After five days of watching the cable cars glide their way up the mountain – part of the much featured view from our bedroom window – we grabbed a few hours on Tuesday morning to take the ride.
And what a ride it was. Three separate stages on your way up to Cima Tofana di Mezzo, an oxygen sapping, lung depriving 3,244m above sea level, and site of that hole in the rock I noticed from down below a few days ago.
From your final landing point in what looks like a moonscape, there is a set of somewhat rust metal steps leading up to the very top. Peter, still suffering reduced lung capacity from his bout of pleurisy, took one step towards the top before heading for the coffee counter indoors. I made it about half way up – serious flashbacks to Kilimanjaro!
I will let the views speak for themselves. Wow!
And of course it wouldn’t be an adventure without, well, the adventure part! Having listened to our driver on the way up telling a couple of his American compatriots that he always goes up prepared (with food, drink and plenty of warm clothes) because you never know when you might get stuck up there….
There we were, sailing downwards, noticing the men working on the pylons supporting the cables, when crash, BANG THUMP! Then silence….
Driver presses all the buttons available to him. Nothing. Phone rings – much talking (in Italian, damn!). Meanwhile, Peter, I and two young American lads wander around the car (big enough for 30 people), quite pleased we are not in the car we just passed, now swinging in mid air with about 25 people on board. What are the odds that someone in that car is panicking?
We remain calm.
We speculate about whether we could prop the ladder attached to the roof across the open space to the pylon, and climb down. It is extremely far down! We watch with interest as it transpires there are two men working on the pylon above us. One climbs down to our level to peer in at the control panel through the window (maybe not believing the driver that it is dead). Driver sees him looking and presses all the dead buttons again. Nothing.
Now there’s someone walking on the roof of our cable car. “Adjusting the clamps” says our driver. “Possibly not the best time to be adjusting the clamps” says Peter. Time passes… Then very slowly we start edging down again (along the cable, thankfully not straight down!). We speed up a little as the final base station comes into sight…. Our driver takes out his climbing harness and starts putting it on. We wonder should we panic now, or maybe adopt the recommended brace position?
We land uneventfully… But our driver rushes round to the other side and starts climbing up onto the roof. Perhaps we should have panicked after all?