Julia Pickering – My Alps Adventure: Settling in

21 02 2012

So the past few weeks have been a blur of powder, blue skies, snow, the worst visibility ever, trees, powder, blue skies, snow, even more snow, even more bad visibility, trees, powder, blue skies and now excessively cold temperatures. We’ve managed to summit a few mountains, snowboard many many tree runs on the bad weather […]

So the past few weeks have been a blur of powder, blue skies, snow, the worst visibility ever, trees, powder, blue skies, snow, even more snow, even more bad visibility, trees, powder, blue skies and now excessively cold temperatures. We’ve managed to summit a few mountains, snowboard many many tree runs on the bad weather days and ridden lots of powder.

I have also had 2 altercations with large hidden rocks that have created some very interesting artwork on my backside. And why is it that all of the best descents end up in gnarly goats tracks when you’re in a mad bid to catch a bus and you only have about 3 minutes to do it? This very question has resulted in us manically snowboarding over low lying fields, through people’s gardens and down main roads, all in order to get ahead of the elusive bus and pick it up in the next village.

Van life in the cold is hard work but also extremely rewarding. We eat better here than we do at home and we have been to several van dinner parties. Roast chicken, salmon, chicken fajitas, pork chops and homemade lasagne have all been on the menu. Diesel and Marshall have made a new friend, the rather aptly named “Chien”, a Jack Russell who loves to come over and torment them.

One van dweller keeps a cat complete with van door cat flap and another has a pet hamster. He says this means he has to keep his van at hamster survival temperature at all times rather reminiscent of the miner bird I thought.

This past week has probably been the hardest for us due to the excessively cold temperatures. Despite being insulated and keeping a separate water tank inside, all our pipes froze this week, meaning no shower! Warwick has been working on defrosting and plumbing in a new system each evening and last night we came so close. The rejigged system meant the water was coming through the shower but the pressure wasn’t enough to trigger the water heater. Aaargh!

Lots of random stuff is freezing in our van eg: our olive oil. Now apparently each batch of olive oil is individual and therefore there is no set freezing temperature for it, so we are none the wiser as to what actual temperature it reached in our van that night. Fruit juice, milk, eggs, lettuce, ham, moisturiser, shaving gel and conditioner (but not shampoo) has also frozen. What next I wonder? I have been reliably informed that red wine freezes at -27 C so unless I leave it outside I should be ok there.

Of course the upside of the cold temperatures means the snow is amazing. The past couple of days there have been a layer of freezing fog at lower elevations that was so cold it felt much like being punched in the face when you rode through it. At higher elevations though, although even colder, there were much more pleasant blue skies and the warmth of the sun pushed through. Today we climbed two technical ridge lines, rode two big powder faces, one tight couloir and one tree line. Not bad for one day, and to top it all off I finally got my shower!