In my last Triumph of the West post I stated that I couldn’t find the next in the series – the DVD was hiding. Actually I then found the missing DVD but sadly the episode I was looking for was corrupted and as yet I have not been able to salvage it. However when I ripped the other episode that was on this DVD off I became confused as just before the programme started an announcer said that this was the 3rd episode in the series, not the 6th which is what I thought must be. Basically this means that I have somewhere down the line confused the order of the programmes. Still never mind, each episode really stands on its own and the order you view them is not all that important.
This is all very boring and without further ado, here is the said episode.
Last year it was the Lake District the year before the French Alps. This year’s mountain shots are from Greece. First of all the view from my room at a guest house in Makrinitsa. We are looking down on Volos and the Pagasetic Gulf. Mount Pelion on whose lower slopes I frolicked for a few days is mythically the holiday resort of the gods from Mount Olympus and it was the home of the centaurs. When I left I walked down to the city station through the hamlet that’s on the left of the photo via a little-used path.
This next shot is a shift to the left and is taken fairly early in the morning from the balcony below the room I was in. On the left in this shot is the neighbouring village of Portaria and I became very familiar with the 3 or 4 kilometre walk between the 2 villages. This view makes me think of a line in a song I wrote last year which is set in Greece.
the sea stretches blue
and mingles with the sky
Later on I tested my mettle in the region of the mighty Mount Olympus home of the gods itself and walked from Litochoro to the ruined Agios Dionysios Monastery and back which probably wasn’t a good idea in the July heat. You’ve already guessed that I survived but when I got back to Litochoro my hands were so swollen you could barely see my knuckles and my feet and ankles were in a similar state. This is a view up to the top of the mountain taken not that far from the town.
Finally somewhere along the way there are gorges within gorges and they’re all gorgeous.
It was on a Monday that I went up Crinkle Crags. I own Crinkle Crags. Well not the actual crags, but I own the most iconic picture of the mountain which is Alfred Wainwright’s pen and ink drawing that was used in A Second Lakeland Sketchbook (1970). Here’s a scan from the book.
Anyway I’ll have to go back another time and do it properly. Because I rushed out – all I had was 500ml of water and no food – that’s not sensible when you’ve got a six mile walk before you start ascending. So I was pretty hungry and thirsty when I should have been enjoying that great high ridge walk with spectacular views. I took some snaps and here they follow :-
This is the target from the early stages of the ascent.
And this is at the same place, zoomed in a bit and landscape.
This is the south end of the crags looking northwards and it’s not a dissimilar viewpoint to that of Wainwright’s drawing.
The Langdale Pikes from the summit.
From a similar spot looking down Langdale.
And in the other direction across to Scafell and Scafell Pike.
Moving our view to the right we encounter the massif of Bowfell.
With no water left as I came to the end of the Crinkle Crags massif I aimed to head around to a footpath which is known as the Climbers’ Traverse. I couldn’t find a connecting path so just skirted round the col which is the top of the mountainside that is known as the Band. Eventually I connected with the Climbers’ Traverse and promptly bumped into a couple of climbers who had completed their climbing adventures for the day. The traverse is not for those who may get giddy or have balance problems but is good at getting you right in the middle of the spectacular parts of a mountain. I’d remembered the spring in the rocks at the bottom of Bowfell Crag as being a gush, but now it was just trickling out as a small stream. Whether this represents an accurate survey of the water table covering the period from the sixties to now I would not like to say. The water tasted a bit weird at first but my reasoning was that coming straight out of the rock as it did there couldn’t really be anything bad in it.
That was the first day of my holiday in the Lake District. On the last day I had a more dramatic and exhilarating close encounter with a mountain when I ascended Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark.
Pavey Ark is the crag on the right in the shot above and Jack’s Rake cuts across the crag face from bottom central to top left as you face it. As the photo shows it was misty and while I was climbing the mist had come down even more. I’m not sure if that was a good thing (in that I couldn’t see the drop) or bad (in that it might not have seemed too bad if I could have seen it). Probably it was a good thing. But I discovered that I wasn’t really fit enough to do that ascent especially not in wet conditions. Still I survived and eventually got to the top. I think there was only one bit where I was clinging to the rockface and I didn’t feel I had either one really secure foothold or one really secure handhold. I can confidently assert that I’ll never do that climb again not even in dry conditions.
I had a week in the French alps earlier this month at a resort Les Deux Alpes and was able to do a bit of walking about especially in the parc national des écrins. And took some rudimentary shots with my phone camera which I present below.
But first here is a soundtrack to listen to while you look at the pictures.
The mountain on the right is the Aiguille de Venosc. I can’t talk definitively about the rest.
Ah that makes it a bit clearer – Aiguille de Venosc again on the right but the mountain on the left must be the Roche de la Muzelle, 3,262 metres up and it has a small glacier.
And that’s a waterfall somewhere in the middle of the forest area on the previous photo.
The Lac de la Muzelle. When I got to the resort all I had was a pair of sandals and I was wondering whether I’d have to buy some boots. On my first day I went out in the sandals and thought I’d see how far I could get and how it would work out. They’re good Timberland sandals with a very solid base. Basically climbing up to this lake is the equivalent of climbing Snowden from sea level and it was a baking hot day over 30 degrees and for the last 1,000 metres (and the first on the way back down) there is no shelter from the sun. In fact that quotation from an old song of mine probably went through my head at the time although there are no gorse bushes up there. Lots of similar stuff though and probably more insects than I’ve ever seen. Anyway after that I had a more restful 2nd day, but I knew that I didn’t have to buy any boots.
This is a crepuscule shot that needed a better camera or at least more skill on my part but it’s caught a really interesting phenomenon where a cloud seems to have come down over the glacier.
Another lake, this one’s called Le Lauvitel. It isn’t as high up at the last one being at a nice round 1,500 metres approximately. It’s bigger though, easier to get to though still a pretty steep climb. I went there twice and the 2nd time I continued higher up to a smaller lake called Lac de Plan Vianney which is probably about the highest I got to (2,250 metres apparently). As I reached the point where I could look down on the lake I came over the top and there was an ibex a few metres away although it didn’t hang about and soon left me to private enjoyment of the lake. Actually there wasn’t a great deal of enjoyment because this was very different weather than earlier described. My sandals and my feet were both soaking wet and pretty cold. My feet were stained brown from the sodden sandals. I took each sandal off one at a time and gave each foot a rub but it didn’t really help much. I had no food with me and it’s possibly not that many generations since this was too a glacier.
In the evening after my 1st visit to Le Lauvitel the weather had changed. You can see in the previous photo that there are clouds building up. About 7 o’ clock I went out for a walk at the other end of the resort which is when I recorded the audio track which you may or may not be listening to. This shot shows the moment shortly before a massive thunderstorm. When the torrential rain started I was probably about a mile from my hotel within a minute I was totally drenched. Luckily the temperature was still warm and it just became a 20 minute tepid shower with all your clothes on. In my hotel room I had waterproof clothing but I hadn’t bothered to take it out with me and anyway it wouldn’t have helped my feet. The happy side of the experience was that there was a whole bunch of other people who were caught out like myself. I’m not sure what they’d been doing but they seemed like a large group and one of the guys was wearing a black cloak and had a shepherd’s crook or something like that. I didn’t actually have a conversation with them but we ended up laughing a lot together. Even drowned rats can have fun.
This is the other side of the resort which leads down to a reservoir, looking up to the large glacial plateau which allows people to ski most of the year. On my last day I climbed up on the left hand side of the mountain stream in this picture and then worked my way across to the ski-ing, mountain-biking side of the mountain. There’s a lot of lifts. The contrast between the natural life there and that in the national park is dramatic.
On my way up I diverted off for 10-15 minutes to get to this view of one of the cascades.
That’s the end except to say that British interest in this area of the alps perhaps didn’t start with a bang but a Whymper.