We went to bed in rapt antici…pation of an early start and getting first tracks, but our plans went horribly awry at midnight.
The Vikings arrived!
We got a small sense of how the monks of Lindisfarne might have felt in AD 793. We cowered in the dark while doors slammed, voices shouted and a multitude of feet echoed as they ran up and down the stone stairwell.
The dogs barked. We quickly tried to silence them so that they didn’t give away our presence. Outside, the scraping of metal sounded like swords being drawn. (The Viking mob was actually rearranging a metal picnic tables and chairs on the stone patio outside our bathroom window.)
Once, Mark would have been straight out there; stark naked; shouting a demand for silence like a Berserker at the front of a battle. But now, he is a new, mild and meditative mountain man, so he just lay there accepting that there is little to be done about a crowd of inconsiderate idiots. Especially when they’re drunk and you’re grossly outnumbered!
Aware of a brooding presence beside me, I assured him “They will be quiet soon!” I was quite keen that he didn’t take on what sounded like a ravening hoard of heavily armed warmongerers. They went quiet for a while, but then, as in battle, they got a second wind.
The sound of furniture scraping on the tiled floors upstairs created for us the diametric opposite of Ikea’s ‘Wonderful Everyday’ – “The Atrocious Everynight.” This was accompanied by a symphony of Scandinavian voices shouting and singing. Then, a brief reprise of the kerfuffle among the garden furniture. They went quiet again, before a half-hearted encore of slamming, scraping and singing before they were finally ready to settle down for the night.
I drifted into an uneasy sleep; full of night terrors. I wondered how long the Viking invaders might stay and considered the impact of sleep-deprivation on my skiing; whether they would kidnap the dogs to use as beards; or whether the sauna will now be overflowing with naked Scandinavians, beating each other with twigs…
We didn’t feel like getting up early and neither did they. When they eventually arose, they sounded like the Roman Soldiers in Life of Brian running up and down the stone stairs in ski boots. We were surprised; we had laid odds that their manners and social skills meant that they had to be snowboarders…
We opened our door on a sunlit day and surveyed the extent of the devastation outside. The Vikings had left one of the garden chairs standing on top of a picnic table and had carelessly abandoned a single, empty bottle of Leffe beer. It was a good job that there were no traffic cones around, or it could have been carnage.
We saw them outside as Mark took out the garbage. I told him that he should make a point by placing their Leffe bottle in the recycling bin. Right in front of them. He took the moral high ground (or maybe it was just because he was outnumbered) and nodded at them. “Whassup?” he said. “‘Sup.” They nodded back. There were six of them. Three of them were snowboarders.
Mark took the pups out for their morning constitutional. Although he kept a watchful eye on everyone, Lani still managed to disappear. She ran the full length of the building, out of the garden and crossed to the other side of the piste! All he saw was a furry little black streak running back across the slope dodging skiers. Little minx!
We went for a walk up the valley. We opted for the slush suits rather than fleeces as it was sunny, but poor Lani got a little bit cold. I think 20 minute to half hour walks really are the max in deep snow. They were all paying attention to their paws, so now, we are back to the doggie boot dilemma!
After the Viking invasion, we aimed for a new deadline of lunchtime on the slopes. With it being a nice Sunday, the resort was busier – we must have seen at least half-a-dozen people on the pistes. We know from experience that the Italian weekend invasion tends to ski in the morning and then stop for a slap-up lunch before calling it a day. By which time you want to be off the slopes because they’re all plastered!
The Vikings are less of a problem on the pistes. Wild eyed and independent, they are mainly to be found off piste. They come to Monte Rosa as a pre-season warm up for the Scandinavian ski season, which we were told starts around April.
We had Col d’Olen down to Alagna to ourselves, although we did find out why! My legs rebelled against their warm up; first run of the day on a steep, very icy 8km black run with a 1768m vertical drop! I had wanted to get out at lunchtime partly to ski in the sun. Unfortunately, the sun drops behind the mountains quite early in January, so by going to Alagna in the afternoon, we had chosen to ski The Dark Side!
Mark was really patient as I embarked on a MEGA FAFF. At the top of Salati, there are no seats, so I decided to go to the loo to remove the protective, rubber walking soles from my ski boots. As I came out, Mark was all ready to go. I still had the rubber soles on, as there were no seats in the loo – it was one of those rather disgusting stand-up facilities!
“I’ll help you take off the rubber things.” Mark volunteered, knowing that I wouldn’t want to touch them following their contact with a unisex toilet floor “Then we can get off before that mob who’ve just got off the cable car.” I stood on one leg and then the other and we managed the operation without anyone falling over.
The view over the mountains was stunning. “Can I take a photo?” I asked. I got out the camera, then we had a fandangle getting in position. “Mark. I want you in it!” “I’m BEHIND YOU!” “We’re not in a pantomime…” although it did turn out to be a bit like that. “Which button do you press? Has it taken? Can you take it?” I asked Mark in quick successon. The answer…“NO!”
Then “I’ve lost my gloves!” – I couldn’t see them anywhere. They weren’t in my backpack. I finally located them shoved down the front of my coat to keep them warm. I clicked on my skis and we set off. However, I stopped almost immediately.
“I’ve forgotten to do up my boots!” Mark looked on but said nothing. I sensed that he wasn’t angry. Just disappointed… We set off again. “I’m cold. I’ve left my pit-zips open!” We stopped and Mark did up my underarm ventilation zips for me. I couldn’t see to do them with all my gear on and when I lift my goggles on to my helmet, they keep falling down the back. I apologised to Mark for being so annoying. I was actually beginning to irritate myself!
“You have been EXTREMELY annoying.” he said. “But I’m not annoyed!” I told you that he had morphed into a mellow, mountain man. What a guy!
We scratched and scraped our way down to Alagna in the dark. I only dared to ask Mark if I could take one photo. I know when I’m pushing my luck! We got the bubble back with Jean-Luca, a mountain rescue guide who works in Alagna. “Your goggles have fallen down the back of your helmet” he said to me.
He told us that today is an annual public avalanche training day. “Can we go?!” we asked, excited. You can never do too much avalanche training… He said that unfortunately, it would have finished because it started at 9am. They cover different recovery techniques and this year it was searching with dogs, which would have been fun. Jean-Luca kindly offered us some training, since we’re here for 3 months!
We skied down to the Cuckoo Hut at Bedemie with my legs now doing as my mind asked. Although it was sunny, it was brutally cold. We stopped for a coffee and a warm up; €3 for two Caffè Latte Macchiati! I love Italy (you wouldn’t get ONE coffee for that price in France!) We experienced a slight communication problem when Mark ordered them. “Molto Caldo!” he asked “Very Hot!” (Italian coffee is often served a little lukewarm.) “Do you want tall ones?” the lady replied; straight backatya in English. “Si!” Mark replied. He was then served 2 coffees and 2 teas. Go figure!
We scoped out some of the off-piste routes under the Seehorn lift that we have done before, but decided to shoot back as we were missing our doggies! My goggles only fell off the back of my helmet another 4000 times.
We had a lovely cuddle with the dogs, a naughty beer and another Game of Thrones. Not just the TV one; we had the real Game of Thrones in our room. All the pups were on the sofa and there was nowhere for us to sit!
We have a slight problem with our bed. In the interest of innovation, the bed base supporting the superkingsize memory foam mattress that we brought with us is composed of lots of plastic storage boxes. We used the plastic boxes to transport the tonnage of corned beef required to sustain us for 3 months in Italy. Unfortunately, Mark discovered by direct experimentation (ie he stood on the lid of one) that they won’t support his weight. It is now BBDT – Broken Beyond Duct Tape.
We are in a culture where shops selling designer skiwear are universal (the ski instructors here are all clad in Emporio Armani!) However, unlike the UK, the high streets are devoid of useful things; like a vast array of outlets offering a cornucopia of differently-sized plastic boxes for £1. As such, we had no choice but Jugaad – to find an innovative fix. In a stroke of absolute genius, we turned the box upside down.
Join us next time to learn about Abbatoir Acoustics, Pups in Boots and a Mobile Matterhorn as we get that Monday Morning Feeling!