Wednesday, July 19, 2006

19th July 2006

Welcome to our blog. Its the same as our Justgiving site, but it allows us to post photos (many thanks to Mr and Mrs Ward for the camera!) so check here for updates from now on, but keep donating at the original site (

The last you will have heard was that I was lost in Geneva, a horrid town which seemed to go on and on for ever. A horrendous thunderstorm accompanied me all the way to St. Jeroire, where I celebrated the end of a 60km day by sleeping rough in a quarry without any supper. Leaving at 5 the next morning I raced to Morzine where I planned to wait for Andy. I spent a lovely week crashing at Liz's flat. Vicks and James and Ollie and Loucho and Becs and everyone and anyone seemed to be there. Lots of barbecues (big shout out to Anthony for letting me come to his birthday party and giving me some trousers. I wear them with pride) , lots of nights out, days spent drinking coffee in the sun, walks (urgh) to the slate mines, etc etc.

After a week Andy, with leg almost fully recovered, arrived. Although he was eager to crack on right away I, being used to life at these dizzy altitudes, insisted on a harsh 48 hour acclimatisation regime. We practised fluid intake untill dawn, at which point altitude sickness got the better of us and we passed out. After our recovery we bravely shook off our headaches and made for Switzerland.

We set of bright and early at about 11 o'clock. The sun shone, and coffee oozed through our pores like grease from a kebab.

We headed up a steep mountain track to the Col de Coux and the Franco-Swiss border. As Andy's fitness was still clearly suffering from life in Blighty, I reached the top first. Seeing Andy "resting" a km or so below me I dashed down into Switzerland to gather snowballs from a little snow hollow, for a refreshing ambush that we could both enjoy. However, reaching the top again my snowballs had congealed to a hefty boulder of ice. For fear of breaking his other leg I reluctantly handed it over as an ice-pack. As we lunched on super-noodles, the weather closed in, and the heavens opened up. We were forced to wait out a couple of hours before making the descent into Switzerland, where we pitched our tents on the banks of an alpine stream flowing fresh from a glacier 100m above us. As you can see from the following photos, nothing was more pleasurable and relaxing than the soothing baths we enjoyed under the waterfall next to our tents.

Though intending to start early, a surfeit of porridge laced with wild strawberries knocked us both out. After 2 hours sleep we rose again at 10, to set of on what we could tell from the map was going to be a very sketchy climb. Arriving at the botom of a near-vertical climb we broke off for a quick bite. I went off in search of bread from a nearby refuge leaving Andy to cut the saucisson. On my return, I found Andy had acquired, from Lord knows where, a donkey. His mother had apparently advised him that should his bag become too heavy a donkey might be an effective solution.

Andy writes: Paddy seemed suprised that I'd found a donkey, and expressed concern that we might have to split our food three ways. Alas, the path steepened to a near-vertical ascent. Only a thin chain, delicately affixed to the rock face, provided assistance from the "you fall - you die" climb, and it was with great reluctance that I left Trigger behind. Paddy's rationing concerns were assuaged.

After a 45 minute, 500 metre climb, we emerged at the bottom of an enormous glacial trough, surrounded on all sides by snow-covered mountain peaks. We were also very suprised to find ourselves in the midst of eine kleine gruppen of stark naked Germans. Such a sight is not normally suprising, of course, but 6,000 ft up a glacier, with no piles of discarded clothing in evidence, it made us wonder if perhaps they weren't Germans at all, but defrosted Neanderthals, celebrating global warming with a pool party. Not seeking an invite we slunk off through the boulders for a 3 hour climb through the snow to the top of the arrete above us.

The descent was as hairy as the Germans. Forbidden by our own rules to use our rucksacks as tobboggans we shinned down cliff-faces (see photo below), slipped over snow-fields, dodged marmottes and chamoises, traversed gorges and waded through mountain streams for a couple of hours to Salanfe Lake where we pitched our tents. We ate a hearty supper of couscous (apparently for 9 people), looking up at the afternoon's descent.

The next day was an uneventful walk through steep zigzagging paths from Salanfe at 7,000ft to Martigny at 1,000ft. Perhaps the 'stand-out' memory from the day was an unusual demonstration of Swiss neutrality. While ambling along a track that sloped past a mountian village, Andy called out to me from behind, "Check out that dude in his garden with an air-rifle!" Spotting him, I replied "Yeah look- He's watching us through his 'scope." Barely had the words escaped my lips, when a shot rang out and a bullet thumped into the tree trunk between us. Not used to conflict situations, we followed the least advisable course of action. We stopped dead in our tracks, turned round, and hurled abuse. As he reloaded, we saw a potentially fatal flaw in our handling of the situation, and maintaining discipline under fire, whilest slow-marching out of air-rifle range, we sang 'Jerusalem' at the tops of our voices. It wasn't until afterwards that we realised that this must have been the first time in history that the Swiss had opened fire on the Red Cross.

We are now relaxing tired but unscathed in Martigny, collecting maps for our next three days at the end of which we hope to be in Italy.

Keep the emails, text messages, and most importantly donations coming. They are all much appreciated.

Paddy and Andy

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About Me

A 5,000km walk from London to Asia for the Red Cross