Sunday, July 08, 2007

One of the many traits I have inherited from my father is a healthy respect for heights. The serious hiking I have done in the past 36 hours has tested that, often seeming to give life to one of my reoccurring nightmares. But now, I can say that I have climbed an Alp. It all started yesterday morning, and after a two-hour car ride from Nyon I found myself at the base of an magnificently large mountain. One hour into the hike the group of about 20, of which some family members and myself were apart of, stopped for a picnic lunch in the mountains. The experience was so Swiss; it made a foreigner like me laugh. The lunches were what one would expect, lots of cheese and bread, snacky foods of multiple varieties, fresh fruit and vegetables. The surprise came when multiple wine bottles immerged from backpacks filled with fleeces, ice picks, rope and climbing harnesses. These were no novices to hiking either out for a quick hike and some wine drinking. This also seemed to be no surprise to the rest of the group who was, for the most part, all Swiss. Now, I’ve gone on many a hike and not once has anyone I have ever hiked with pulled out a wine bottle in the middle of it.

After lunch, the Swiss filled with wine and cheese and me anxious to get to the small dot high off in the mountain that I had been told was our destination for the night, we began our journey to the top. Above the tree line, the elevation was hard to ignore. Shortness of breath was quickly felt as we walked over rocks, through snow and up switchback after switchback. The large piles of snow provided for perfect opportunity to torture playful family members, in other words my cousin’s husband with whom I keep up a healthy banter of teasing and ‘correcting’. I would like to add that he started it. Snow was thrown from a distance with the thrower suddenly looking away as the victim yelled upon impact of a freezing watery mess. People were wrestled to the ground and handfuls of snow were thrown down their backs.

The far-off square dot that was our destination seemed to remain at the same distance at more and more daunting heights. Arriving about an hour or more after the main group we relished the ability to stand on flat land and sit on something other than a cold rock. Dinner was had with laughter, and exhausted sighs from some and excited congratulatory yells from others. Around 10pm the Cabin staff politely told all to go to bed. Our boisterous group climbed the stairs of the cabin and filed into the room that had been reserved for us. One side of the room was filled with mattresses lined up side by side, another row of the same on a long giant bunk above that, while the other side of the room had 4 single bunks at various levels and dozens of backpack sized cubbyholes. Little sleep was had by most and those that did sleep were not as refreshed as they would have hopep to be. The room was filled with loud whisperers, multiple snorers and two children who awoke frequently and whimpered until their surrounding parents moved out of their sleeping way.

The next morning started at 730am when I was told to pack up my things and get down stairs to eat some bread and have some tea. The descent down the mountain was far more enjoyable. Breathing was unlabored and the lower temperatures made the hiking quite pleasant. Snow piles once again provided for a quick distraction as snowballs were thrown over and at family members.

My cousin’s husband and myself hiked ahead to retrieve the car another hour and a half away. We returned just in time to rescue our remaining party from the rain and biting wind. And that is the story of how I climbed an Alp. I think I prefer to look at the Alps and hike the mountains of upstate New York.


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