Along the ridge
Talk about ice. I was hurtling down a frozen road which might as well have been the Cresta Run. Sparks were flying from the edges of my skis ever time I hit a stone which was far too often. I reflected bitterly that lightweight skis were not always an advantage. The idea of letting my son Mark have the broader skis was to even things up, he’s more of a snowboarder than a skier, or so I thought, but he and Costin, our guide, were looking pretty relaxed whereas I was as tense as any novice. Things hadn’t evened up; they’d left me stranded at a lower level. Damn! Another horse-drawn sledge. ‘La multi ani,’ (Happy New Year), I yelled, remembering what I had been told and making a resolution, as I narrowly avoided a collision, no more ice. Immediately I remembered that since that was most of what Scotland had to offer, this might be a wee bit restricting when back home.
We were desceding from the Raura Mountains, where We had spent a couple of nights. We had arrived at the hut in glorious evening light just as the sun was setting on New Year’s Eve. We had set out from Campalung Moldovesc in cold clear conditions that morning with rather thin snow cover but as we climbed, the cover improved until suddenly we emerged on a snow-covered plateau that brought the promise of a good tour. To our right a narrow ridge snaked away from us and then veered left to some fantastic fingers of rock in the distance. ‘Pietrele Doamnei,’ explained Costin, ‘the Princess Rocks. According to a legend the king’s wife fled her enemies in this area and a great treasure lies buried there. We must make our way along the ridge.’ Some hours later after a steep climb we were making our way along the ridge. The ridge narrowed and soon we were following a narrow path in the trees where we had to carry the skis but then the ridge broadened again and the skis were soon carrying us and we finished the day arriving at the hut in style and in time for our New Year’s Eve party. ‘Tomorrow we’ll start late,’ said Costin. ‘Eleven?’ I enquired. Costin looked serious. ‘Twelve’ he said, ‘let’s be realistic’.
‘Noroc’. It means good luck but you say it when you drink. Liqueur to start with, noroc, beer, noroc, vodka, noroc, more vodka, noroc, yet more vodka, noroc, white wine, noroc, red wine, noroc , fireworks, la multi ani, la muti ani, more vodka noroc.
Much to our surprise, Mark and I were up at ten on New Year’s day and went for a stroll to see the fabled rocks. ‘Three huge Mesozoic limestone towers,’ said the gudidebook. The views were fantastic with snow covered mountains stretching in every direction. That afternoon we toured further on the extremely pleasant rolling plateau beyond to the Priest Rocks. This was true ski-touring.
So what was the rest of the holiday like? Not as beautiful but we found lots of snow. We had some fair tours but nothing to match our time over New Year. Costin was great but he couldn’t help the weather and apart from our time in the Raura Mountains the conditions were not ideal. Still we had snow, we had fun and we did some touring. Would I go back? Certainly but I might avoid the perils of New Year.
Approaching the Priest Rocks