Monday, August 16, 2010

The Mountains are Melting


Do I like danger? No, not really. But do I like rocky trails with 200-meter drop-offs? Yeah, I kind of do. I also like trails that take me straight up a mountain at a 50-degree angle for four hours. Those are good for the heart, but the rocky ridges are better for my fear of heights. Fifteen years ago, I would never have thought of hiking along cliffs and crevasses.

The trail up to Seefeldsee near Meranzen in South Tyrol wanders up the mountain harmlessly at first on a broad tourist-friendly path. A sign near the bottom promises that the walk will take two hours and forty minutes. An hour later, when we leave the beaten path for a narrower, steeper and rockier one, another sign tells us the walk will now be three hours and twenty minutes. Obviously I’m not the only one on this planet who can’t count.

We wanted to reach that lake (and four hours is, like, only twenty minutes longer than two hours and forty minutes, right? Right?), so we set off—or up, I suppose.

Almost immediately I took out my new camera and started taking shots of flowers. For the moment I could still manage the path while looking through a lens. Then, suddenly we found ourselves on a rocky ledge with nothing but a metal cable to hold onto (sorry, no picture of this. Look, Mom, no hands. Hahahaha. Uh, no). The mountain cabins in the valley—straight down beneath our hiking boots—were dollhouses; the people were just moving dots of red and black.

“I hope the lake is as impressive as this drop,” I said.

Peter the wild goose spanker kept saying “Careful, careful.”

“Like I’m going to break into the macarena dangling from this cable,” I kept saying. It was funny the first time.

Three hours later we reached the spit-on-the-side-of-the-road lake. A pond. A thistle- and tourist-ringed pond. The tourists had obviously come up the mountain from the other side of the mountain, where the path meandered in a lazy zigzag. There were mothers with prams.

“I did the macarena on a wobbly ledge for this?” I said and kept walking. After taking two token shots, I ignored the lake. We were back down in the valley in an hour.

As we were breaking out our Reward (white wine in a thermos), we heard a helicopter making its way up to the path we had taken to the lake. In seconds every person in the valley had their binoculars trained on the spot where a rescue team was lowering itself from the helicopter. (You probably need binoculars to see the helicopter in this photo.) People began hypothesizing: a mountain biker had taken a trail too steep for bikes, an inexperienced tourist had twisted her ankle, someone had been trying to pick Edelweiss illegally.

The real story was in the paper the next day. A rock climber had been on a ledge just a few meters above the path we took. Due to the effects global warming has had on the permafrost in the Dolomites, the rock that he was holding onto came loose and he fell. Like seven other hikers this year in South Tyrol, this young man died.

I’m home safely in Munich today, but this evening I’m off again on a twelve-day hiking trip with my father through Scotland and Ireland, where I doubt we’ll be dancing on ledges. Just great fun with my dad.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to E is for Egypt.

I must be off,
Christopher

__________________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day. 
_________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type

6 comments:

  1. Holy moly! I'm glad you're safe. Insane but safe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. great story-telling-- love the mothers with prams at the top. Very glad though, it wasn't you or Peter the goose-spanker who got the bad rock.

    Have fun with your dad! I used to love heights, but somehow parenthood has knocked it clean out of me. I blame Darwin and wonder if, once my spawn no longer need my protecting, if I might have my mojo back.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am still laughing at "Peter the wild goose spanker..." This is my favorite post of yours yet. Sad about the 'other' hiker and thrilled you made it to the lake and back, alive.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey, you lovely people. We're in the Highlands now. Having a blast.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Too bad about the hiker who fell from the ledge. All the more reason not to do the Macarena on ledges. Maybe while abseiling...well, maybe not.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's crazy. We heard on the radio a couple of days ago that 39 people have died in the mountains this summer alone.

    ReplyDelete

INSTRUCTIONS FOR LEAVING A COMMENT: To leave a comment, first choose how you would like to do so by clicking on the drop-down menu Comment As and select your provider. In many cases this will be Google if you have a gmail account. The quickest way to leave a comment is to choose Anonymous. Then write your comment and click on Publish. Then the blog will ask you to confirm that you are not a robot. Do this. You might have to click on some rivers or dogs, but it takes only a moment or two. Then click on publish again. You're all set. This should work.