Stelvio Pass, Italy

Today is going to be a tumultuous day for me as I write a new page in Maribor folklore.

I found a Spar shop just a mile down the road from the hotel I am staying in and as luck would have it they had a small selection of tin trays with themed views of Maribor District. I was rather taken by the one showing the famous Maribor Wine Cellars.

Just a hundred yards further down the road was a car accessory shop, so I popped in just to browse. As luck had it they had a small reel of 1960’s ‘go faster stripes’, so I bought that and edged the tray with it. There was just enough left over to circle the crown of my leather racing helmet.

Talking with one of the local ski aces I also went a sports equipment shop where I purchased some Alpine ski wax. According to the product description this is also suitable for snowboards and that is very similar to a tray.

Armed with everything I should need for the run, plus a litre bottle of water for me, I set off. The total climb is just short of 1,000 metres and the days of being able to run up and down The Brecon Beacons have, I’m afraid, long gone. A challenge like this is about making it to the destination rather than how long it takes.

There were four options open to me, the first being to take a gondola; quick, effortless, cheap, no fun. Then there are two official paths, the short and the long. The former is very steep and requires you to be fairly sure footed and fit. The latter is longer but a relatively easy slope. The final one, not advertised is Roy’s way, referred to in wintertime as ‘off piste’, I believe. Certainly I was piste off!

You would think that anyone that can navigate across seven countries in Central America without a map would be able to find one of two criss-crossing paths in a mountain forest. There are however certain advantages of my route; it was largely uninhabited by other humans, but did have some wildlife. What took my attention particularly were two deer, a mother and her ‘Bambi’. I don’t know what type of deer they have here, but they do have pretty faces with large brown eyes. I watched this pair for about fifteen minutes before accidently banging the tray in my left hand against a tree stump.

Occasionally my wanderings would burst out from the forest into the clear track below one of the chair lifts so I could get a brief idea of how far I had climbed. At around half-way I realised just how much I was missing my usual three times a week gym sessions. I decided not to break into the water supply until much further on realising how the need for such refreshment became inversely proportional to the distance climbed. All the additional items I carried started to become irritating the more laboured my climbing became.

Once more my trail crossed the path of the main gondola lift and the vista from mountain was awe inspiring. I could also imagine a covering of snow across the whole area and skiers gliding down the slopes. This thought really emphasised how hot it now was; certainly the air temperature was in the mid-thirties even though it couldn’t have been more than 10:00am.

Some good Samaritan had erected a wooden bench no more the twenty yards from where I was so I walked over and decided to rest for a few minutes and open my water. I put the tray down on the grass and the bottle of water on the tray. I then unharnessed myself from the rucksack in which was my racing helmet, goggles and safety equipment. This comprised of elbow and knee protectors that I borrowed from the Mountain Bike Hire Company located at the gondola station.

I rather clumsily dropped the rucksack knocking the tray and causing the water bottle to topple over. I unslung the camera bag more carefully and placed that beside me on the bench, then turned to retrieve the water bottle from the tray. Instant alarm! When the water bottle fell it rolled across the tray; this change in weight distribution caused the tray to start sliding. By the time I turned to pick up the water bottle, it, and the tray, were at least fifty feet away and gaining momentum.

Decision; should I run after the tray and was there any realistic chance of catching it. Let it go and I will retrieve it when I return to the bottom of the mountain. The great summer slalom would have to wait until tomorrow, when I will use the Gondola lift. I can work this evening on a range of accessories and a full marketing plan…….

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