To prove that karma is still going strong and hasn't retired just yet the weather today was as poor as yesterday was good. Always unsure whether the water dripping on the tent is current rain, rain dripped off trees or Chipper having a laugh I went to confirm that the cloud was indeed packing the valley with the sole intent to spoil our day. Clearly it was a morning with planning written all over it and with our normal pace of decision making a morning it would take. Crowded into the big tent we huddled around cups of tea with numerous maps and guide books being consulted with varying degrees of success, and it should be said varying aims; some wanted a route to bank while other were looking for something with a bit more challenging adventure involved. Given that Chipper was backing a couple of routes we thought we'd best all have a look at what we might be getting ourselves into so Hugh was given the task of vocalising the route descriptions while the crowd spontaneously added there own positive 'Ding' for every point of particular merit, and a negative 'Bzzz' for items not so well liked. For example:
Hugh - Piz Palu. It is the most frequented mountain in the Bernina range (Bzzz) and during a fine Sunday during August can receive more than 150 ascents. Access via the telepherique obviates the need to make a long and tiring hut walk(Ding) The ascent presents little technical difficulty (Ding!) and generally involves following a well-defined trench.(Ding) Finally to reach these attractive summits requires crossing sweeping snow crests, which provide a fine example of classic Alpine terrain(Ding!)East ridge. This is the most popular route and a superb introduction to high-altitude climbing (Ding dong!) for parities whohave gained some experience with axe and crampons. Depending on the weather during the previous winter, the summit ridge can sport some magnificent cornices.(Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!) Follow route 136 towards the Furorcal Pers until the glacier levels out at 3200m. The main trench(Ding) now continues up the long slopes above, eventually working R to reach a small col at the base of the E ridge f the mountain. Two steep rope lengths(Bzzzzzz) on the crest lead to a point where the gradient eases. (Ding) The crest narrows (Bzzzz) and becomes corniced(Bzzzz!) so if in doubt keep L. A broad dome of snow, with a few rocks to the S and a superb view(DING DONG)across the Altipiano, marks the E top. Go down the easy slope(Ding) in front to a wide saddle then climb the ridge, which becomes much narrower(Bzzz) and leads to the highest point. It is wise to reflect, at this point, on the fate of 9 climbers who posed for a photo on the summit cornice..... (BBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!)
Discussion remained rife as we headed into town to find a bit of lunch at a cafe which was stuck in the 70's with a waiter who must have been stuck there as well given his self-service attitude to serving customers.
Clearly this is a day without much happening so perhaps a mention to 'Duncans troubles' will fill a bit of space. Unfortunately some of our alfresco dining had not agreed too well with Duncan. In an effort not dramatise a genuinely unfortunate event I have massively understated the knock on effect the food/water/sheer excitement had on Duncans bowels. Frankly if your looking for a crash diet then come away with us. The culmination of several days heavy sailing came one evening was a certain pant incident, the details of which I'll leave to your imagination and Duncan's thermarest. More about this later.
With the day dedicated to planning, and not much action, we thought it best to relax further and head into town for a meal. Obviously we had one driver already nominated before the idea had even been born: Duncan was in no state to be drinking but we'd let him get away with driving for the sake of the rest of us. An Italien pizza restaurant was targeted and foolishly admitted having space so neglected their last chance to turn us away. Having mulled over the options we all felt in a position (some may say at last) to order. A little misunderstanding in what was wanted resulted in Chipper trying to teach the waiter his native language which I'm sure was passed onto the chef. With a little trepidation we waited for our pizzas but presumably the chef wasn't of a vindictive nature as they tasted fine; that said the table next to us pulled some strange faces