Tag Archives: mountains

Saint-Malo, France and Dolomites, Italy Articles

Hope you’re enjoying autumn/fall in the northern hemisphere, and spring/summer in the southern. Sorry I haven’t posted any new poems on here for a while, but I’ve been focusing on a two-years X Files comedy parody prose and poetry fantasy travel around Europe by Google Maps project I’m serialising over at the Writing and Poetry greenYgrey blog.

Plus the photos from my earlier travel are old disposable camera standard, and need to be scanned, so it’ll be quite a lot of work, and the quality won’t be great.

Saint-Malo, Brittany and Normandy, France Article

My Saint-Malo to Mont-Saint-Michel, Brittany and Normandy, France travel article remembering the D-Day landings in their seventieth anniversary year is now up on Go Nomad. It has a sacrifice theme inspired by this video’s contents:

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Italy Dolomites Article and Photos

I last posted on this blog about Tromso, Norway in 2007, and was recently reminded that I’d written an article for TravelThruHistory about my previous travelling trip to that, which was to the Dolomites, Italy in 2005. I reunited with a platonic friend met in Uganda’s Kibale Forest in 1998.

Here’s the article with most of the photos:

DEATH AND DOLCE IN THE DOLOMITES

Before I ascended into the Dolomites, if somebody mentioned Great War (World War One) stalemates I would only have thought of the Somme, Ypres and other mud and blood filled fields of northern Europe; if someone talked about Great War weather-induced injuries I would presume they were referring to trench-foot; and if they recounted the horrors of Great War winters my mind would visualise soldiers crawling through freezing rain or knee-deep in stagnant water.

Yet here I was, in a cramped machine-gun post 8,000 feet up on Lagazuoi in the Italian Dolomites, where ninety years previously the Austrians had defended their Alps front line against Italians who had joined the war on the side of the Entente Powers (led by Britain and Commonwealth countries, Russia and France) against the Central Powers (mainly Germany and Austria-Hungary). The gun was pointed across at what had then been Italian positions; they only seemed a stone-throw away, although there was a hundred foot drop in-between.

Lagazuoi could be enjoyed in the summer sun, but temperatures were still cool to say the least, and in winter it can drop to -30c (-22f); so in the trenches of the Dolomites it was blizzards and frostbite that were the main weather concerns for the Italian and Austrian troops fighting doggedly in the tunnels and peaks of the southern Alps.

The Dolomites were formed 200 million years ago out of the primeval ocean, and the highest peaks now reach 12,000 feet. They take their name from French mineralogist, Déodat de Dolomieu (1750-1801), who discovered and defined the unique composition of the stone which gives it a lighter colour than most mountains.

I had travelled up to the Dolomites from Reggio Emilia with a local friend I’d met in Africa seven years before. Reggio is the main town in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, and is a bastion of socialism in a country divided between politically polarised regions; streets are named after left-wing legends such as Lenin, Marx and Che Guevara, and there is a statue in the town celebrating the partisans who fought against Mussolini in World War Two.

We travelled north by train, via Bologna and Verona to Brunico. The Bologna train had been packed with people heading to the coast at Rimini; I’d apparently picked an inconvenient time to visit Italy, as the country largely shuts down in August for a national holiday.

Sun-kissed vineyards and farmland provided the vista until Verona, and then mountains began to dominate the horizon after that; many featured majestic medieval castles that offer clues to the region’s importance as a trading route, and the wealth and prestige it has brought. The temperature had been about 40c (110f) in Reggio, but as we started winding up into the Alpine landscape temperature figures halved and there was more cloud.

When we arrived in Brunico it looked and sounded as if we’d crossed into another country: red and white flags abound, the architecture is typical of the central Alps, and German is the primary language as it is in Austria. This is because the region, South Tyrol, was Austrian until the Italian push into the Dolomites during the Great War. As part of the 1915 treaty that brought neutral Italy into the war it was agreed that they should have some Austro-Hungarian regions after the conflict. Although parts of the treaty could not be kept, South Tyrol did become Italian in 1919.

From Brunico we took a comfortable bus along country roads that provided great views of lush green valleys and high mountain peaks to the village of Pedraces in the Badia valley for a couple of Euros. We stayed at the Pension Armalia, which was clean and friendly, although the staff didn’t speak English; luckily, my friend provided translation and did all the organising. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price, and provided enough for the day; they were not used to catering for vegetarians so it was mostly egg and cheese dishes for me, but they were always nice and filling.

On the first day we bussed it into the bigger village of La Villa, where there is a good tourist office. It was there that I first saw the leaflet for the mountain-top Great War Museum: it looked intriguing and declared itself unique. Three days of hiking amongst impressive peaks and Sound of the Music style meadows later it was time to take a trip back in time to the Great War.

We took a bus into La Villa again at about 9am, and then another bus to the ski lift station at the Falzarego Pass. The second bus journey took us to the end of the mountain range that framed one flank of the valley, and when I realised where we were going I was overjoyed; I’d wondered what lay beyond the high natural wall that dominated that side of the panorama, and now I was about to find out. As we wound our way through mountains, forests and Lake Valparola to the 6000 feet Falzarego there were magnificent views down the valley all the way to Pedraces.

The ski-lift carried us up an additional 2000 feet in altitude, and combined with the wind chill from being on top of an exposed peak it made a noticeable difference to the temperature. I didn’t think there would be much natural life at that altitude, and was therefore surprised to see a flock of birds fly high above us before turning en-masse and heading back down towards the valley below. We made our way over to one of the many crosses that appear on prominent peaks across the mountains in the region, and could see a couple of small lakes further into the range; mountains dominated the horizon for as far as the eye could see.

Leaving the exposed peak and passing the 360 degree reception centre we started to view the open air museum as we descended on a steep and narrow path. The path seems to be the one used during the Great War, as the preserved living quarters and positions of the Austrian troops defending the Lagazuoi Peak are accessible from it as you walk.

The soldiers spent two winters guarding the rock in the freezing cold, and it was easy to imagine how relieved the soldiers must have been to escape a third. There were separate quarters for the officers and men, with neither looking comfortable; the only preferential benefits for the officers seemed to be a little more room and a desk. The machine-gun post was claustrophobic and cold, and if you add on the freezing temperatures of winter and being fired at by snipers and heavy artillery then it must have been quite close to what I’d imagine hell would be like if it did ever freeze over.

After leaving Lagazuoi we made our way down a track at the bottom of no-man’s-land; looking back up at the Austrian positions we could view them almost as the Italians must have done. All of a sudden the Austrian experience didn’t seem quite as bad, as I’d have preferred to be looking and firing down than up. However, the Italians did have the advantage of launching surprise attacks at the Austrians by tunnelling into the mountain.

The closest I came to relating to the sound of explosions that had disrupted the harmony of the Dolomites ninety years before was being awoken one night by the loudest thunderstorm I’ve ever heard. Before that I’d been thinking how easy it looked to just hike up one of the beautiful peaks. Like war, mountains can look easier to survive than in reality; and when you combine them together, they can provide one of the toughest tests of all.

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

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Tromso Norway Arrival for Midnight Sun Marathon

My previous trip to Cuba in 2009 was to Tromso in Norway to run in the 2007 Midnight Sun Marathon.

Tromso, Norway

I had clear sky for my June flight to Oslo and then a couple of hours later another one up over the Arctic Circle boundary to Tromso on Norway’s wild rugged west coast.

The blue sky provided great views of the southern Norway coast, and then up over forests and lakes above Oslo to the snow-capped peaks in the north of Norway and Sweden… as we flew over both countries.

Then we veered west, and I was glad I took online advice to sit on the left for the flight to Tromso, as there were great views of the coast, islands and fjords around the airport.

I walked the 7km (4-5 miles) from the airport to the campsite on the Tromsdalen mainland, passing Lake Prestvannet in the middle of the island on the way. I set my tent up just across from a stream, with lots of trees all around, and mountains rising up behind.

Tromso Photos

I also passed the award-winning architecture of the Tromso cathedral, just across the bridge on the mainland:

This photo is from the mainland looking back at Tromso island and the vertiginous peaks of the Senja coastline in the distance:

The campsite is situated the other side of this water inlet, at the entrance to the Tromsdalen Valley:

Looking back at Tromso island from the bridge across the water:

The never-setting sun over Tromso island:

I walked north on the mainland, and this was looking back at the bridge linking Tromso island with the mainland, with the Senja island mountains in the distance:

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Mount Everest Views from Gokyo Ri

I had stomach problems in the morning, but was determined to climb Gokyo Ri (5,357 metres, 17,575 ft) to complete the Jiri to Gokyo 100-mile trek, and see Mount Everest. My description of climbing Gokyo Ri is mixed below with photos, and there’s a video from the summit at the end.

Climbing Gokyo Ri

The sunrise looked stunning as it lit up Cho-Oyu on another beautiful clear morning, so I went out to take a photo.

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I left at about 7am.  Stepping-stones crossed the stream running down from the north.  I made it most of the way across, before putting a foot in the water.  It could have been worse: a trekker I later met had fallen back into the water!

The lake looked amazing at the start of the climb, with the sun dipping a copy of Phari Lapche into it, mixing the water between blues and greens, and framing it with the real mountains and an illuminated Gokyo Ri.

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It was a steep climb from the start, and I missed the downhills I’d begun to resent earlier on the trek.  However, any difficulties were outweighed by the stunning scenery being unveiled.

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Looking back down the mountain, from one side of Gokyo Ri to the other, the scenery was one continuous arc of astonishment: the planet’s highest peaks shone under the sun framing turquoise lakes and a moonscape glacier. 

And then I could make Everest out!  It was an amazing feeling to see the highest point on Earth, and fulfil the main objective of the trip.

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I reached the peak after about three hours, completing the mission part of the trek.  It was certainly all worth it, with an amazing 360 degree panorama viewable from amongst the prayer flags and cairns.  There was also a small Buddha statue there.

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The fourth Gokyo lake was visible to the north: it was jade rather than turquoise.  Small brown birds flew around freely, and looked quite tame when they landed.  

Walking down was nice, although a little sad to know it was all over, and the rest of the day was spent relaxing and savouring. 

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Nepal Everest View Trek: Machhermo

My Stockholm article from the Norway – Sweden trip that ended the twenty-five years of travel featured in this blog, and started off this blog, has now been published on travelthruhistory.com. The main article in this month’s issue of the website is about Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu to Gokyo

My Nepal journey started in Kathmandu. I took a bus to Jiri and trekked for about a week to the Everest national park. I had now reached Machhermo, a day away from the target destination of Gokyo.

A night trip to the outside toilet revealed a clear sky full of stars. Moreover, the mountains were silhouetted, and I tried to take a photo of them.

Machhermo Photo and Video

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The sunrise lighting up the mountain peaks in the morning, above frosty fields of yaks, inspired a video:

Machhermo to Gokyo Photos

I also took some photos, posted below, starting with Machhermo Peak from the village in the morning.

The second photo looks back down the valley, with Thamserku and saddle-peak Kangtega in the middle distance.

The steep sided mountain in the third and fifth photos is Cholatse. Its southern neighbour is Taboche. A hiker passes a yak herd in the fifth.

All five of those mountains are between 6000 and 7000 metres. Everest is about 8800 metres.

The fourth photo is of the Dudh Koshi river, running through the valley.

It was a few hours of enjoyable walking to Gokyo, and the next blog will feature photos of Gokyo’s lakes as the destination is reached.

Nepal 093 Nepal 096Nepal 097Nepal 098Nepal 099Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Nepal Everest View Trek Reaches Namche Bazaar

Phakding is a nice village with a river running through, and mountains around it. It seemed wealthier than the villages previously visited, and that’s probably because it gets the custom of all the hikers that fly into Lukla.

I recommend taking the bus from Kathmandu to Jiri and hiking from there if you have the time, and inclination, as it’s beautiful scenery and the villages probably need the custom. You can always fly back from the ‘most dangerous airport’ in the world, as I did.

Phakding – Namche Bazaar

At the top of Phakding, the mountain view went from great to amazing, as Thamserku came into view (first photo). It was the first of the mountains that would be in view for most of the trek to Gokyo, marking the southern entrance.

The path led across the bridge in photo 2 and then down to the river itself. It was then a long uphill to Namche Bazaar: the entrance point to the Sagarmatha (Everest) national park.

Namche Bazaar Mountains and Market

Namche is recommended as a two-night stop on the trek, to get used to the altitude, and recover a little. Waking early the next morning I went out to see the sunrise (photos 3-6), which had started lighting up the mountains across the valley, but not the ones behind the town: such as Thamserku. I stayed in the Thamserku View hotel.

The bazaar was setting up as I returned, and I visited it later (photo 7).

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Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Junbesi to Nunthala on Jiri – Gokyo Everest Park Trek

Leaving Junbesi on the fifth day of a Jiri-Gokyo trek I took a photo of the monastery visited the previous day. It was then a downhill before crossing the Taktor Khola valley to Ringmu. The previous afternoon’s trek was visible from the cafe I had lunch at with a few Europeans who’d also left Junbesi that morning. A stupa and prayer flags brightened the greenygrey valley view. Then the path led up to Taksindu. A waterfall and puppies led down to Nunthala, and the end of the day’s trek.

Everest View Nepal Trek Photos

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Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Climbing Mount Ulriken, Bergen, Norway

Having climbed half way up Mount Ulriken to reach Hostel Montana, I completed the climb in the morning. It had clouded over, but was dry. As Britain had finally started to warm up after a long winter, it was also cold, with temperatures only just above freezing.

Mount Ulriken, Bergen’s Highest Mountain

Mount Ulriken is the highest of seven mountains forming a natural amphitheatre inland from Bergen’s sea.

Ulriken is 643 m (2,110 ft)  high; about half the altitude of Britain’s highest mountain: Ben Nevis is 1,344 metres (4,409 ft). Norway‘s highest peak is Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 m (8,100 ft).

Mount Ulriken peak path.
Mount Ulriken peak path.
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Climbers, city and sky.

 

Frozen lakes visible from Mount Ulriken peak.
Frozen lakes visible from Mount Ulriken peak.
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TV tower on Ulriken.
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Mount Ulriken map and details.
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Bergen city, sea and fjord from Ulriken peak.

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).