Monday, 15 October 2012

The Italian Alps

 And Sho, a wee phone call from Extreme Ireland and I was on a plane to Northern Italy. The cunning plan was for me to visit the area and write a trekking itinerary for a few Italian Alps trekking holidays that are being ran next summer.
 Arrived at base camp in Verbania in the dead of night alas with talk of the previous ten days being lashing rain things seemed to be very normal on the Irish/Scottish weather front. I had, of course taken a secret weapon through customs in the shape of a huge holdall of Cruit Island rainshadow weather and with as much possitivity as I could muster proclaimed to my hosts "I don't do Rain!"  

Alpe Devero

 The following day we drove through the cloud up through the lower stratosphere with many hairpins and corkscrew tunnels to arrive in Alpe Devero, a most outstanding high pasture alpine village, The view from the car park was truly mind blowing, and thus began a week of clear blue skies and most excellent trekking in a truly beautiful part of the world.   

View from the Black Lake
Pizzo Cornera

 Went for a wee mossie around the black lake and up to the base of the mother of all unclimbed big walls, 300m of vertical nastiness loomed above. Standing at base of this monster between two sentinels from the other an angel passed through and it all became clear, big walls were the way forward all that was missing was Neptune and his wrath.  

Passo di Cornera

View from Alpe Devero

 Next on the menu was Himalayan Wall, Mont Rossa, this wall, the largest in the alps is a leisurely couple of hours hike from the high pasture road end at Macugnaga. Acting on the advice of the angel text a mucker to see if they would be keen for an ascent of the original route next year and less than 30 seconds passed before the affirmative text returned and thus the plans for a return were cemented!   

Refuge Zamboni 

Himalayan Wall, Monte Rosa

 The 2nd last day was by far the most surreal, a couple of hours hike to a private refuge that was part owned by my Italian hosts and used as a hunting lodge. We walked up in the thick cloud and light drizzle to arrive at an excellent wee lads retreat, fully equipped with solar power, a beer and wine stocked fridge and a full a la carte Italian deli. It was very far and away removed from the Scottish style bothy I had imagined. No sooner had the picnic table been spread with a shmorgishborg of hip increasing fare, the clouds inverted and we sat in a location that can only be described as a mountaineering nirvana. (with a full a la carte Italian menu) My guide for the day spoke no English and I even less Italian and thus we sat in a truly mind blowing location communicating in a mix of ad lib and charades.      

Borca from the private refuge 

Pik Bianco

 And so after 30 years of hill walking in the Scottish and Irish uplands I finally realised that we (The Celts) have been doing it all wrong. On day 3 I went for a trek with Rocco and after a few hours walking we sat on the Northern Italian border with Switzerland at an unused border control building, surrounded by 3000m Damoclean monsters in perfect clear blue skies and sunshine.
 "Would you like a sandwich?" asked Rocco.
 "Excellent, Sir" Said I
 Rocco, then began to sort a buffet fit for an Italian lord and brew the cafeteria, for proper coffee! 
 And thus after 30 years of soggy sandwiches and flasks of tea paled in the viewless mist of insignificance. :-(
 Many, many thanks to Francesca and her family for their hospitality and off course, to Rocco for showing the way of the cafeteria!   

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Donegal Indoor Wall Climbing

 And Sho, as the summer passes into Autumn and Autumn has well and truly arrived in Donegal it is time to head indoors in search of vertical pleasure.
 Gartan OEC are running two six week indoor climbing courses aimed anyone who is keen to get indoors and climb. These courses are designed for anyone from those who have never climbed before to those more experienced climbers who which to use the wall to train for the arrival of next summer.
 Both courses will be tailored to the experience of the individual with full instruction of the safety equipment used on indoor climbing walls and for the more experienced a full training program will be provided.  

Donegal Indoor Climbing Wall

 The adult course will commence on Friday 12th October at 6pm until 9pm and will run for the following 5 weeks.

The Junior Course will commence on Saturday 13th October at 10am until Noon and will run for the following 5 weeks.

 Both courses will be ran at the Gartan indoor wall and the cost is €60 per person for each course. 

 Instruction will be given by Unique Ascent qualified rock climbing instructors.