CATCH A FALLING STAR
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.