If there are no stupid questions…

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m under the impression that at least half of all the people I meet in the mountains are complete idiots. Please let me explain.

Barre des Écrins

Barre des Écrins north face

I was sitting on the glacier, just below the Refuge des Écrins, eating a simple but delicious cheese sandwich I saved for desperate moments, enjoying the view on the mountain I had climbed. From below a few women approached. They were wearing clothes that would suit perfectly on the beach. For footwear they had chosen sneakers. They were not wearing harnesses, had no gear within reach, and judging by the size of their backpacks they didn’t have any climbing gear with them at all. The first walked by, then stopped and asked in French “Is the hut that way?” pointing in the direction of the Barre de Écrins, away from the hut. The evil genius with slight anger management problems in my mind thought: if you don’t know where the hut is and you can’t even see it in perfect clear conditions, what are you doing here in the first place? And where the @&#$¥ is your climbing gear?! But my sandwich tasted too good to start a war, so I pointed up and said “The refuge is up there,” then pointed back and said “the path starts there.

A while later I was descending the Glacier Blanc and reached the point where you get on / off the ice. People were gathering there, preparing their gear. A woman asked me, also in French, “How are the crevasses?” I felt the urge to respond with “Thnx for asking, they’re doing just fine really“, but instead replied “Okay, bridges are getting worse, will be gone in 1 or 2 days.” She then started a discussion with her partner about whether or not they should use a rope.

I never used toilet paper, why start now?

Next a man asked me, also in French, “Do we need crampons?” I looked at him, gave him a look as if he had asked me if he needed toilet paper after a crap, and said “That’s your call. I always wear crampons on a glacier, just in case I – or anybody else – tumbles into a crevasse. Without crampons you can’t do a thing.” He took some steps on the ice, kicked a block of snow the way he’d probably test a new car by kicking the tire, and mumbled something like “Think it’ll be okay.” Finally there was some strong French talking between him and others from his group, who all seemed to have anger management problems as well and weren’t afraid to express it. The man made a gesture which I interpreted as “I never used toilet paper, why start now?“. But moments later they all unpacked their crampons.

So, if there are no stupid questions…