December 2010 – Blizzards, snowdrifts, gales, frostbite, snow blindness, buried tents, floods, hardship, cold, sleepless nights. It must be summer then in deepest Patagonia.
This memory was one of the toughest two days of my mountain life. But, it was an experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss!
“One gains nothing worth having on mountains without paying for it; beyond the snowline minor hardships will always be met in a small tent and, the sooner a man is trained to rise above them the better” (W.H Murray, Mountaineering in Scotland)
When things start to go wrong in the mountains, it starts with small, minor things. Like when I had packed my big down gloves in my main rucksack, instead of close to hand. My rucksack was not very accessible as it had a pulk/sledge tied to it. When I wanted to warm my hands up I was faced with a problem. Stop and fiddle around for five minutes whilst everybody else froze, or keep going? I borrowed Kiersten's spare gloves and kept going, it wasn't ideal as my fingers still solidified.
At 6am on August 20th 2011, together with Pepe Badaje, Jesús Labajo Yuste of Campo Base and muleteers, Toni and Jonni (not forgetting Pepito the mule!), we met at the Ventura trailhead above Lanjarón. We accessed the Rio Lanjarón via the Acequia Alta above the Ventura refugio. Getting a mule along parts of the old acequia was trying at times and took a long time. Once in the river valley we climbed up to the refuge and arrived there by 1pm.
Then it was down to work. Jesus and myself cleaned litter and stones from the building whilst Pepe started on the window. By the end of the day the hut was clean, the ancient wooden replacement window in place and the door frame cemented in. All the accumulated litter was taken back down to Lanjarón which we reached at 8pm, after a 5am start.
You just might consider this to be the most boring video in the world. Depending on your point of view you may well be correct.
But, on my early morning journey to work in Trevelez a while ago I filmed the whole one hour journey through the Alpujarra with my dashcam.
It's a beautiful journey, thankfully condensed here to just a viewable 13 minutes. The sun is shining, the Alpujarra hills are gleaming and the road ahead is clear. Don't think I met another car going my way. We passed through the sleepy white villages of Pitres, Portugos and Busquistar and through open hillsides with far reaching views. Across the Mediterranean we could see the hills of Morocco.
In my former life it used to take me 50 minutes through rush hour traffic to reach my office 6 miles away. Usually it was raining as I waited, frustrated in the traffic queues. How life has changed for the better!