Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Freezing on the Brenner Pass
Weather: with icy temperatures and clear conditions, with a fresh breeze.
Brenner pass is above 4,000 feet, so it takes a good while to make your way there--particularly as conditions frustrate some of your movements. You have to dismount and walk your horses, which proves somewhat difficult given the climb and that you're all leading two horses apiece.
Saturday morning proves to be quite frosty, with a little bit of ice on the rims of your bottles, plus hoarfrost upon the rocks. It's somewhat worrying, and the party cannot help but question the wisdom of going forward.
As the afternoon begins, the weather is clear and there is a gentle breeze blowing at your backs ... but with a strange, unexpected rush, you feel this tremendous warm front roll down from the mountains above you - the Stupai Alps on your right, the Zillertal on your left, bringing both warm conditions and a high, wild wind. The effect is somewhat concerning - the wind puts whole trees in motion, driving them until they seem ready to uproot and dance - and the party decides, before losing a horse or slipping off a poor footing into a gulley, to cease their travels and settle down. Finding a glade of high spruce trees and the crest of a ridge for a natural windbreak, the party finds the weather almost uncomfortably warm, stripping down to their shirts and enjoying the sight of the wind as it tears through the forests and across the open meadows, turning them like the sea.
It is not to last, however, for more than a few hours. The warm air strikes against the cold front across the valley, and as night falls and as the temperature turns brisk the party finds itself in a deluge of steady showers. The wind disappears and the sky drops a quarter-inch of rain, washing down the valley. The ridge gives a cascade of water after the first half an hour, driving the party wet and weary to another place, gathering pots and tools and horses with them, slogging through mud to their ankles until at last they settle again on stony, drained ground between trees. Teeth chattering, freezing, wet to the bone, the party pitches their tents and goes to bed without supper.
Outside, the temperature continues to fall until the rain turns to snow, then at last ceases, leaving a mere dusting upon the ground. However, by the time the sun rises - a cold and damp party, having gotten little or no sleep at all, huddled against hope to warm up - to a crystal clear, icy day. The temperature is well below freezing, and most of the water is scummed with ice, the rocks rimed over. The wood the party might use to build a fire is logged and wet, but by this point some sort of fire is needed, else the party will catch their death of cold.