. A quick snack and a time check at the pass - 7:15 pm. The realisation that our 'stroll' could be a little more, turned the conversation to food.

The mellow sounds of cowbells accompanied us down to the still waters of Lago Federa

The pace hotted up as we descended through the woods on route 431. Careful path spotting by Martin shortened our route and the B team returned to camp at shortly after 9 pm. No prizes for the A Team, who'd been placing bets on our return time - none of them thought it could possibly take us so long!

A lovely walk in the cool of the day and the evening light. Thank you Martin!

Monday 16 July (Martin)
The Lagazuoi Tunnels

At risk of detracting from Rupert's excellent portrayal (above), just a few explanatory notes.

Today started with torrential rain, so it was a slow start. The rain looked set in but eventually eased. Marcus chose the Lagazuoi Tunnels as a good venue for the day's activities. We drove up to the Falzarego Pass again and got a cable car at about midday. The route up is very quick - 683m height ascent.

Soon we were all on the Galleria path, with helmets and torches at the ready. Gill, Marcus and Dave set off down the main route. The rest of us found a passage to the right and carried out a full exploration. This passage led to an open air section before descending directly to a junction where the left hand passage was joined for a final steep descent to a large entrance chamber.

We carried out a fairly complete exploration of this system. The longest side passage went past sandbags and barrows for quite a way until a sharpish slope and a dead end.

At the exit Marcus was apparently a bit daunted by the exposure, and Gill was cross at having been abandoned in the tunnel. Dave was not in mountain goat mode, so the three of them stayed on the crowded balcony whilst the rest of us found a quiet ledge along the path to the right, for a pleasant lunch. Gill then joined us and the magnificent seven set off adventuring further along the path. Nick soon stopped but the rest of us climbed to more tunnels and carried out further exploration. These tunnels were not visited as often as the main tunnel and were fun. A crow's nest viewpoint gave us sight below of Nick wandering back from his own vantage point (our quoted five minutes had turned into an hour) and we had various other views from windows below the cable car cables. 

It is a fascinating area about which a book was later purchased.

So we ambled away, back to the cars by around 5 pm. There were good views across to Averau and yesterday's various routes. Some supermarket purchases and a nice meal at the campsite for most of us. The day ended with an exciting game of chopping board tent cricket. This involves six to nine participants, six tents, a tennis ball, and a chopping board. The 'hitter' is thrown the tennis ball and he or she tries to bat it to a tent with the chopping board. If a tent is hit it is eliminated. The object is for the hitter to hit all six tents without being caught by one of the fielders, who try to protect the tents. Only Nick succeeded in hitting all six tents, perhaps because at the time he was hitter he was aided by almost total darkness.

Tuesday 17 July (Nick)
Not quite Monte Piana

The day on which grand plans of an ascent of Monte Piana were thwarted to some extent by the weather and recollections of earlier days. (Ascent in a thunderstorm!) What resulted was a lovely valley walk and a (mostly) sunny day.

It was a shame not to be able to leave the car on the shores of Lago di Miserina, but the price per hour seemed a little excessive, so instead we left it in a lay-by some way along the route to Lago di Landro. The ladies were somewhat taken by the athlete parked on the road. Further on, past the pristine waters of Lago di Landro, we parked the other two cars and walked down the road to the start.

It was drizzling softly and looked cloudy high up as we looked up towards where we thought the via ferrata 'Pioneeriweg' was routed.

At the junction of the paths, people made and justified their decisions to take either the valley or the high route. In the event only Chris and Rupert decided on the via ferrata, of which more elsewhere, and the rest of us continued on route 103.

It was a pleasant enough walk - a rising track, quite steep in places, up through the forest. There were some tales of goalkeeping after the previous night's excitement of chopping board cricket and imploding bubble wrap.

The track flattened out in the Valle di Rimbianco, and the sun shone on a wide array of alpine flowers and the clear waters of the river. And there were views up to the Gruppo dei Cadini, though obscured to some extent by cloud. It was a lovely spot to stop for lunch, and even with the large ants didn't prevent us from enjoying a short post lunch siesta.

Grass of Parnassus

Soon after setting off again, there was another decision to be made - whether to make the sharp ascent to the summit of Monte Piana, or continue to stroll along the valley. It was a pity not to go and take a look at what sounded like a very interesting walk up to the Open Air Museum of the battle between Austria and Italy, but in the event the stroll won the day. 

The rest of the flower spotting walk was eventful, save for a new yoga position invented by Sue and Linda - the Lotus Sniffing position - to be adopted when trying to sniff an orchid in the middle of a bog.

Emerging onto a track high above Lago di Misurina, we finally descended to the lake by a ski tow to examine a rather interesting weed-eating paddle boat.

Then back around the lake shore at lower level past fluffy ducklings and wide ranging clear views of the distant Soropis range.

Returning in the cars to Cortina, we decided to go to the campsite before going to the shops. A bad idea. We discovered the shops in Cortina close at 7:30 every evening except Saturday, when we'd been lucky to get there just before 7:45. At least eating out meant we didn't need to cook. 

(Martin) Meanwhile Rupert and Chris did the Monte Piana route 56 and found it easy (grade d). They got back to Misurina a few minutes before the rest of us. 

Wednesday 18 July (Sue)
Sentiero Bonacossa

A typical start - a brew, some breakfast, and butty making. Seven of us (excl. Chris and Rupert) in two cars left for the Misurina road, where Dave was dropped off at Passo Tre Croci. Parking was easy, just off the Tre Cime road, and we set off up the track in cloudy but dry conditions. Route 115 was joined and the path wound gently upwards through the pines. Flowers adorned the banks, and there were many Fragrant Orchids in the shady woods. Despite the ascent, we were accompanied by singing, led by Marcus and Nick, with a full rendition of 'There was an old woman who swallowed a fly'. 

Only one verse was accidentally omitted - 'swallowed a cow - I don't know how'. The path steepened as we left the trees, and the singing stopped. This short steep section is made much easier by several zigzags. There were calls for a break, which we took on a grassy knoll at the top of that section. Two choughs were tempted to eat from Marcus's hand but didn't quite rise to the bait. Without the sun, we soon chilled, so we set off on the remaining section to the hut, now visible a little way above. Several climbers were in action to our left on Cadini di Tocci. A last steep burst brought us to the Rifugio Fonda-Savio hut, where it was warmer inside as a result of damp cloud hovering about this level. Their hot chocolate and warm apple strudel was delicious, and, fortified, we continued towards Sentiero Bonacossa. 

Fortunately I spotted Nick's wallet on the bench before we left, avoiding potential disaster!
The next section involved a steep, aided descent, and for two of us a squeeze under old snow in a gully. This brought us to a snowfield suitable for yomping down, then to a ridge overlooking our route on Tuesday. The cloud base had been dropping and had given us only a brief glimpse of the Tre Cime (Drei Zinnen).

Via Ferrata kits all went on as the ridge narrowed before the narrow ledge started. Steep drops to our right were cautiously avoided as we made our way along the ledge. Evidence of earlier paths was visible in the form of poor-looking wooden bridges. No Edelweiss in this section (we were looking hard) but a Devil's Claw plant clung to the vertical limestone.

The most interesting section involved a short steep section of rock and a ladder that everyone managed with no problems. 

A little more ascent on a wider path and more Edelweiss searching - this time with more success. We found 2-3 clumps of flowers, insignificant looking amongst the rock.

From the plateau, a shortcut avoided the road and brought us directly to the return path (101). This wove between the trees and this time there were cowbells rather than singing! A brief spell of rain had everyone diving for cagoules, only to be removed shortly afterwards.

It took another half hour or so to return to the cars, during which light drizzle returned.

There were two camps for dinner - Nick, Martin and I cooked 'at home', and everyone else found a pizzeria. Martin and I got away with cooking and eating outside, but Nick was just too late as rain started again.

An early night was welcome.

(Martin) Today Rupert and Chris did Via Ferrata Lipella - route 45, grade e. They were in cloud most of the time but enjoyed it. 

Thursday 19 July (Martin)
A walk from Falzarego

Sue, Linda, Nick and I decided to make the most of a dodgy looking day by getting the cable car to the 2728 metre top (and only) station. We strolled up to the refuge and enjoyed a hot chocolate / coffee before starting the long descent at 11:45 am.

Lunch at 1:30 then rain for a couple of hours. But we later discovered it had started raining in Cortina five minutes after we had left, so the other four had spent the day doing very little. [Dave left for Venice via Verona today, en route to perform in a recorder concert in Buxton before travelling to Trowbridge for the folk festival.]

This route was excellent. We had chamois and marmot sightings as well as snow buntings. 

There was a huge waterfall on the right with people descending across scree and above the waterfall. We had a few wades on the flood plain above the waterfalls, dodging the deep channels. Intermittent rain. 

Chopping board tent cricket

Good evening meal at a restaurant in town, and we adjourned to the bar to join Chris, Rupert, Gill and Marcus, who have failed to do very much today due to rain in Cortina.

Linda did an email report on today that I'll add in the unlikely event of finding it! 

Friday 20 July (Martin)
Via Ferrata Barbara

A stormy night and a wet morning.
The weather cleared so we had lunch and went into Cortina. The plan was to get the cable car to Faloria and stroll down. But the cable car was 'Closed for Bad Weather'.

So a quick decision was made to do the Via Ferrata Barbara (route 39).
We parked at the recommended spot at the first hairpin on the Dobbiaco road. Then we went down 100 metres to the main path. Left at a junction and a stroll up the valley to the start of the route. 

We kitted up with Via Ferrata gear, but not waterproofs. 

I turned back when I saw the waterfall and re-kitted with full waterproofs. Those without them got wet. So did I - feet anyway. We were unable to cross the bridge at the bottom so we returned by the north side of the valley amongst lovely flowers.

It turned out to be an excellent choice of route, enjoyed by all, and spectacularly different.

The rest of the day was enjoyed at the campsite / in restaurants etc.

Saturday 21 July (Sue/Nick)
Col Rosa - Via Ferrata Ettore Bovero

It was evident that yesterday's cloud cover had melted away, by waking at 4:25 am and feeling chilly. The morning was clear and still, soon warmed by sunshine hitting the tent at 7:40.

Gill and Marcus were leaving during the morning, so more goodbyes were said before six of us (Martin, Sue, Nick, Linda, Chris and Rupert) set off for Camping Olympia up the valley. Nick hadn't done any 'e' grade Via Ferrata before, and I had forgotten that Martin and I had done one, so there were a few (and lots for Nick) butterflies in the stomach!

After confirming that it was possible to leave the car in the campsite car park, we set off along a gently ascending track through the pines. 

Col Rosa towered above us through the trees, but height was soon gained on a zigzag path that climbed steeply. It was hot, sweaty work to reach Passo Posporcora, where the path became narrower, steeper, and involved short sections of scrambling. The 'boys' investigated a cave and look out towards the start of the Via Ferrata section, while others took photos of a snowy Tofane.

This diary entry from Sue continues with the following entries from Nick:

Ettoro’s ‘e’ grade – travelling the Via Ettoro Boveri on Saturday 21st July 2001

It wasn’t how I’d planned to spend my last day in the Dolomites.  I stalked around silently with my own thoughts as I thought of the challenges ahead.  I’d rather fancied a stroll around the plateau of Monte Piana, and the thought of an ‘e’ grade via ferrata with its vertiginous drops was perhaps more than I could stand.  But as I lay in my tent thinking of the day ahead, I visualised how I would feel on the top having completed the ‘walk’ and decided it was better to try this than walk off on my own.

The day dawned bright and clear – the kind of weather we’d prayed for all week, but I couldn’t eat much breakfast at the thought of the rigours ahead.  Linda had already told us that everyone feels nervous before a new climb – just the threshold at which you feel it gradually changes.  Mine was about to be increased.

Parking at Camping Olympia (alt. 1300m) was the easy part – not much negotiation was required to be allowed to park all day in front of the No Parking signs.  We set off through the shady woods, my pack all the heavier with the rope that I had insisted we take – ‘just in case’.

I knew it was a big climb up to the Passo Posporpora, after all we’d descended from there into Cortina only a couple of days earlier, but the easy gradient and the multitude of zigzags made it a steady plod.  Not quite enjoyable, but bearable – even with six days of walking in our stiffening legs.  Pausing at one point in the shade for a sip of water, I wondered whether my dented litre Sigg bottle would really be enough for such a hot day as this.

We paused at the col (alt. 1730m) to look for the mouse we’d seen earlier, but despite (or perhaps because of) copious poking about with Martin’s stick our little brown friend failed to surface.  Now began the real climb up to the start of the via ferrata at around 1900m.  This path was much rougher than the gentle amble up to the col – and even the lower stretches were not for the faint-hearted being somewhat exposed.  I asked why the pause at a particularly dodgy section – ‘to look at the beautiful view’ was the reply.  It was, but I wasn’t in the mood.  A little higher we scrambled on to a rather wider ledge.  I felt confident enough to take out my camera and take a few wide-angle shots way up the valley of the Rio Travenanzes towards Tofana and Falzarego.

Onwards and upwards, the waymarks now taking on more of a climbing feel, with red arrows pointing around corners and upwards.  There were a few awkward moments – lucky for me Linda just in front was able to point out some easy handholds that made the route finding easier.  Martin, a little further behind, paused for a rest at this point.  (Actually, he stopped because he was stuck! – Ed)

It was a relief to finally reach the bottom of the route.   

The wires snaked up the white rock into the brilliant blue sky.  We climbed into our harnesses.  Linda proffered some nuts which I had difficulty swallowing.  But it looked do-able which was good – I had pictured some vertical blank wall in my mind.

Rupert led from the front, followed by me and then Martin.  I pulled up the first part, hearing words to take small steps but ignoring them in my anxiety to get up.  Much of the route up was a daze.  I looked out at the view with incredulity – not believing I was there.  The worst part was always unclipping at the end of a wire while walking over ‘easy’ ground.  I rushed for the next wire to make me ‘safe’.  Rupert offered quiet words of encouragement.  I wished I dared take out my camera to record the moment.  Rupert took shots downwards where I dared not look.  Then came a moment I couldn’t believe. 

Just up ahead the wire disappeared horizontally around a corner.  But where to put my feet?  Rupert suggested I go ahead so he could take my picture – but even this opportunity failed to encourage me.  Instead we had to execute a rather tricky manoeuvre on a very tight ledge.  I was shown the controls on the camera, but all I could do was hold on tightly to the wire.  I dared to let go with one hand as Rupert swung out onto the wire.  One-handed picture with much camera shake, while Martin waited just below with his nose pressed to the rock.  Moving around the corner was easier than expected, so we were soon on some easier ground below the summit rocks.  There was a call for lunch but Martin, I suspect like me, wanted to be on the top.  There were then several sets of ‘stemples’ – big iron staples drilled into the rocks before I finally saw the small wooden summit cross ahead to my right. 


It was just as I visualised.  We relaxed on the summit at 2166m, enjoying our lunch and taking in the wide-ranging views as the sun baked us.  Many summit photos.

Then off down the long walk back.  The conversation was light-hearted – from Laurence Llywellyn-Bowen to Charlie Dimmock.  And we laughed as one of our fellow ‘mountaineers’ skipped past with a video camera slung over his shoulder as his only equipment!  Much more in the way of war remains on the way down.  Chris made a fine model poking his head out of a tunnel window 50 feet above us.  And Sue made a fine sunshade with my hat so I could record the moment.

The rest of the journey down was uneventful, save for a rather ungainly scramble down a tree trunk, and some sarcastic comments from some Germans who looked rather disdainfully at our rope.

Ice creams were only noteworthy by their obvious absence at the entrance to Camping Olympia, so instead we returned to Cortina for a welcome beer (or lemonade…).

The day finished in style with a communal meal of highlights and leftovers from the week: seafood pasta, sausages – expertly cooked by Chris and Rupert – with a very large salad, a lovely Barolo wine and finished off with yoghurt with strawberry jam.  And no rain.

In the middle of all this, Linda helped a small German child go to the toilet.

Is that Brunico, Bressanone, Bolzano or Brennero? – the trip back on Sunday 22nd July

The day was depressingly and beautifully clear and sunny.  The rain and thunderstorms of the previous week were way behind us.

I was up soon after seven o’clock in the pre-sun chill.  But I knew that as soon as the sun appeared over the hill at around 7.45, it would be a hot day.  The sky was almost cloudless.  Tents were struck and packed away and the final few bits of kit were squeezed into bulging packs.  We were off by around 9.45.

Cortina was full of mountain-bikers of all shapes and sizes and colours.  And riding in all directions so that we really had no idea what was going on.  Except that there appeared to be checkpoints at various places along the road nearly as far as Dobiacco.  Leaving Cortina was slow.  But would have been even slower later in the day we surmised as we saw the Carabinieri ready to spring roadblocks into action to let the riders pass.

Linda asked to be dropped at Brunico to get a train on to Rome, so we made for there first.  It was on the way after all.  With luck the railway line ran along the side of the road as we entered the town.  It was not too difficult to find the station, but it was then that Linda let us know that it wasn’t really here that she needed to be – but Bolzano – or Brennero – or even Bressanone.  Well they do all begin with ‘B’ and end in ‘o’!  Martin was getting anxious for their flight, but as I had plenty of time, I decided to take Linda on to Bressanone with the idea of meeting the others perhaps a little later at Vipiteno services.  I was solemnly handed the brown envelope containing 150 Austrian schillings to be used for my toll.

At Bressanone, there was no real station in evidence so we pottered on down to Bolzano.  ‘Pottered’ because frustratingly, we were stuck behind a large camper van all the way there, with the autostrada snaking its way high above and to the side of us all the way there.  But it was interesting to compare the change of countryside even in this short journey south.  After a trip around the back streets of Bolzano, the railway station revealed itself.  I dropped off Linda (for another week’s holiday!) and I sped off back to the autostrada.  I hoped.

I stopped on the way to the autostrada to pick up some fuel at what proved to be a very confusing automatic self-service station.  I was helped out by a very helpful Audrey Heyburn look-alike Italian lady, but was so flustered by the time I’d finished that I got into the car on the passenger side and wondered where the steering wheel was.  There was I thinking I had got used to this driving on the ‘wrong’ side.  I hoped no one had noticed. 

Soon onto the autostrada heading north.  What is the speed limit on the autostrada?  The signs said 100 kph, but no one seemed to take much notice.  So I didn’t either.  The sun beat down so I turned up the a/c and the volume.  Musical highlights included ‘Sing’ (of course), ‘Have a nice day’ and ‘Sultans of Swing’.  The latter required a particularly high volume to do it justice – after all, I’d seen Dire Straits perform this particular number in Manchester Union in 1978!  Passing a long queue of caravans on the narrow road works section of the Europabrucke required white knuckles and not a little luck I suspect.  I, and the car, escaped unscathed. 

Only one stop on the way north – for a sausage and chips in the land of the bratwurst.  Then an easy journey on to the ‘mietwagen’ drop-off point.  Note for the next time – the only ‘tankstelle’ at Munich airport is on the wrong side of the road and required rather a long detour.

A very pleasant cool weissbier and sandwich at the airport to use up the last few DM’s and then on to a comfortable if a little delayed plane back to Schiphol.

Nick Gray - 23rd July 2001

Sunday 22 July (Martin's version)

Campsite bill of 893,000 Lira was spot on my calculation. So the remaining six of us left on a brilliantly sunny and warm morning, around 10am, with 5½ hours before our earliest check-in time at Munich.
Linda was to be dropped at Brunico station but en route decided she had got the wrong place. So Nick, who had the latest flight, took her to Bressanone whilst the rest of us ploughed on towards Munich. We quickly arranged a rendezvous with Nick at Vipetino, but this proved to be too soon for lunch, so we carried on to Vosp in Austria (sorry Nick). Then, after lunch in the sun, we continued on our way and after refuelling the Astra we were checking in by 3:30. 4½
hours plus stops seems a reasonable estimate of journey time given goodish traffic. (Today the milling around of cyclists preparing for the start of the Cortina mountain bike marathon - a big event, delayed us, but not the stationary traffic on the Munich motorway immediately beyond the airport exit!)

Then after a minor delay we were on LH4716 - 5:25 to Stansted - Rupert was on his way to Paris, Chris was waiting for his plane to Heathrow to be mended again, Nick was hopefully enjoying a leisurely drive through Germany, Linda was on a train heading for her sister's holiday accommodation near Rome, Gill and Marcus had hopefully caught their earlier flight home, Dave was at Trowbridge, and we are writing diary entries and postcards amidst LH's inadequate refreshments (small chocolate bar and orange juice) and various screaming children.

Quickly out at Stansted, where Helen kindly gave us a lift back to our car at London Colney, and we were back home in Manchester by 11 pm.