Best Laid Plans

2,800 metres above sea level with a storm fast approaching, Rachel Fenton’s Alps adventure was quickly changing from a mountain bike exploration to a fast and loose scramble to safety. Faced with a steep rocky descent, obscured by snow and ice, this is where the adventure really began…

With the boom of thunder in the distance we climbed off our bikes and pushed the final 200m. When we reached the top of the Forcola Pass we stopped momentarily to catch our breath, record the moment for posterity and take in our surroundings; the peace was soon interrupted by more distant rumbling. In places the route down was ankle deep in snow but there was no time to hang around and contemplate how we would get through. Clinging to the wheel in front adrenaline took over. There was no question of picking our way down the loose rocky trail – at that moment everything was rideable. There was no way we wanted to be stuck at 2,800m in a storm.

In this technologically-advanced era, exploring outdoors seems easy to plan. Tried-and-tested GPS routes can be googled and downloaded, and weather apps provide hour-by-hour forecasts at the swipe of a finger. So how did we end up at the top of the Forcola Pass with a storm on the way towards us? The easy answer is that we simply followed a line on the computer that told us to turn right at the top of the Umbrail Pass. Where that line was going to take us hadn’t even crossed our minds; we were simply following a route that would take us home and had been promised the views were stunning.

A couple of days later and navigation by pen and ink seemed equally fanciful. All plans for the week had been changed taking into account an unseasonable summer snow storm and the length of time it was taking me to get up some of the high mountain climbs, the altitude affecting me more than expected. So I found myself with my bike on my back clambering up a rocky outcrop and cursing my lack of attention to the contours on the map. Now its not that I can’t read a map – years of Scouts and mountain bike exploring mean I can do that pretty well – but I am very out of practice and it showed. Days at trail centres following way markers, being shown the way by local guides, and my recently acquired GPS have left me lazy and foolishly I forgot to think about those orange lines. The joy of the alps is that there definitely was a perfectly marked trail it just wasn’t really a bike climb. So I was forced to overcome my steep-climb induced vertigo and gradually make my way to the summit, calves burning and head spinning.

Looking around from the mountain lake, to pink alpine flowers and with snow-capped mountains in the not so far distance, my fear was replaced by that blissful sense of achievement only found from overcoming an unexpected obstacle. We certainly hadn’t counted on taking two hours to do the first climb but breathing at that moment it didn’t matter how long it had taken, it was just one component in an unfolding adventure.

We had planned the whole stay in the mountains carefully so that we were making the most of our limited holiday time. It would have been very easy to be disappointed with the crazy mountain weather and annoyed at my body struggling to adapt to the long climbs and high altitude. Instead we found ourselves in more stunning places and challenging situations simply because we couldn’t do what we had planned. As the saying goes ‘The best laid plans of Mice and Men, often go awry’, so look up from the GPS, take in the view and remember you really can’t plan to have an adventure, adventure finds you.

Rachel was able to rely on her Lifedge Waterproof iPhone Case to protect her iPhone throughout the adventure. No matter how tough things got, she could access all of the features of her iPhone whenever she needed them.