So another week has rolled by in Torgon (forgive the slack timekeeping, I am working a full time job here!) so I felt that my blog had deserved another little post to chronicle some of what I’ve been up to. Another school left, I got some drinking done and I climbed the 5,846th highest peak in Switzerland.
So I actually managed to win employee of the week! Or as they call it here, “Good Egg”! A nice surprise, it means that you and your fellow winners are piled into a minibus and dispatched to a mystery location, one you only find out on the way. In our case it was a lovely little picnic at Villeneuve on the shores of Lac Léman or as those of us might better know it, Lake Geneva.
Feeling slightly like convicts let out on parole, we skipped off to the valley to enjoy what could only be described as a feast. Don’t get me wrong, where I work is a beautiful place and I enjoy it! But we’re quite isolated and it can get to be quite surreal actually walking in a town and not seeing people you recognize. And the heat wasn’t as oppressive as the temps we’ve been getting recently.
The good eggs enjoying some quality champagne, beer and gourmet food.
A thunderstorm struck so as you can see, we fled for a shelter! Arriving back to the party in full swing, the rest of the night is a pleasant blackout. So much so that the next day while the majority of the staff vacated the mountain for Lake Geneva again, your poor fragile author decided to recuperate, sleeping in before doing some hiking and wandering about the mountain. A restful day and a good one for me since I was in no fit state for dealing with Swiss people or jumping off high diving boards.
What I really meant to write about was this little team-bonding climb myself and the other activity leaders did this weekend. So there’s a certain wee peak that overlooks our camp in Torgon.
La Braye, 1788m. Our route was up the left hand side.
And our team after dinner last Sunday eve decided to give it a blast. Nine of us piled into two cars to park on the other side of the gorge and tabbed in, a good forty minute walk uphill that had us all warmed up by the time we reached the route beginning, naturally its only the altitude that’s the reason for this!
Splitting into three teams, I was to climb with Taff and Joss. I was fairly lackadaisical about it all, I’d already climbed it before in the dark so felt I knew everything about it.
The first little step, lovely and dirty.
The climb itself is very odd. Only maybe two and a half of the pitches actually merit that name. And the rock while gritty and grippy is also terribly loose. So loose in fact that when Taff decided he was going to try going a new way up a chimney as opposed to cutting right onto a slab, he dislodged a tombstone sized rock that aside from nearly knocking him off, almost did for myself and Joss who both went opposite directions before it smashed off our belay anchor, a sturdy tree. Hearts a little shaky, we implored our leader to not rain down more wrath from the sky.
Mildly more relaxed after Taff’s wake-up call.
Nicely awake now despite the late hour, myself and Joss headed up for the chimney, an awkward little scramble that necessitated one foot kicking back onto the tree trunk in an effort to jam up the chimney. Yelling useless encouragement at Joss, I realized myself around five minutes later that it really was awkward. Rucksack restricting mobility, I was quite glad no one was around to see my climbing efforts that were more reminiscent of a jellyfish than the graceful alpinist I aspire to be.
The ropes meeting up again.
Further up, more loose rock, more trees to force ourselves through. Some spectacular exposure to both sides of us and nothing too strenuous on the climbing side of things. It’s yet another reason to love scrambling. Good way to see the sights and it was a great way to spend the evening with co-workers who are becoming friends.
I do believe that’s the Tour de Don behind us. And yes, those trees cover the whole route.
One of the more boring sections, even so, I’d not want to lose my footing!
The poor group ahead of us, Ed, Brody and Tom had topped out some forty minutes earlier and enjoyed the view while we slogged on up behind them. It was already getting dark when we summited up so regrettably the views were already disappearing but we had some cracking shots of the skyline and seeing the valley lit up below was truly a sight to behold.
The hills have eyes.
We had a cunning plan for the abseil. Since so many of us had come up, Taff abed down with a brace of ropes to set up the next abseil while we all clustered about. It was a new experience for some as not everyone had used prussiks. And abseiling is never a fast process. Not with nine of us to get down. Still a good chance for us all to test our headtorches!
Can’t complain about the view while you’re waiting.
The ab itself was alright but a bit delicate in the dark with a headtorch beam about to fail and constant streams of loose rock and soi being set off by your feet. Landing at the base I was brought over a steep traverse to comparative safety on a belay by Ian who directed me to scramble a bit further down to the next one, assuring me Caz would be there. Almost relying on the light of the moon at this stage, I went for it, forgetting that it was quite a bit further down than expected. With quite a bit of muffled cursing and branches snapping, I made it to be challenged in a fashion more suited to the Napoleonic Wars. “Be ye friend or foe!?” roared at you in a Welsh accent while its nearing the witching hour and you’ve twigs and branches all over you is not amongst my more joyful memories.
This face looming out at you in the dark does not always inspire confidence.
Another little ab to Brody and a wee bit of a scramble and we were at the “bottom”. Ditching the harnesses and helmets was a relief and we were in high spirits descending. Me the blind bat having forgot my glasses, I twice nearly blundered into slumbering bovines who decided to awaken their entire tribe.
Cowbells seem to be on every cow in the Alps and right about then the night began to be rent asunder by the herd mustering to arms to repel intruders. Half skipping and jogging through their ranks, we made it down to the alpage to be met by their rearguard. A friendly moo never disconcerts me. A snort from the nostrils and cow bracing to charge does. Of course it didn’t help that all the calves were with them and the mothers were honour-bound to repel us intruders. Or that their eyes reflecting off our headlights was like something from Village of the Damned (the classic horror film with the terrifying children).
It was with some relief we made it to the vehicles and arrived to a heroes welcome at the centre. A quick cup of tea and to bed. And up at 0730 for another day’s work!
Well…maybe I didn’t get enough sleep.
Still a great night overall and definitely preferable to sitting online with a beer in hand (as the author is currently doing!). Still what fun is it doing all these little escapades if I don’t get to brag about it to you all? And catching a view towards some more unexplored peaks has me hungry to explore.
La Braye from the centre.
Slán agus beannacht. Tá súil agam go bhfuil níos mó scéalta chéad uair eile! Thank you for reading!