Also posted on Summitpost here
Great to see an old friend
Our friend Nancy came to visit from the U.S.. Actually she was over here for several reasons, and kindly made a stop to visit us too. In just a few days time she taught Kris how to make the worlds greatest vegetable soup, and how to get our boys to eat carrots as a snack. Nancy, her husband Mark, and sons Aidan and Graff are just people with more vigor for life than anyone we know.
So since she had a day to go on a hike, I had to really pull out all the stops. The weather forecast was perfect. What should we do? I thought of all kinds of huge hikes, but Nancy pulled me up short with the comment, “well anything under 500 meters gain and loss is okay.” Huh? My wife was laughing at me while I tried not to look crestfallen at this outrageous restriction!
But I kept thinking, and eventually realized that with the aid of a ski lift, we could mostly satisfy the requirement, while still exercising in an amazing alpine ambiance.
“Have you ever climbed a via ferrata, Nancy?” I asked.
“No, what’s that?”
“Oh, you’ll see!”
Are you sure these shoes are okay?
We are zooming up to the “Nordkette,” that string of pearl mountains above Innsbruck. I always wish I could live in that town. Others on the gondola have heavy, steel-shanked boots. “Are you sure these hiking shoes are okay?” Nancy asks. “Sure, look at me!” I pointed to my old tennis shoes, now getting holes in them as they usually do after nine months. Karwendel scree-skiing is really hard on them.
Indeed, south sides looked warm and inviting. But on the crest we found ourselves walking an icy sidewalk. “Hmm…” we thought.
I was really struck by Nancy’s fashion sense. She had beautiful earrings, a lovely burgundy scarf, possibly handmade. Oddly, the helmet I loaned her matched her ensemble perfectly. How could anyone look so well-coiffed out here? And she has a steel core too. Here she is looking absolutely carefree, this after a set of vertical ladders which forced her to dig deep and overcome three or four layers of acrophobia:
We have to go over there?
Nancy and I were both enjoying the route. Warm sun, incredible views on either side of the ridge. Along the way we met a woman I knew from the Munich Thalkirchen climbing gym. What a small world! After three or four summits though, we started to wonder “Hmm, how far do we have to go, really?” Occasionally we had to traverse on the north side of the ridge, which was scarily iced. Those took a lot of mental energy.
“Pass by what you do not love,” said Nancy earlier, meaning that this was a great experience, and explicitly NOT something to pass by without sampling. But it started to feel like a slog. We looked in vain for ways off the ridge to the south, but getting down that loose terrain would hold more challenges than it looked like from above. The novelty of a bridge was exciting:
But by the last summit, we were very hopeful that it actually was the last summit. Indeed it was…frayed nerves had had enough! Now we remembered we were having fun. One more “stressy” north side traverse, then finally we were bounding down trail to a broad pass.
Sigh! Why do I always get my best friends (who aren’t 100% oriented to climbing) into over-large adventures? I just really want to wow them, and it was the same with Nancy. She already felt sore and tired, but we gratefully walked easy trail back to the lift station, making it 20 minutes before the last gondola down. There was just enough time for a celebration beer.
So when you want to give your friends something to curse about, bring them to the Nordkette…and always promise “the very next summit” is the last!