Wednesday, January 13, 2016

heading to work

I’ve found my morning routine now.  I get up just before six, pass by the bathroom, put the kettle on and spend fifteen minutes involved in stretching and breathing exercises.  (the first chapter of a Tai Chi book that I started a couple of years ago)  I’ll proceed through the rest of the book one day, but for the moment this does me the world of good,    Make a cup of tea and enjoy a bowl of fruit and nut porridge, slow cooked in a thermos that I start off the night before.  Put on my outdoor gear over what I am already wearing, thick ski trousers, my big jacket, equip myself with snow boots, gloves, goggles, wooly hat and ipod and set off towards Saint Lary at around seven ten/fifteen.   Have to be there by seven thirty.  It’ll have to be earlier when it’s snowed hard, but for now, that’s not happened.  During the brisk walk through the village I listen to Michel Thomas teaching Spanish.  Fifteen minutes every morning gets me to work with a few extra words and I go over and over the class till it sticks in my head.  If I get other opportunities, such as alone in a ski lift, of an evening or on the way home, I listen to more, but it gets me to work every morning in a productive manner.

I say to work, it’s the meeting point for where everyone who works in the refuge or another restaurant on the slopes, the Merlans,  has to meet to start the communal journey up the mountain.

There is a mini bus that takes nine of us, any one else has to take the cable car and a bus for the first leg of the journey.  Twenty minutes or so drive up the windy mountain road to the next stage of the journey, the ‘eggs’  enclosed pods that seat six that take us another 600m up into the ski resort.  Before we leave on these there are usually a couple of lorries waiting with deliveries for
the two establishments.  

The deliveries are unloaded outside the building and the boxes carried upstairs to the departure level by hand.  Once all there and the ‘eggs’ are ready to go, some of the team heads off to the top to receive the boxes.  Down below, one or two people load each pod with a couple of boxes, making sure that they are easily retrievable as the pod passes by at the top.  

The lift takes eleven minutes to reach the top when running well, a lot longer when there are technical difficulties or it is windy, the longest ascent for me has been over half an hour, howling sub zero winds outside, swirling snow and minimal visibility in the dawn twilight (if there is such a thing).  

At the top, the team manhandle the boxes out of the pods, pass them along a human chain to be loaded into a snow scooter trailer for the next leg of the journey.  There is frequently too much merchandise for one trailer, so it heads off to be unloaded before returning for the remaining items.  My, our, goods always get loaded second as they go to a different location where they are unloaded once again, in preparation for a downward journey by chair lift to the refuge.  To catch up with the snow scooter and our goods, we either take a ski lift on it’s descent, which takes five minutes or so if it’s running, or a brisk fifteen/twenty minutes by food along the edge of a ski slope, way before any skiers are about.  Not too bad when it’s calm and sunny, but when the weather sets in, all that clothing I mentioned earlier comes in mighty useful.

We then wait with our goods until the lift team arrive and go through their start up procedures and ensure that the lift is running.  Sometimes they are already there.  Our goods are then manhandled again and precariously placed on individual chairs on a chair lift, one person sets off ahead to receive them down below.  Smaller items go in large plastic crates, though care must be taken as the crates then have to be lifted on and off of the ever moving chairs as they pass by.  (Never would this be allowed in the UK, Health and Safety would have a field day)

This lift then drops down into the most remote and inaccessible part of the resort.  Frequently accessible by ski slope, but this season, due to the lack of snow, only by this lift.  A glorious setting overlooking wild mountain scenery where mountain beasts roam and birds of prey circle overhead.  No lights are visible at night and the only sounds are from the constant torrent of water in the stream and the wind in the trees.  

The boxes are grabbed off the chairs as they pass then walked, barrowed or sack trucked the last twenty metres to the back door of the refuge where they are sorted and stored immediately.

The morning team frequently don’t arrive and finish putting away the delivery of the day until way gone ten o’clock.
on top of the world at sunriseo 
loading our delivery onto the snow scooter trailer

last weeks rubbish heading down the moutain

en route - walking down an empty ski slope 

we came from right up there in the distance

going down again with boxes of stores

and down further

this is going to look amazing covered in snow

to the refuge - new wooden fascade on the left of the photo, the Lac de l'Oule dam is visible on the right.

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