Mio surprised me with the news that she is at last coming back from Japan this week. She went to Japan the same day I went to Canada. That was over 6 weeks ago. This weekend we are going to Austria for some back country time and also Grahams birthday. Then next Friday we pick up a pretty big campervan and spend a full three weeks on the road in the Alps. Mostly we will base in Chamonix, but on the way there and back we will also visit Austria, our favorite hidden true backcountry valley in Switzerland and Alagna at the base of Monte Rosa. My igloo maker arrived this week and I reckon we will spend a few nights in an igloo as well.
On the weekend Graham and I enjoyed the best powder either of us had seen so far this season.
Saturday consisted of more short runs at Kuhtai on a NW aspect. Avalanche risk was low, although we knocked sluff pretty easily. The snow was in places knee deep, dry and cold on top of a soft crust above more old semi soft snow. Turns were bringing billows of powder curls from beneath our boards.
I really enjoyed riding the 5'5" Dupraz again. It has such nice hop and flow between turns and gives such a casual surf. Graham was 100% happy with the snow. We lapped various lines within a small tree cluster that centered around a bowl that contained a few little steep chutes and some small rollovers and minor rock drops. Below the bowl the lines opened up into a series of benches with spaced trees and open powder. The line above the trees was coldest and deepest and gave several turns before a steep rollover into the bowl.
I ended the day feeling pretty dogged with the flu that I had been holding off all week. That afternoon it looked like I was going to be overtaken with it.
We both slept in our respective cars on Saturday night, quite cold at -8 degrees C at 6.30am when we woke up.
On Sunday we went to nearby Praxmar to tour some terrain we picked out on the topo map the previous evening in an Austrian eating house. It turned out to be a super popular touring destination and we counted over 30 people on the skin track at one stage. There were easily more, just not all visible. It was quite tracked out, but the terrain was good. I started to feel very flu ridden again and so slowed down and then stopped altogether whilst Graham went on for the top of the ridge with Lloyd. I took out my emergency micro gas stove and melted snow for a cup of hot tea, which made me feel better. The flu was a hassle and giving me some serious irritable grumpiness.
Graham rode back down to my position of rest and we continued on together. There was plenty of dry cold fresh snow, but also plenty of tracks. Graham enjoyed several good clean powder turns in a nice untouched field higher up.
I had a 7+ hour drive ahead of me so was glad to have rested and conserved my health for the longer haul.
Driving home I stopped very briefly in a traffic jam on the autobahn. Just as the traffic jam started to clear my engine failed. I was stuck in the middle of the autobahn and the car wouldn't start. Dusk had just passed and it was getting quite dark. As I stepped out of the car the remaining few cars in the jam pulled out around me and left me totally alone in the middle of an Autobahn moving at full speed. Just opening the door was risking the paint of the cars passing me. It was significant place to be.
I was in the middle lane attempting to push the car off the road. The inside fast lane had cars zooming past my bum at over 200kph. Cars in my lane were doing about 150kph and had to change lanes to go around me. The slower ones changed into the outside lane, which now had cars travelling at about 100kph. I was in the middle of all this attempting to push a very heavy and big Audi A4 station wagon on a totally flat road whilst steering it at the same time through the slightly opened drivers door. That's like trying to push a car your left arm, steering with the right arm. The A4 is a heavy set vehicle designed for high speed.
I was not scared, but I knew that I had to get off that road fast. At 200kph you simply cant tell if a car in front of you is moving fast or slow, let alone being pushed by a guy in a black top at night time. It was a lethal situation: the autobahn was loaded with cars and trucks and I could barely move the thing on my own.
The adrenalin must have helped, because I pushed so hard until the car moved, and then I steered it so slowly towards the edge. I was inching along and having to stop every time a car swerved inside of me, blocking the way to the road side. Several trucks went by (they are limited to 100kph). I think it took about 4 minutes to get off the road. I was partway there when I tore my back muscle (an old injury). It hurt like hell. By the time I managed to get the car off the road I was in agony, so I sat there for a while taking a few breaths.
Rather than being scared I was genuinely aware of the fact that a car was going to obliterate me sooner or later - so I had to get the me and it off the road. I knew a hit was coming as I pushed and my mind wondered into thoughts about what would happen to me if I was hit. For some reason I was most concerned about hitting my temple on the sharp corner or the car door window box. I also felt sorry for Lloyd.
Last weekend I drove this very stretch at 240kph. This week I was push steering a tank across it. Its a different perspective.
Avis sent a pickup car and tow truck and I dosed up of a near lethal amount of pain killers whilst waiting for them (and felt pretty good afterwards). The nice guys that came to help took me to Cologne where I rented another car and drove home.
The really bad news is that the engine seized because I accidentally and unknowingly put 10 dollars worth of petrol in a modern high performance diesel engine. I may yet be fully liable for the replacement of the engine and the daily rental price for each day it is off the road. It would cost me an unspeakable amount of money: and A4 is a serious car. I should never have accepted the free upgrade from Avis.
The fuel mistake was actually quite understandable when I consider the odd situation at the pump I pulled up at. Almost any foreigner could have made the same mistake in a hurry. But they didn't and its my fault that I did.