Mountaineering 101

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Why you shouldn't descend a mountain at 4 in the morning, half naked fuelled on Jack Daniels.

Submitted: September 17, 2012

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Submitted: September 17, 2012




If you’ve never had the pleasure of going to Courchevel, it’s a fantastic resort with all sorts of terrain for every level of skier. It’s a really well set out resort that is easy for the average skier or boarder to get around. However it’s not very well set out for the drunk idiot trying to make his way back from the bar every night. The resort as a whole is separated into different villages on different levels up the mountain. Where I was staying was located at 1300 meters… the bars and clubs were located at 1850 meters. Just the odd 550 meter drop commute after a night out, on ice, in the dark, completely and utterly wasted.

There were three options to get back home from the clubs each night; one sensible but boring, one a bit less sensible and could result in problems, and one ridiculous way that had no other result but pain and confusion written all over it. The rest of this chapter really should not come as a surprise to you.

The first option was simply to cut the festivities short and catch the last bus back down the mountain at midnight. Yea… not going to happen. The second option was to adopt the gritted surface of the road down the mountain. It may have taken a couple of hours but it was lit, you knew where it headed and there were few icy patches. On paper this is looking like the clear favourite however after getting very well acquainted with Mr Jack Daniel’s over a space of six hours, a two hour hike for some reason doesn’t quite appeal. What is left therefore readers is the third option. This occurs when rational thinking has apparently clocked off for the night. When you spot some other guy looking at you in a club, copying your exact dance moves and looks as though he’s getting as angry as you. You’re not sure how he’s doing it, but he’s copying everything you do at exactly the same time. He even moves towards you at the same time you do. You prepare yourself for a heated argument with someone who you think you can take because he’s roughly the same height and build. You’re just about to shout every obscenity under the sun until the last minute you realise you’ve been looking at a mirror. This, my friends is when you decide to go for option three… to run down the slopes.

Why not, I hear virtually none of you asking. It cuts the journey time dramatically (if you know where you’re going) and if I can ski down it, running down it should be easier shouldn’t it? Remember I did say I’d often left my common sense with my aggressive friend in the mirror. Luckily for me, there were other stupid people with me that agreed that this would be the correct course of action.

If you’ve never been to European resorts, the slopes are all graded differently depending on how steep or difficult they are. This therefore allows Joe Holidaymaker to plan his vacation as he pleases and only go on the terrain he is comfortable on.

The easiest and most gentle slopes are indicated by green poles on the sides; then comes blue which is steeper and can have a few troublesome patches; then red which is steeper still and can be thin, icy; and finally black which is usually the steepest, icy, contains moguls (bumps) and should not be ran down.

Unfortunately the route we “had” to take down involved mastering two reds and a black slope before we were safely tucked up in bed. So there we were, eight of this country’s finest intellectuals, giving each other the final words of encouragement before we set off.

Me: ‘So here we go then and might I say it’s been a pleasure to have known you all.’

Hugh: ‘This doesn’t look too bad, there’s cars parked on either side. It doesn’t look very steep.’

Me: ‘That’s because you’re looking at the road.’

Hugh: ‘Oh…’

(short silence)

Jay: ‘I’m just gonna try a step, see if it’s slippery.’

Me: ‘Is it?’

Jay: ‘I don’t know, I just lost my shoe.’

(short silence)

Tom: ‘I’m a little bit chilly.’

Hugh: ‘Where’s your shirt?’

Tom: ‘I think that’s why I’m chilly.’

(longer silence)

Matt: ‘As long as we don’t fall over we should be fine. Fuck this I’m just gonna go for it and worst case scenario, I fall over.’

Me: ‘You just said as long as we don’t fall over, we’re golden. Worst case scenario we’re fucked.’

(worrying long silence)

Matt: ‘Fuck it, I know I’ll make it. We’ve skied this slope everyday and I’ve never fallen over.’

Tom: ‘Yea I think the two long planks designed for this sort of terrain may have played some small par… oh he’s gone.

Jay: ‘How’s he doing?’

Me: ‘Yea… he’s fallen over’.


After that amazing exhibition on how not to descend a mountain, the rest of us slowly set off on our journey downwards. All except for Tom who’s memory obviously wasn’t out for the night, and copied exactly what Matt had just done. Within one movement his feet had decided they weren’t up to the challenge and positioned themselves firmly above his head. One benefit of this was that due to his screams as his bare back hit the ice, we were able to identify if there were any major drops.

‘Watch out lads, it’s really slippery up there’ was the shout from down below.

‘Oh, so you didn’t mean to use your face as a method of sliding then?’

I started off with the tried and failed method of the snowboard stance, which was sideways with my right foot in front of the left and my hands out uselessly flapping into the darkness. To be fair I got about five meters further than the others before my feet hit something and the rest of my body took flight. Luckily for me, what I had hit was a piste marker and was now making my way, via the air, into an unknown chasm.

The next thing I saw was a flash of white light and the feeling that all the air in my lungs had gotten fed up and left my body. That was because I had sailed head first straight into a tree which had thankfully caught me. Just to add to the humiliation I was now making the sounds of a mule and was still unable to get to my feet. I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I had just concussed myself within ten seconds of setting off, but I couldn’t even remember there being any trees or major drops on this run down. I couldn’t have gone that far in ten seconds could I?

After catching my breath, I set off slowly back up the slope I had apparently just taken off from. I’d been going for about half a minute up the same slope when I started to question where I was going, however I was reassured by the screams I could hear close by.

As I got to the top and back on the piste, I’d realised I’d pretty much taken a right as soon as I’d set off as I could just about see Jay still standing there.

‘What you doing over there?’ he asked.

‘Just thought I’d see what the conditions are like over here’ I replied. ‘I think I may have got concuss…’

‘Oh right, the piste goes this way though’ he interrupted.

‘Brilliant, well thanks for clearing that up. Please, do show me the way wont you.’

I was feeling pretty dizzy at this point but I could have sworn that I saw Jay’s figure jump off the ledge to begin his descent, which I thought was brave. I lost him for a couple of seconds before I saw him come into view on his back head first careering down the mountain. What makes me laugh is that as he past me at speeds, he calmly looked at me and said ‘this way’.

The rest of the run was not much better. On the way down, at least three of us were at some point literally hanging on for our lives. We finally made it to the last slope and we could see our house and therefore safety. In the darkness at 4:30 in the morning, all that stood between eight lonely, cold, wet, beaten up figures and their beds was one two hundred meter black slope. This basically meant it was a very steep icy slide with snow bumps based sporadically. Luckily for us, it was just still dark enough that we couldn’t see them. What was even more worrying was that we had set off from the club well over ninety minutes beforehand.

‘I’m cold, wet, knackered and I think I’ve broken my tail bone; I do not give a flying fuck about doing this slowly or with any grace. All I care about is my bed and the warmth it provides. What we should do is…’

I think it was the tiredness kicking in but I was halfway through some sort of Braveheart speech I had begun for no reason other than to apparently delay proceedings further, when I completely forgot what I was on about, quietly got into the foetal position and set off on my journey. The only blessing from that fantastic decision was that my body was so cold, the majority of my extremities had gone numb and I therefore couldn’t feel the damage that was being inflicted on it. Luckily for me though, that would all come back to me with frightening force once I had warmed up and realised I’d twisted my ankle and ripped most of the skin off my arms.

As I finally came to a stop at the bottom of the slope, still curled in a ball, I took a few moments to wiggle all my toes and fingers. I couldn’t feel any of them anyway so decided it was a pointless task and got to my feet and began the slow trudge to the warmth. I didn’t bother looking round but one by one, I heard limp bodies screaming down the slope behind me, coming to a stop, a few seconds passing before they too began the final journey.

No words were spoken the rest of that night and the majority missed the next day skiing.

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