XCFeedsOn the Italian Front: Coach Johnston reports on leave

FasterSkier FasterSkierJuly 3, 2010

span style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”Shirking my coaching duties and leaving the MOD athletes to train on their own I arrived in Europe a few days ago meeting Midge who had already been here a couple of weeks biking the big passes of the Italian Dolomites with a group of friends. /spanspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”Despite my being groggy with jet lag she started the flogging the ver/spanspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”y first day. We’ve been touring some of the popular via ferrata in the mountains around Cortina. The literal translation of “via ferrata” is “iron road”. The term comes from the ironwork installed on steep and what would otherwise be technically challenging climbing terrain. The Dolomites have no shortage of huge, steep mountains comprised of very sound limestone. /spanbr /div style=”text-align: center;”a onblur=”try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/TDJMUGUiNOI/AAAAAAAAAco/maSRQgIV8TY/s1600/scott_midge+1.JPG”img style=”margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer; width: 320px; height: 240px;” src=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/TDJMUGUiNOI/AAAAAAAAAco/maSRQgIV8TY/s320/scott_midge+1.JPG” alt=”” id=”BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5490534803895891170″ border=”0″ //aspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”iBarbed wire still litters the old front lines. Behind rises Tofane de Rossa up whose face goes a via ferrata./i/spanbr //div pspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”During WWI the Italian alpine troops and the enemy Austrians dug intricate fortifications and tunnels into the jagged cliffs over looking all the important passes of the Dolomites. Actually, the tunneling began in the late 19supth/sup century on what was already the border between the /spanspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”Austrio-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. Ostensibly allies, tensions ran high as the Italians feared the imperialistic designs the Austrians had on Venice as a seaport. To get to the unlikely gun emplacements perched high upon and inside the 2000’ high vertical cliffs a /spanspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”labyrinth of tunnels and caves was constructed inside these mountains and iron hardware was installed to allow access by the soldiers to these airy stances. Munitions and other supplies were carried into these positions on the backs of young men. Inside complete small camps and cities with barracks, mess halls and hospitals were carved from the solid rock./spanbr /br //pdiv style=”text-align: center;”a onblur=”try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=”http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/TDJMVWj_22I/AAAAAAAAAc4/Dp5dOSKu0Ao/s1600/scott_midge+3.JPG”img style=”margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer; width: 320px; height: 240px;” src=”http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/TDJMVWj_22I/AAAAAAAAAc4/Dp5dOSKu0Ao/s320/scott_midge+3.JPG” alt=”” id=”BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5490534825435585378″ border=”0″ //aspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”iTypical tunnel leading to gun emplacement 1000’ up a cliff face/i/spanbr //divpspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”Sometime after Europe recovered from the devastation of the war to end all wars the sport of climbing returned to the high mountains and climbers soon discovered the abandoned handiwork of the energetic Alpine soldiers and began exploring what had in most cases been forbiddingly steep terrain. Since then new via ferrate have cropped up in some non-war zones as well. Guide books lead the ferratisti like ourselves to the base of the routes and once there is it is a simple matter of following the iron road to the summit. /spanbr //p pspan style=”font-weight: bold;”/spana onblur=”try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/TDJMU5y8G_I/AAAAAAAAAcw/PS9JFTBKX-M/s1600/scott_midge+2.JPG”img style=”margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer; width: 320px; height: 240px;” src=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/TDJMU5y8G_I/AAAAAAAAAcw/PS9JFTBKX-M/s320/scott_midge+2.JPG” alt=”” id=”BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5490534817713626098″ border=”0″ //a/p div style=”text-align: center;”span style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”iMidge in the remains of a machine gun pillbox, on a summit, guarding a pass. Access was by a tunnel just visible, below and to her left./i/spanbr //div pspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”This is my first experience with via ferrate and while not climbing as I have known it, it is none the less an enjoyable way to get to some incredible places. /spanbr //p pspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”Today’s climb took us (unwittingly) up an Italian Alpine Troops training climb for 1500’. We got behind 38 Alpini as they thrutched their upward with full battle gear, including rifles and overnight packs while helicopters circled and dropped the occasional smoke bomb./spanbr //p p style=”text-align: center;”a onblur=”try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/TDJMWRWkv8I/AAAAAAAAAdA/P2e_7rCfnPo/s1600/scott_midge+4.JPG”img style=”margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer; width: 320px; height: 240px;” src=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/TDJMWRWkv8I/AAAAAAAAAdA/P2e_7rCfnPo/s320/scott_midge+4.JPG” alt=”” id=”BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5490534841216974786″ border=”0″ //aspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”b /biHere we had to wait on a ledge for Italy’s finest to be all they can be./i/spanbr //p pspan style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”Tomorrow, another climb and exploration of a WWI tunnel system. The irony of these grim reminders of the years of bloody struggles that went on here is not lost on us as we traipse around this alpine wonderland./span/p span style=”font-family:Cambria;font-size:130%;”i /i/spandiv class=”blogger-post-footer”img width=’1′ height=’1′ src=’https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/2910103639238326543-8805924040431041169?l=methowolympicdevelopment.blogspot.com’ alt=” //div

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