Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day 4: Pista per pedoni e Cascatisti, 5 pitch Patri and the intro to ice bruising.

Got up this morning feeling a little stiff but nothing a stretch and a walk to some ice won't cure. Met everyone at breakfast and we decided that we would go climb a 5 pitch route called Patri which would also involve a little abseiling from the top. No problem I thought, that sounds like a brilliant way to end the day.

Off we set, Ben and I with our 20 tonne backpacks and Andy looking as chilled as always, on our 1 hour "gentle wander" to the bottom of the 1st pitch along the pista per pedoni e cascatisti. We eventually get to the start of the route and we see for ourselves the magnificence of Patri. It looked amazing. So out of the backpack comes all of the kit and that makes the world of difference to the weight which is basically good because for the 1st 3 pitches we have to carry the packs up with us... Damn is my thought.

The 1st pitch is long, pleasant but tricky until the last couple placements when everything is a bit wet. I get totally soaked but somehow I don't mind. Maybe it's because I'm used to it with the typical Scottish climate. Near the end of the pitch, an Italian gentleman appears so quickly behind me but instead of feeling pressure from him, he totally puts me at ease, makes me smile and helps me get through the crux move at the top. What a lovely guy.

2nd pitch introduces me to the art of ice avoidance, massive pieces come flying at me from above, I get hit on the shins twice and the helmet takes another 2 hits. That's going to hurt in the morning I think.

3rd pitch is a nice short one, very pleasant and with a nice snowy slope to finish. The joyous thing about that is that from now we get to leave our packs at the bottom for the next two pitches as we will abseil from the top. Easy peasy I thought. So we have a bit of lunch, a drink of whatever our flask filler of choice is. It will be no surprise to those who know me that it was Hot blackcurrant for me as always.

Pitch 4 feels so much quicker due to the weight difference when not carrying a pack. It's also a lot easier to look around you and see footholds without being hit on the back of the head with your pack. With some slushy ice and some lovely solid axe placements, this pitch was my favourite of the day. A nice finish on a little ledge kept me safe until I can start the final section.

The final pitch, a very pleasant climb around an ice corner and then up to a thin section of ice through a narrow gully with a little bit of mixed climbing. A very nice climb with a lot of new technique thrown in. Once at the top, the next thing was to get back down, a little short (approx 50m) abseil. Coming down at the start was good until I emerged from the enclosed rock and saw the whole world open up below me. I felt more than a little exposed at that moment but as it was the only way down, there really was not much choice. So I slowly made my way down to the bottom and once on solid ground again, I felt safe. What a fantastic feeling.

All that was left was the long walk back to our accommodation. I won't lie and say that it was as easy as the walk in, it wasn't. Even though it was the same route, it felt twice as long and twice as hard. I can see why people get injured on the descent from big mountain days, the concentration is gone, the footwork is always a little more wobbly but finally, it comes to an end and I'm back in the bar with a cup of tea... Time to celebrate the day and prepare to do it all again tomorrow.

S xx

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