Monday July 02. Away by 8.45 and gathered everyone into various cars to drive down the long forest track and around to the town of Pichl. Parking next to a tennis court we walked up the road until we found the base of the ski-lift. As we walked through their paddock, a pony took an intense dislike to Draco, and chased the poor dog around and out of their field. It was only funny because it wasn’t Polly, who would have been seriously unnerved had she noticed what was going on. Most of us stripped off as we got to the other side of the field and started to walk up the zig-zagging track which was apparently used as the blue run down in the winter, through the forest and up the hillside, Chris taking back-marker position. Although it was hot and sunny, a wind was clearly getting up and threatening to change the weather on us. We passed the Gasthof Winterer and a couple of Austrian mountain ducks, a friendly farmer pointed us up the hill towards the piste which he’d just mown, as an alternative to the boring road route. As we toiled up the wide green piste, we passed a friendly and chatty couple sitting on a bench taking in the view. I imagine their view changed as we passed by. The next group of people were somewhat more taciturn in their greetings to the 16 naked men passing them on the slope. The sweat began to drip from us as we gained height and as the sky grew darker and the air thickened all around us. As we entered the higher forest trails, and zig-zagged under the trees, we passed several more people and another dog. All were friendly, if a little surprised, and Pierre and I chatted about the weather to one slightly older couple, not far below the top. We arrived at the mountain Gasthof of Hochwurzen and ordered a round of drinks for ourselves, sitting sweatily down at the table with all the people who’d come up by cable car. As we looked around, we could see the clouds were building heavily, and there were cracks of thunder in the distance. Post-lunch we decided to cut it short and just head down from the minor ridge ahead of us. Ian now took over as back-marker and we promptly lost Michael who was sleeping, unnoticed. As the first rain drops fell, we collected everyone together before heading off again. A couple who’d we’d met briefly on the summit, when several of us had been naked, now passed us in the forest when we were almost all naked now, and their only comment was to Mira, who was smoking a cigarette: “I don’t think smoking is allowed in the forest, you could get into a lot of trouble for that!” before moving on past us. We followed the easy path down the hillside, as the cracks of thunder got louder, and the occasional rain drops got larger. As we approached the main descent forestry track the heavens opened and we were being steadily drenched. Some of us walked on naked, or under umbrellas, and others wore their wet weather gear, with various permutations of plastic and goretex. It wasn’t particularly cold, but it was certainly wet. The view across the valley into the cloud was salutary as the wisps of cloud hid the peaks and brought another wave of rain. We separated as Sandro was going slowly and others wanted to go on ahead to start shopping, and descended in 2 groups. The rain became quite atrocious at one point, and we were beginning to look like drowned rats. After a while we re-grouped with the faster (?) group, and this time it was Polly’s turn to cross the field with the Pony from hell. Thankfully Chris ran interference for Polly, and we managed to get across without incident. We drove back to the hut in various stages with cars full of wet but happy people. Overnight the rain did not let up, and kept us awake as it beat loudly against the roof just above our heads in the bunk beds.