Sunday, February 10, 2008

Italian attempt number two

While I don't often have "goals" when on vacation, this trip had a few things I wished to accomplish, among which were to ride my snowboard Luna down to Breuil-Cervinia in Italy as well as see the two-headed turtle in Geneva. More on the turtle later.

Saturday, Feb 2 was a momentous day. Not only was it Darlene's birthday (age withheld due to fear of retribution) but it was our final full day in Zermatt. This meant I had one last chance to haul my aching self over the hills and back again. Crack all the age jokes you want but after 5 days of snowboarding at high altitudes, accumulating more mileage than the 3 previous seasons combined not to mention equipment issues, I had a bit of trepidation when we set out. Once we found ourselves at Trockner Steg, Sean opted for the killer T bar lift (having had more experience on it previously than us, he was better able to stay on it) while Darlene, Tony and I took the gondola up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, from which we would ride down to meet Sean at Plateau Rosa.

What's that saying about the best laid plans? Ours went slightly awry which put some damper on the day unfortunately. Since the run from MGP started off as a long flat section which we hated, the three of us opted to carry our boards until we reached the start of the inclines. As we set out, we decided to detour to a door set in the snow down the side of the run that we'd noticed on our previous passes. Inside we discovered a long passageway in the ice which led down to a grotto. Believe it or not, just walking down the passageway caused shortness of breath. We were all feeling the altitude at this point, being more than 12,000 ft above sea level. We explored the ice cave for a while, taking in the warning signs, information about ice fleas (disgusting!) and admiring the ice sculptures. Hiking back to the entrance and panting rather heavily, we rested until able to set out once again along that horrid flat section. Darlene and Tony stopped for some binding field repair at one point so I went ahead to find Sean and a bathroom. Unfortunately we'd taken much longer than we'd planned which kept Sean and his sore leg waiting a rather long time in the cold. In the end, he headed back to Trockner Steg, Darlene went over to Gornergrat to find souvenirs while Tony and I decided we would make an attempt at Italy, this time taking a different route from my last visit over the border.

Off we went along a ridge with some rather steep sections and sharp turns. Neither of us was rushing terribly as we were ok for time and wanted to avoid injury, not to mention we were pretty beat up and tired. At one point I got ahead of Tony and, wanting to rest for a bit, flung myself into the snow at the side of the run, only to discover with a horrible grinding sound that it was rocky underneath the white stuff. This made my landing rather painful when my posterior hit the ground. I directed Tony elsewhere when he caught up to me. Luna has a few new gouges now but she's ok. We got to ride around the edge of a reservoir/lake and down into the trees. Luckily the runs are pretty well marked so we didn't have too much trouble navigating along with the trail map. Stopping for breaks frequently now and to happily let the gaggles of skiiers go by, we gradually made our way lower and lower. Soon we were scraping our way down a nasty icy part then success! we were at the bottom in Breuil-Cervinia, Italy! It was a long arduous journey with some hard painful crashes but totally worth it in the end.

One of the first strange things we noticed was that the village being built on the other side of the parking lot looked a lot like Whistler or Blue Mountain. They're of course modelled after the European style but it didn't look like back in Zermatt. Then there were all the vehicles haphazardly parked every which way in the parking area. During our stay in Zermatt, we'd gotten accustomed to not seeing many vehicles and mostly just the little truck ones so it was weird to see all these cars at the bottom of a ski hill. Nevertheless, we took some photos and staggered toward the gondolas which would take us back to Plateau Rosa. When we arrived back to Trockner Steg in Switzerland to get the gondola down, who should we encounter but Darlene? That girl is everywhere! Back at the hostel it was time to shed our equipment and commence the arduous task of repacking everything in preparation for an early departure to Geneva the next morning. Not wanting to lug any further our remaining groceries which we'd been refrigerating on the window sill of our room, we had some dinner and midnight snacks before calling it a night.

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