One frosty, early morning in Courmayeur, mountain town in the land of Fiat Pandas, armed policemen dressed in Armani, one-euro ristrettos, garlic foccacia as a bar snack, and hot chocolates thick enough to stand a spoon in…. 36 PHAT men and woman met by a bus with an important journey: The PHAT-Exit. 2017’s PHAT Challenge was firstly to orienteer around the scattered mountains of La Thuile, hunting down eight political beasts that had been running ragged around Europe and the world at large.
Until they climbed aboard the bus of PHate, the PHATs didn’t realise that they were, in PHact, to be split up into separate European entities and divided against one another. PHuelled with an Italian-Stallion-Second-Breakfast of caffeine, gloopy scalding hot chocolates, cakes and pastries, the separated parties met with their IAMG “guides” and, donning their separate team colours, they planned their route around the mountains to find the “personalities,” possibly entrapped in Pokemon caricatures on posts.
“OK, Now You Can Panic!” was the order of the day and the motif adorning each of the PHAT’s coloured bibs.
Transceivers and ARVA kit issued (with a few ropes and climbing harnesses to boot… just in case), each group gathered up their power-pack of:
- Selfie stick for photos to prove they reached checkpoint
- Orienteering map
- Clue-sheet and co-ordinates to find the checkpoints
They raced their way around the snowy peaks and trouPHs of La Thuile, chasing red herrings, boot-packing up fruitless hillsides and, sometimes, finding the hidden treasures of Farage, Sturgeon, May, Johnson, Merkel, Putin and even the inimitable John Shepherd. The final Pokemon checkpoint was, indeed, the one and only Donald Trump, and what was more, behind him came the dulcet tones of Tea Dance Music and alluring aromas of the last bastions of Britishness: A Great British Tea Party!
Tea (with milk and sugar) and scones (with jam and cream) and cucumber sandwiches (not-soggy-at-all) were served up by Prince Harry and the cool-as-a-cucumber Swedish Tea Lady, while tinny old classics such as “Let’s Face the Music & Dance” serenaded the sunny vista of the European Alps. The PHair PHATs enjoyed a spiff-PHing tea party, and were PHoroughly reminded of the halcyon days of everything-that-was-great-about-Britain (or so we PHink, anyway). Who needs luscious Italian-roasted coffee when well-stewed tea hits the spot just as well?
Meanwhile a few of the PHATs discovered extra points were to be scored, simply by using their own finely-honed search and rescue skills. There was someone shamefully buried in the snow by the Europeans, and transceivers, shovels and probes were needed to locate and dig him (or her) out. The winning team in fact wished they hadn’t made the mistake of over-enthusiasm, as they actually dug out Donald Trump. As they recovered the limp individual, stashes of chocolate gold Sterling, spiders, grubs, lizards, bunny tails and other horrid things fell out of his tummy. Oh well! At least the Transceiver and brilliant pink ski suit was recovered.
Despite one team rocking up to the Tea Party long after everyone had left, somehow they all made it down the mountain to share another challenge as a whole group… To cross European Borders while it’s still possible. And all the PHATs skied to a delicious French lunch at the humble little hillside restaurant of L’Ancolie in La Rosiere. Amazingly, despite having those dodgy old British passports, and dodgier faces (Thursday night had apparently been a bit hard on them), the only Border Control to intercept them was… A Neon Polar Bear. Belting out the Babbadaboopee of Italian rhetoric, this bear with a mission made them empty their wallets if they wanted to get past. The Border Bear knew that the only thing worth doing with PHAT euros was to send it to a cause more worthy, and on the chilly mountain pass, those notes and coins released, windily, from pockets were packaged into a silver bag and sent off to Scotland’s Disability Snowsports. Polar Bears have ePHics.
After chowing down their French Onion Soup, baguette and “demi-pensions” (French beer on draft), necking their petit expressos, the tireless PHATs set off on an afternoon ski-blast, charged with an extra mini-mission to mark the significance of 20th January. In the spirit of Inauguration of a man with ideals, each team was asked to Build a Wall…. and take a photo. Hmmm, epic skiing with brilliant guides all over the stunning mountain range of La Rosiere and La Thuile OR drop out of the off-piste thrills to do some shovelling and wall-building. Perform the task set by PHAT HQ? Did they PHAT!
By well past the meeting time set for PHAT-apero and last lifts, certain PHAT teams were still being shooed off the mountain pistes by Italian Officials, while the rest of us were settling into standard-issue hot,yellow, eggy, creamy, liquor-rich Bombardinos in the cosy wee remote(ish) and rocking Roxi Bar. The sinking clementine sun painted our wintery world with alpenglow dreaminess and it felt like the right time to ski on down to the phinal destination on the PHAT Challenge La Thuile adventure.
Treated to fluffy lines of floaty fresh powder, the now-philosophical PHATs drifted their way to La Riondet, a brilliant old-school mountain restaurant, family run for the last forty years or so.
As the skiers and snowboarders drank steaming hot white wine in terracotta cups, in the distance, silhouetted against PHading lilac light, trekked five intrepid PHigures, led by PHAT HQ’s very own Diana Wallace – joining the PHAT dinner via their own epic mission on snow-shoes from the valley floor. Tired but happy (mostly), they were cheered and toasted with more hot wine and then everyone went inside together to face more local specialities of raclette, wild game, ratatouille, roasted vegetables, red wine, rich dessert, grappa and more coffee. While bellies were bursting, the great prize-giving and epic speeches washed over the phrazzled PHATs and, all too soon, the ski-cats were summonsed to transport them down the mountain to another bus waiting by a little white church in the charming tiny Village called Serrand.
PHorty winks were skilfully grabbed on the winding journey back to the PHAT base of Courmayeur.
The PHATs and PHATettes avoided temptation of passing out, exhausted in hotel beds… Made of sterner stuff than that, they all gritted their teeth, smartened up and donned their kilts and sporrans, ready to march in a Scottish Parade up the cobbled streets of Courmayeur. Before they knew it, they were met by a Kilted Yeti Fiddler. A wee Scottish street dance occurred before they hit the wild world of Bar Roma, inside where the great Chamonix Band called Reel Relish were starting to strum their stuff and getting the proper ceilidh dancing juices flowing PHaster than the beers were. From Accordion Strip The Willow to Russian Traditional Dancing to Phenomenal Disco Shapes, the Scots and Brits of PHAT-world pounded the floorboards of Bar Roma. And in the backroom, what on earth could be happening? A Donald Trump PhotoBooth of course, to mark the USA Inauguration Day. Before long, most PHATs and random strangers were face-painted a toxic-orange colour and had photographic evidence of donning their most outrageous impersonation of the new Mr President. And the party had only just started.
The next day, PHAT HQ team popped along to Bar Roma, on the hunt for the various relics lost along the way of an epic night and day. They were given just a couple of hair-of-the-dog shots, “on the house” by the Bar Staff, simply because it had apparently been the Best and Wildest party Bar Roma had ever seen.
Just for that reason, the PHAT Challenge remains PHorever European!
Huge Thanks to Our PHAT 2017 Sponsors
And Huge Thanks to You!
Thanks to everyone who contributed towards our Fundraising. The 2017 PHAT Challenge has raised £6,050.00 and still counting for Disability Snowsport UK . If you’ve still got some spare change for this great charity, please go to the PHAT Challenge Just Giving Page.
Post-script – Fake News? The Chamonix event management team didn’t believe that the attendees at PHAT Challenge events are in fact “grown-up” and “sensible business people” and have had to be convinced that this is not an ‘alternative PHact’!
Finally, the Whiteburn team would like to thank you all for putting your faith in us for a day and helping make PHAT such a brilliant business development event; proving you can mix business with pleasure! Until next year ….