Vinny joins the Circus. Behold the amazing tumbling boy!!!

Samoens Travel Blog

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Sherpa Vincenzo prior to joining the circus

Somebody once said that pain is fleeting but glory lasts forever.


Not sure?


Heres a good description


All suffering and pain arises from the fundamental conflict between what is and what should be.

Death Valley
When different forces pull the mind in different directions, the resulting tension between the self and the perceived reality causes disappointment and sorrow.


Someone once said that if God gives you lemons you should make lemonade. If he gives you grapes you should make wine. The question is what should you do if he gives you a clear sunny afternoon, an avalanche, an overnight refuge, a foot of fresh powder, a skidoo, a quad bike and some excellent company. Well its obvious to me. Tell the tale. That’s what you should do. Are you sitting comfortably…… then we shall begin.


If you have been reading already you will know that we are currently coming to the end of our season in the French Alps.

Perfect day close to heaven
We have had some excellent times and some pretty awful times but they have all been times never the less. The last people to visit us have been Tracey & Vincenzo. Virgins to the French Alps or any Alps or any mountains or snow or hiking or boarding. It was our mission to pop their cherry so to speak. I considered this a personal challenge, its been a while since I popped a cherry or 2.


Having welcomed them to Chalet Huggy, the 1974 hang out of Starsky and Hutches side kick we decided, well they decided that they wanted to snow board. Who were we to argue. It has to be said that already I am impressed with their enthusiasm and willingness to embrace new things.


Someone once said that inexperience is the mother of all fook ups (well maybe they did maybe they didn’t).

Waking up in hell
Its not. We are experienced boarders and we had a fab afternoon on the debutant slopes. Sliding down, walking back up. Coffee and lunch followed by more sliding, more walking, mild concussion, Tracey unconscious, a little more walking. Some pain killers did the trick and a few Vodkas eased the soul.


To say they had an excellent afternoon is a small under statement. It was cool. Not sure they will come back to board again as they hurt, a lot, afterwards. Funny though.


The big adventure began the following day. It was a stunner. Wall to wall unbroken sunshine. Clear bluebird day. We started with a picnic in the village by the river. A nice sedate start to the day.

Death Valley with an additional foot of snow
From there we hired racquet shoes in a bid to reach our summit. Lac de Ger Refuge.


I feel I must explain something here. Lac De Ger sits at 1550m above sea level which may not mean much to you. To give you an idea, Snowdon in Wales is only 1085m above sea level, Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Britain) sits at 1344m so our summit is higher than any part of the UK. Lac De Ger sits in a bowl and is inaccessible from 3 sides unless you are a goat or on a board/skis and have balls, real balls. We would be climbing apr 550m, half the height of Snowdon, no small task.


So we set off from 1000m with a spring in our step and our sights firmly on the task ahead.

The long walk home (not experienced by everyone!)
Within minutes we were peeling away layers and could feel our faces turning crimson (some more than others). We expected to make the lake in about 3 hours and the pace that Sherpa Debs and Tracey set we could have been looking at an hour and a half. As we climbed the snow steadily got deeper and deeper and deeper until we were walking in between a foot and four feet of snow. A good job we had snow shoes as we would have stood no chance. Our first obstacle was a small avalanche that had blocked our path. With deft like prescion and Ibex like steps we negotiated it in no time at all. By now we could almost taste the beer at the end. Almost.


As we rounded the corner, myself and Sherpa Vincenzo taking up the lead, we came to what can only be described as the mother of all avalanches that blocked our way. Would we stop and consider this obstacle, would we plan a path around, would we turn around and go back like many before us. Shit no. We were on a role and it would take more than a few thousand tonnes of savage snow to stop us now. We barely even broke pace and I followed Vinny The Goat over this minor obstacle.


Now I am not sure exactly what happened next. There are many versions and 1 of them includes a golden eagle swooping down and nudging Vinny off the edge. The facts remain though. Vinny somehow managed to throw himself off this avalanche and into the abyis below. 1 minute hes there in front of me, the next theres a half backflip followed by me screaming (in my controlled mountain guide voice) ‘Grab something, anything, now or your gonna die!!!’ I was always told to keep people calm in such circumstances. Luckily he did. Sherpa Debs stepped up to the plate and saved him by climbing down and guiding him back to safety. There was many tears and sniffling, mainly from me and Tracey and from there we set forth to reach our goal as there was no way Vinny was gonna turn round and face death again. We didn’t have the heart to tell him that we would have to come down this way tomorrow. I just knew he was gonna laugh so hard when we told him that we would be passing back through ‘death alley’ tomorrow.


The rest of the hike was uneventful by comparison and the views were amazing (see photos). So clear and still. A real day in the mountains.


We reached the Refuge in 3 hours dead and I do mean dead. Vinny the Goat was running on empty and Tracey was feeling the pain of 2 days of mountain excursion. The beer was soooooo nice. We deserved it. Sitting in the sun, looking at the views, cold beers in hands, regaling stories of eagles and avalanches are the stuff that dreams are made of. We were staying the night in the back of beyond. Just the 4 of us there. No one else. After a hot shower and a hearty meal none of us could keep our eyes open any longer and at 9.00pm we went to bed exhausted. We were at the top of the world, as close to heaven as any of us had been before, what could dampen our spirits and ruin this weekend of a lifetime. Well let me tell you……..


After a broken nights sleep, broken by Tracey and Vinny getting up every hour to dose themselves up on Nurofen and any other prescription drugs they could get their hands on we emerged, aching, sore, a little broken maybe and ready for the descent. It was not until Vinny drew back the curtains and uttered some serious expletives that we realised the true horror of what had happened in the night. To say it had snowed is like saying that Mount Everest is a bit of a hill. The God of winter and the Alps had decreeded that today was officially ‘snow day!’ A day when visibility would be no more than 50 feet and the snow would be so thick that you would not be seeing your feet for quite some time. Great if your staying in, crap if you have to descend 550m with 2 friends who are feeling a little delicate due to large falls, long hikes and big days of snow boarding.


Sometimes things happen for a reason. You packed a rope and amazingly you needed it. You packed a condom and wow that night was your lucky night and it got its first outing. Debs has been learning French. Up to this point Tracey and Vinny had always smiled a wry smile of appreciation at receiving cold beers or hot drinks or hearty food and it was at this point they were glad they had packed Sherpa Debs along with their cameras. By the time they had come down to breakfast Debs had used all her cunning, charm and French language skills to secure them passage off the mountain. Not by foot but by all manner of transports. Fillius Fogg would have been amazed and envious.


Firstly there was the skidoo ride from the Refuge to the top of the piste where the snow starts to thin. Apparently (we were walking down in the snow by this point) they both jumped on the back of this amazing Frenchmans skido and careered off down the mountain. 2 up on the back. When the snow started to thin a little they pulled up and there in the bushes was his 4x4 quad bike with chains. Amazing! With Tracey on the back and Vinny getting a crogey in the shopping basket they came down the rest of the piste. Vinny doing his best to smile and Tracey laughing and screaming for him to go faster. From there they were dropped at the door in his huge pimp wagon.To try to tell the story just does not do it justice. You could not buy a weekend like it, anywhere.


Right now we are sitting by the log burner feeling aching limbs and requiring a good nights sleep. The fire is roaring and so are we. The stuff of legends. Apparently Tracey has bruises you can see and Ibex Vinny has a bruised ego and bruised pride but is chuffed that he got to ride home on all the best toys whilst I got to walk through Death Valley again. We survived.


Its true to say that these are the days that build a lifetime and shape a future. There will be many conversations, many of them drunken, that will regale this story. It will be passed from generation to generation and will somehow make it into folk lore or urban myth. It will be told alongside the story of the swan that broke the boys arm and will grow in height and stature and importance, but remember. This is where it really happened. Right here, right now and it was huge and he did nearly die. To go back to what I said earlier. Pain is fleeting, glory lasts forever. What a glorious day to feel pain. The memories will stay with us forever.

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Sherpa Vincenzo prior to joining t…
Sherpa Vincenzo prior to joining …
Death Valley
Death Valley
Perfect day close to heaven
Perfect day close to heaven
Waking up in hell
Waking up in hell
Death Valley with an additional fo…
Death Valley with an additional f…
The long walk home (not experience…
The long walk home (not experienc…
photo by: duffelcoat