Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Lunch with the Ibex family

A spiffing good day what?! One of those days that makes you at peace with the world, well briefly anyway and underlines that it really is good to be alive.Due to a mix up with Balders I went up to the top of Mount Manzol again. The weather was good and windy when I left at 05.30 and there was not a cloud in the sky all day. So this time I started from the Barbara refuge at 1,700m with no shoes and walked to the top of Manzol (2,933m) for a measly linear total of 5 or 6 km but a respectable height gain of 1,177m, all barefoot, so if anybody says it can’t be done, it can and very comfortably too thank you. And it took me only a quarter of an hour more barefoot than shod. It still surprises me how easy and relaxing it is. Interesting that I didn’t have a trace of my usual headache which occurs over 2000m which makes me wonder if perhaps barefoot could perhaps be a cure. Time will tell. [Image]Wildlife-wise it started out a bit disappointing. I usually see a chamois or deer or marmots or something but this time nothing, not even any birds. But then once I reached the pass there were choughs and ravens wheeling and even a wall creeper creeping up a wall, as is their wont. I would have taken a photo but was somewhat preoccupied with hoisting myself up a bit of rock at the time so my second sighting in our valleys since 1985 went unrecorded. But anyway, sidling round a rock only a few meters from the top there were 6 mountain ibex lounging around right under the summit. I gingerly walked round them to avoid moving them on but they stayed put so I needn’t have bothered. Thus I had the unique (for me) and immensely enjoyable experience of having lunch on the top of a mountain only 67 metres short of the 3000m mark, totally alone (didn’t see a soul all day) barefoot and surrounded by Mountain Ibex, (well on one side anyway). That lunch was only a boiled egg and tomato-and-cheese crackers did not detract one bit from the enjoyment. The puddingy whiff of ibex glands rounded the whole lunch off right nicely. Wilda plonked herself down in the stone wind break someone had generously contrived to make and went to sleep leaving me in literally total silence.[Image]I was very pleased with my little dog today, she passed all tests with flying colours. She doesn’t come to heel but, though I didn’t teach her, does come to toe and whenever there are farm animals about she comes straight to toe and keeps well away from them. She’d never seen ibex before and although she was curious, she was a bit wary and kept so close I nearly stepped on her a couple of times. But no aggravation whatsoever. Marmots of course are a different matter. She’ll run miles to get a sniff of a marmot. Thankfully they live in burrows. I’m not at all worried about the marmots, I’m worried about Wilda’s nose. Marmots have big teeth and claws and  are well able to  defend themselves against inquisitive dogs as I have seen in the past. Another thing she does here at home and in the mountains too is crap off the path. At a certain point she wended her way down until she was almost out of sight and I was just about to call her when I saw her dropping her drawers as it were. Considerate animal.[Image]I spent an hour and a half on the top in the company of the ibex, the choughs and amazingly numerous butterflies before attempting the descent, this time with shoes.I must say though I did come to a conclusion and it’s useless trying to convince myself of the contrary - I do not like scrambling. Well lets say that I do not like scrambling down. Up is no problem, I’ll go anywhere up, but down or across is another matter. The descent from the top is a nightmare of scree and rocky outcrops combining both down and across in vast quantities and I was not at my ease. Ibex rock bombers didn’t help matters either and it was only the kungfu-like sixth sense that all woozles have enabling them to feel the proximity of the rocks as they bounced down the scree that averted a disaster. I did though find barefoot scrambling better then shod scrambling. Maybe something to do with the more direct contact with the rock and scree and the fact that you can bend your toes to get a better grip. [Image]Last time I had to lower myself with my rucksack straps down a bit of rock so this time decided to avoid that route and find another. Trouble is the ibex had paths all over so finding the right one, if there was a right one, proved to be impossible in fact I was up and down like a whore’s drawers for an hour and a half, half an hour more than the ascent (I can already hear Baldrick’s giggled across the ether) and was very glad to get back to the pass. So next time I do it I’m taking a leaf out of Ariadne’s  book and I’m going to chalk everywhere in alphabetical or numerical order

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