Peck's personal Web site
walk to Italy and back, 2002 (2)
on Day Three of a walk from Switzerland into Italy, and then back farther along
to the east, and you've just caught us having left the Italian Rifugio di Prarayer
(2005m) on the lake of Place Moulin, at about 10 a.m., and heading up towards
the beneficial rays of the sun. Somewhere above all that rain.
leads the way up into the Combe de Valcournera (2300m) -- I say "leads",
actually Prof Berman is out there somewhere in the distance living his own dream,
so Michael is leading the 'Local Group', confident that we'll come upon Prof Berman
somewhere ahead, waiting for his lunch.
after lunch, Thomas and Jeremy can be seen leaving the Combe and starting up into
the cliffs towards the Col de Valcournera.
lived for several hours in dread of what the guide book described as a "relentlessly
unpleasant" scree climb, the hikers were pleased to find that, since the
guide book was written, the helpful authorities had laid on a lot of relentlessly
unpleasant iron hand- and foot-holds directly up through the cliffs, with very
little awkward scree at all so far.
all changed, up in the little hanging valley beneath the Col, with only scree
about in every direction. The Col is up there somewhere. So is Prof Berman, probably
hopelessly lost by this time.
clear out briefly and Dr Michael sprints for the Col de Valcournera (3066m), before
the curtains come down again.
briefly experiencing resentful thoughts.
Dwight and Jeremy approaching the moist Col de Valcournera (3066m) at about 3
be greeted by Prof Berman, who'd been airlifted in by helicopter.
time for a wet rest -- from left, Jeremy, Michael, Dwight (seated), Thomas thinking
(right) digging out his altimeter for a doublecheck, and Thomas (left) thinking
agreement on the wonderfulness of the experience and some doubt about what's next.
checks his altimeter, Charlie secures his trousers, and we're off down the other
Nice little lakes there. Pretty far down though.
the Lago del Dragone. I hope that doesn't mean what it sounds like it means.
your parachute if you have one.
here we are, on the Col de Valcournera in Italy (3066m),
wondering how we're going to get down the other side, with the Dragon Lakes looking
like they're about to ice over.
it's got to be done.
fellows have got off the vertical mud and are picking their ungainly way down
the icy mush.
Jeremy smiles at his companions' discomfort.
Berman prepares to take the plunge, so to speak, down the track that Barrister
Jeremy has just swept clean of snow over the ice.
straggler, D. Peck, leaves the comfort of the mud and heads pell-mell for the
pubs in the village of Valtournanche.
decided that this icy thing has not been going well so far, so he rode his poles
down in a controlled fall and bent a decent pair of 80 Swiss franc telescoping
poles right out of shape.
funny that the guide book didn't mention that an ice axe would have been a real
asset here. Well, not funny "ha ha", but peculiar.
travel in an orderly fashion down from the Col de Valcournera, headed for the
Rifugio and maybe some soup.
the soup. The Rifugio's locked up tight. Here a gaggle of cultured gentlemen (2878m,
4 p.m. in the rain) reflect upon their options and preferences, each in his own
the outhouse was locked up tight.
we go, things getting greener, little lakes appearing here and there. Simply wonderful.
Various combinations posing affably near waterfalls on the way down. A rather
painful way down, be it said, for those of us with only knee-débris
between ankle and hip. Scenically worth it, however.
look back up -- that's the same waterfall, by the way, the higher one in the center.
village of Valtournanche (1550m or so), sunny and fine the next day, 22 July 2002.
The hikers hit town the preceding night ONLY JUST before the chefs went home at
9 p.m., 11 hours from their start at the Place Moulin dam [the hikers, not the
chefs], and just in time for a fantastic and murderous dinner of local specialties,
all of which consisted of other people's specialties (like wienerschnitzel, etc.)
with layers of local Fontine cheese melted on top. In far northern Italy, when
the locals offer the local dishes, telephone your family doctor before ordering.
we are in Italy on Sunday. How do we get back to work in Switzerland by Tuesday?
in Italy on a Sunday. You need to be back editing silly documents for nature conservation
treaties by Tuesday morning, and you've only got your own ski poles and failing
knees (and, luckily, a skilift) to get you there. What would YOU do?
village of Valtournanche (ca.1530m) on a sunny Monday, 22 July 2002, Prof Berman
a blot upon the landscape.
Ignore the photo date -- the batteries ran out and reset without consulting.
of the ways. Barrister Jeremy and Sir Michael Scholar were bound for the next two weeks over a lot more
mountain passes, making a complete circuit of the Monte Rosa
chain -- and, as we subsequently learned, they made it all the way round, too.
Dwight was intending to take the short cut, up over the glaciers to Zermatt, and
thence back to work.
quick bus ride from Valtournanche up to Cervina under the Matterhorn on the Italian
side . . .
. . . this by the way is the Matterhorn from the Italian side . . .
skilift up to Testa Grigia ski station at 3480m on the Plateau Rosa. Let's fill
up our water bottles and head for Switzerland now.
let's. Which way is Switzerland?"
over there, I think."
you sure? I mean really sure?"
"Well, anyway, pretty sure, eh. Where else could it be?"
by the Zermatt suburbs, the hikers gain confidence in their decision.
okay. Switzerland's got to be right round here somewhere, it's
a COUNTRY -- a member of the UN!! What else is there? Austria, France,
Germany? I think we're on the right track, we just need a LANDMARK."
I've seen THAT one before. On chocolate wrappers.
find Switzerland in the end, thanks Bog, by reaching the top of the Zermatt lifts,
right under the famous mountain Matterfeld. Matsonforth . . . Movenhorn. Mövenpick.
Something ... the famous one!
through slush on the Theodul, then crowds in Zermatt, reading their twin International
Herald Tribunes on the train down to Visp, along the main rail line to Martigny,
and Prof Berman preparing lesson plans in the pub whilst Mr Peck went up to Le
Châble to retrieve the car, and so to Aigle for dinner with Lisa.
excellent weekend all the way round.
and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative,
All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 October 2002, revised 25 January
2008, 2 May 2013.