Bad weather has forced us indoors for the past 5 days. Monday started OK and all of our 4th of July party made it out before the bad weather struck. Mid-morning we received a cell-phone call from a climbing party up at the Canzio Bivouac on the Rochfort ridge. Their intent was to climb the Jorasses Ridge to point Walker and descend to Boccalatte via the Normal ascent route: a common itinerary. But when they awoke to snow they realized that the worsening weather meant they needed to make an escape from the ridge. They called us for advice. The escape route from the ridge is sketchy but another party descended successfully a week before. It involves rappelling about 500m down a rock face of questionable quality and then traversing a heavily crevassed and seldom passed route across the glacier. They said they would weigh their options.
As the weather got worse a couple of climbers with a guide from Trentino, on the other side of the Alps, arrived to stay the night. They knew the weather was going to be bad but said they were going to come up anyway. A couple of hours later
the party from the ridge arrived safely and stayed long enough to have a cup of tea. The Trentinians didnít manage to make it too far from the hut on Tuesday morning before lightning turned them back; which is no fun at 3000m (10,000ft). They left before lunch on Tuesday and were our last customers. The rain and hail has been on and off since.
On Wednesday we had a couple of crazed Spaniards arrive in the middle of a rainy and thunderous bout. The only guess I can make as to why they decided to continue climbing up to the hut and not turn back when the weather kept worsening is that they were undergoing some sort of penitential purging of the soul. This guess was supported by the fact that they refused any sort of warming drink we had to offer. They did enjoy poaching our heater. It is hard to consider them customers since they didnít consume anything. The heater has truly been a god-sent. We got it last year when the highest temperatures recorded in decades hit all of Europe including Rifugio Boccalatte. So, needless to say, we hardly used it at all last year. This week, though, it has been going almost constantly as the outside temps have gone above 10įC only during a couple of very brief periods of sun.
So we have been trying to keep ourselves busy during this slow spell. Despite the amount of gadgets we brought up, it has been tough to keep occupied. Sleeping in late has been the primary source of time occupation. We have been going to bed at about 8 and getting up around 9. It is pretty easy to sleep for long hours in the rarified air. In the morning it always takes a half hour or so to get re-adjusted to normal, waking respiration. During the day we camp out in the dining room in from of the heater with our various projects. Luci has been mostly reading and knitting and occasionally we game. We have a backgammon, cribbage and bao board and two decks of cards. And this year we have the computer, of course. I am a little more difficult to keep occupied. I required more variety of tasks/distractions. I have spent quite a bit of time on the computer but we left the CD ROM drive and the good games in the valley thinking that they would consume too much power from our PV system.
In order to maximize our availability of power I have been streamlining the wiring of the building. We actually have 3 photo-voltaic systems in the hut. The main system (24v DC) is the largest and runs all the lights and an inverter that gives us AC power for the few kitchen appliances we have. It also runs a transformer which re-converts power to 12v DC so we can use some common 12v appliances (kind of confused but I didnít built the system I only try to make it suit our needs). A second and older system is designed for the radio-bridge phone we have. It is smaller but it produces more energy that is needed for the phone; especially when we have days like the past few when the phone is not ringing. The solar panels are also in the best position to receive the maximum sunlight and the system produces 12v DC without having to convert it. The third system is the smallest and newest. It was given to us by the local alpine rescue. There is a regional program to put emergency radios in all the huts. It too is a 12v system but really produces only enough energy to run the radio. What I have done recently is tap into the radiophone battery bank. I ran a wire to the kitchen where I have a three-outlet splitter of the car lighter type. I can now switch our 12v power supply between the primary system and the telephone bank depending upon which one has a better charge. This is important for days like the past few when light is scarce.
I have been reading, too, to keep occupied; mostly about HAM radio. I brought up a small transceiver that I have been using to scan various frequencies in the valley and the regional air traffic. It drives Luci nuts so I try to keep it to a minimum. I also built a potato gun but have not been able to get it to work consistently and, once again, Luci is apposed so it is now in the basement. In attempts to find a hands-on project that Luci would approve of, I built a new shelf in the Kitchen. Our kitchen is so strapped for space that building an extra shelf is always a good way to spend time.
I have also been restoring a picture of Gabriele Boccalattte (the namesake of the hut). Who knows when it was taken but I am guessing some time in the early thirties at the height of his climbing career. The framed picture was given to the hut upon its re-naming on June 28th and 29th 1964. I know this because those present signed and dated the back. In the periods of non-management of the hut in 1999 and 2000 the picture, along with another from the same time, were put in one of the dampest places in the hut. When we arrived, we found them all molded and barely visible. I cleaned and un-stuck one from the glass and re framed it a couple of years ago and was waiting for the right moment to do the other one. Well, the moment has arrived.
Now it is Friday morning and our only reservations for the night canceled at about 9am. Yesterday the weather said that it was supposed but be sunny but colder and the clouds looked like they were breaking up at sunset. When we awoke it was snowing and temperature was below freezing so we stayed in bed until 10. I was planning on updating the blog once a week but I figured that today would be as good as any to write. I went to check on the battery charge on the main system to make sure I would have enough to use the computer (the computer is plugged into the AC power from the inverter). The panels were covered in snow and we werenít getting any charge. I cleaned them off and now there is sufficient charge to run the computer. The skies are clearing but it is still only 2įC and snowing up here. But that is just life up here among the clouds.