Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!

A 10-day streak of sunshine prompted an outdoor celebration for New Years in the climbing capital of Italy -- Arco.  Unfortunately, the high temperature during the day was 40 degrees.  It was cold, but we still had fun.

Our first photo of 2011

 Our objective, Cima SAT, is the pointy outcropping of rock above the castle.  The vertical gain is 3,950 feet.  We had a big day in front of us.

From the beginning of the hike we had great views of the town of Riva and Lake Garda 

 This via feratta has 8 ladders that go up vertical or overhanging rock.  This sign says the ladders can only hold 3 people at a time.

I'm amazed that someone took the time and energy to lug these giant steel ladders up such unforgiving terrain, but it certainly makes for a fun day.

Jess didn't want to hang out in the hotel room, but she's fine in the backpack.

 Jess and I at the top of one of the steepest ladders.

Cassy makes a quick stop to pose near these dripping death icicles.  You can also see the ice pasted to the rock underneath the ladder.

 The summit!  What a great way to spend the first day of 2011.

 Jess is tired from watching me climb ladders all day.

 Cassy at the summit register

 This part of the descent was way sketchier than it looks in the photo.  Slick hardened snow and no place to go but off a cliff made this a no-fall zone.  Luckily the trail got better as we went along.

We had to break out the headlamps for the final 30 minutes of the descent.  We were exhausted and happy to have some Italian pizza and wine.  Over the next 3 days, our sore muscles reminded us how much fun we had.

Christmas in Italy

Some shots from our holiday season in Italy and some cool Italian traditions...

Ugly sweater Christmas party

Jess and I wandered around town with the tripod to catch some cool shots at dusk.

 Maniago town square.  No Photoshop required.  Just set the correct white balance, expose for the sky, and use a tripod.

This place is cool.  Poffabro is a sleepy little town at the base of dramatic mountains.  In December and January the town comes alive with nativity scenes.  Nearly every house has some kind of nativity scene on display.  On this rainy night, we walked around town with Pat and Jordana.  We had the whole place to ourselves.

 Photo by Pat

This is my favorite photo from the night in Poffabro.  I walked right by this scene because it's way down low (knee height).  I think this was the smallest nativity scene we saw all night.

La Befana (Epiphany) is Jan 6th.  On the night of January 5th, almost every town in our area lights a HUGE bonfire.   

Our Italian friend Alessandro took us to the town of Frisanco (right next to Poffabro, the town with the nativity scenes) for the bonfire.  We had a great time despite kids lighting off loud fireworks at our feet for an hour straight.

 We were told the fires originally guided the 3 wise men to the manger.

 Apparently the smoke from the fires also guides La Befana (the witch who brings presents) to children's homes.  If the kids were good last year, they get Santa Clause-type gifts.  If they were bad, they get coal.

 This fire was 30-40 feet high.  Most towns spend many days preparing the fire.

 Luc and Alessandro

 One of the mellow fireworks set off by one of the kids.  The rest of them made the place sound like a war zone.

 Huge embers fall while the town does the campfire stare.

These fires left the valley smokey for days.  So much for European environmentalism.

Christmas in Comfort

Rain seemed to be the theme for December, so instead of trying to plan something outside, we purposely avoided it altogether.  Instead we joined Pat and Jordana at a hotel near Lake Como in northwestern Italy for some relaxation over Christmas.  We lived like kings at this place and it was cheaper than most hotels we've stayed at this year.

 We got a dusting of snow the day after Christmas

 The Turkish Sauna is a ton of steam and alternating colors of light.

 The dry sauna with a view.

 Christmas night we hiked up the hill to the church at midnight.  The entire town was filtering through the basement of the church to see this live nativity scene.  This town is tiny and off the tourist path, so people were pretty surprised when they learned Californians were there to celebrate Christmas.

 The fog combined with embers from the midnight bon fire made for a cool photo.

The town cemetery at midnight

Austria Ski Trip

Our squadron ski trip to Austria was a blast.  We stayed at a fantastic hotel and our only day of riding was an amazing powder day.

Our hotel

 View from our room.

A short hike to get some nice turns.

 Our first experience with a European ski hut.  This place was tiny and crammed with skiers, but the soup and bread tasted fantastic.

 A nice traditional German girl I met at the hotel

 Brett and Jessica.  Blue steel and magnum, respectively.

Tisha and Nick

 One of my favorite shots from the weekend.  Mach shreds the gnar.

Dan and Rachel

 I gave the camera to Shock and she made some great photos.

 Justin and Catherine

Ryan and Taryn

 Josh and Jennifer 

 Shock can't contain her powder grin.

 Post-powder run euphoria

 Last run of the day

 Photo by Sara

Before leaving Austria we stopped at the Salzburg Christmas Market, which is a huge collection of vendors spread out all over the city.

We had a hot drink every hour or so to stay warm: hot cocoa and gluhwein (spiced wine served hot)