Friday, October 13, 2006


The Scesaplana at nearly 10,000 ft was almost three times the height of any mountain I had climbed, but the village itself was high. I reckoned that, by now we would be acclimatised and wouldn’t go loopy when we went higher. I did feel quite responsible as Dodie had made it clear that William had no experience. We asked lots of questions about the route and set off on a perfectly clear day.

It was a long slog but fairly well way-marked. We were going up and I was fairly good at spotting a reasonable route. As we got higher the greenery and rocks were covered with snow and when we eventually reached the top there was an amazing vista. All the way around were distant peaks, like ice cream cones upside down. There was a man at the summit dressed in lederhosen who was preparing to scree run down a rocky precipice – much more frightening than the one on Great Gable. As he set off his friends leant over the edge directing him, shouting ‘Links! Links! Recht! Recht!’ to guide him from above. Once he was out of sight there was a deathly silence but I trust he got down safely. We felt immensely proud in the bar that night – chatting to the MV boys - and the next day they repeated our feat and also told us all about it in the bar.

However the difference was – they repeatedly mentioned ‘the glacier’.
‘I don’t remember any glacier. Do you?’ I asked William and he admitted that he didn’t. I’m ashamed to confess, but at this stage he was putty in my hands (not a long lasting state I’m afraid) and so we set off up the mountain once more. At the top we met some English speaking climbers and discovered that the large snowy waste near the bottom of the mountain was the glacier and we were about to traverse it for the fourth time – but this time we took photos.

Whilst all this activity was going on, I was on a quest to find ‘the Big O’. It was akin to catching a falling star or attempting to scoop up the mercury from a broken thermometer. I kept coming close and then suddenly – BINGO! And it blew my socks off. On the same day I received a cable from Matron. I had left sufficient money with her to pay for the cable and one word. She herself had paid for an extra word and the message was ‘Passed. Congratulations!’ Wasn’t that nice of her? At last all that effort had paid off and I was an R.S.C.N.

Walking round the Austrian countryside was pure Von Trapp although the musical hadn’t yet been written. The hills were alive with the sound of cow bells, the children and adults were dressed in quaint costumes, there were tiny churches and the whole area had a fairy tale feel. We learned to greet people with a cheery ’Grus Gott’, (one woman replied with a ‘Good morning – actually I’m from London!’) It was quite a surprise wandering round the church yard and seeing the photos on the graves of young men in uniform. They, of course had been the enemy and some of them looked like children.

The day after our second ascent I woke up blinded. Apparently all that glittering sun on the snow had given me snow blindness. It was only temporary and after a day in a darkened room I was fine but made sure to wear sun glasses for the rest of the time.
We decide to slow down a little and behave more like honeymooners.


Dr Maroon said...

For an engineer, I can be a bit slow on the uptake sometimes.
I read this three times to see where I missed the reference to the big O.
The big O?
What’s that? A crevasse? Something to do with the glacier?
Then suddenly, OH!
THAT big O!
I’m always slow in the morning.
Wouldn’t mind a shot of that book, if you’ve still got it.

Polly said...

Well done you two.
Obviously William did read 'THE BOOK'

PI said...

Hi Doc and well done! I think the manual was returned from whence it came- probably some library in the Manchester area.

Polly: yes we did feel quite proud of ourselves but it wasn't the sort of thing you could boast about in the bar. Probably our faces gave the game away.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Wow, what an amazing day that was!

PI said...

Zinnia: I suddenly felt I held the secret of the universe!


10,000 feet up a mountain on yer honeymoon?? Glaciers?? Good grief. If Caz had done that to me I'd have been lookin' for loopholes!

Sounds like an amazing tmie though.

PI said...

4d: well he did know he was marrying someone potty about mountains and got his own back when he introduced me to life before the mast!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Of course, I have to notice that line, 'he was putty in my hands (not a long lasting state I’m afraid)' these little hints...

Pat, I've read about snow blindness...what happens? Is it that you can't see at all? Or you see in a fuzzy way?

PI said...

GG: I guess I am a bit of a drama queen and it was just a mild case and a bit fuzzy. It sounded great when they said it in German: Schnez Bleend.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Schnez Bleend sounds like a brand of snuff.

PI said...

Sam: I'm hoping Randall will correct my spelling but that's what it sounded like!

* (asterisk) said...

Thanks for your visit, pi. I've been here before, way back at the time of your Humping, and I really liked your stories then just as I do now. Must have been scary to wake up with snow blindness. I will bookmark you so I remember to pop back more often. And your wedding pics are fantastic, by the way.

PI said...

Hi*(asterisk): the humping had me worried - and then I remembered. Nice to have you back.

Dr Maroon said...

Re the snowblindness.
Did your eyes feel gritty and quite painful?
If so, I think you had it and can join the ranks of Amundsen, Scott, Mallory. Such company!

PI said...

Yes Doc they did. And blood shot and very sensitive to light.

Charlie said...

Excuse my youthful innocence, until i read the comments i thought 'the big o' was part of the Glacier. Am i now led to believe it linked to something slightly more warming from top to toe?

If so, how romantic and good effort!

R. Sherman said...

I've been away.

It's Sunday, pre-church. The EMBLOS asks why I'm not in the car.

I respond: "I'm on the internet reading about the first 'Big O' for a lady in Britain."

Should be an interesting day in the Sherman household.


apprentice said...

Re the Big O, I thought you were learning to yodel missus ;)

What an amazing time in your life, marriage, sex, passing exams.

apprentice said...

PS I'm wondering in what context the slowing down was?

No wonder R Sherman missed church!

PI said...

Apprentice: yes '51 was a good year!
'Slowing down' meant mainly not climbing mountains - mainly.