Friday, 22 October 2010

Barefoot up an Icy Mt. Vandalino

There are two mountains behind our house, one called Vandalino, which is sort of like home as it’s the mountain I have visited most of all and another called Vantacul which I have tried,at least 6 times to get to from Vandalino along the ridge but each time something happens to turn me back. The first time I arrived too late to make a safe attempt, the second and third times I got driven away by lightning, the fourth time there were too many snakes for my liking, the fifth time someone who will not be mentioned, forgot his boots and then there was this time. Could it be that I am not meant to ascend?  This time both Balders and I are recovering from something similar to flu so feeling pretty grotty generally. We got to the top of Vandalino alright and even got two thirds of the way along the ridge to a few hundred yards short of the start of the climb up to the summit of Vantacul but neither of us felt like it so we turned back again and settled for lunch on Vandalino.For me that’s it. After six tries east to west the next time I will try an overnighter west to east and creep up on it unawares just after dawn and from the side.The weather was brilliant though if somewhat chilly with a cool wind and snow on the top. Just what you need for a sore throat and tickly cough. Courtesy message - For all those sick to death of me writing about barefooting you might as well skip the next few paragraphs.I’ve been listening to a series of barefooting podcasts recently and one of these featured a guy in Canada who barefoots at all winter temperatures except on melting snow. This sort of stuff fascinates me. I love hearing about people who so completely challenge the accepted views of things, whatever the field.  I can’t say I’d ever go as far as he has but have enormous respect for someone that can and does. So, just to settle any doubts I may have had about barefooting, I did two hours and 600m height gain up the stony track to the Vandalino shieling on frozen ground replete with patchy snow, barefoot. And as if to confirm what I  heard on the podcast my feet yet again amazed me. OK the first 100 yards were somewhat chilly I will confess but as soon as my tootsies warmed up and as long as I didn’t stop there was no problem. I wore some footless socks to keep my ankles warm and a shemagh to keep my neck warm and blow me if I wasn’t hot after a while. My feet weren’t as warm as the last frosty trip but comfortably cool. Even walking over the patches of snow was not as cold as I had imagined and certainly not painful in any way. And the sensations were fantastic. I’ve never really had a much experience of walking on thick frosted grass and it’s ‘tis a  most fun and tickly thing to do. Of course not having even a tiny masochistic bone in my body when I got to the serious snow I put my shoes on because that was definitely cold. The donning of shoes was interesting because I felt some discomfort when my feet started warming up, a sort of burning sensation. But once they were warm they were fine, just a little more sensitive than usual due to the roughness of the terrain. I find it OK starting off in shoes of course because that’s what I’m used to  but starting off barefoot and then putting shoes on is a real killer. In fact the  remaining 400m or so up to the top were somewhat uncomfortable and rather ungainly – it’s totally instinctive to go from a normal shod gait to barefoot gait but quite uncomfortable to do the reverse. But the views were well worth it. We could see Turin in all its glory and even as far as the Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn.Something that I have seen many times but that has never registered before today is that we are almost completely surrounded by mountains. I measured the mountainless space with my compass and amazingly there are 330° of mountains and only 30° devoid of them. A bit of nifty brickwork and we could dam the lot and have a huge artificial boating lake

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