Readers Blog

Calling You from a Cloud

Posted on: June 15, 2008

Fragments of a diary written in darkness, wearing gloves

Engstligenalp, Switzerland, July 28

I walked up here this morning, I hiked all around the plateau, going up from 6250 feet to a ridge at 8500 feet than back to 7900 feet, then climbing along the ridge a bit, then back again at 6200 than up to another mountain in another direction and finally from 7900 feet down again to sleep at 6200… Now I am all set, well-fed, just sitting by a table outside, facing the full moon hidden in the same mass of cloud where the refuge is… Only since a couple of minutes did these flocks of giant clouds start to float up along the valley and along the precipice of a giant waterfall and now visibility is less than 65 feet. Within the veil of a thick and dense night, there is a layer of fog that envelops everything. I just found some train schedules in my pocket, so I am writing on the back of these papers with cold hands.

It has been more than a month I haven’t seen you, Dear One and I will have to wait another two weeks before you come. Then I will ’loose’ you again, while you and your fellows climb Weisshorn and some more alpine peaks. Then I meet you at the end of August to possibly climb something together with you. In the meantime we develop this habit of sending each other an sms each time one of us reaches a summit, builds a belay place or at least experiences mountain at its purest state.

This morning I hoped so much I would have an experience enabling me to report you right from the spot: YES, I am on a ridge, I see far and I am sending you my love! This is how I set off. When the routes divided themselves, there was one up to a mild summit called Ammertenspitz and I took it. After crossing this huge plateau crowned all around by the Tschingellochtighorn, Chindbettlihorn, Wildstrubel, Rotstock and so many other peaks I had to cross literally a square mile of cows, mainly wildly living out there all summer. Well, one would expect cows to be neutral if not friendly, but these were quite organized and warned each other about the danger they thought I represented for them. There was no question of stopping nearby and taking pictures of them, they made it clear that they preferred me picking up the pace and heading higher.

Although there was a couple of hikers about 300 feet above me, they kept disappearing and re-appearing behind rock formations as the route turned, so I was in fact all alone. Right at the beginning I left behind a German party, they are now far below. As I greeted them I caught the eyes of the last one in the row: an elderly woman. I knew how she felt, I knew how the uphill route was for her… I just felt the effort she made to keep the rhythm of her companions. So many times I had experienced this, and as I grow older chances are I will know that feeling again. I sent her a thought of sympathy.

Then I trudged on, from stone to stone and left behind a thick snow patch that was still lying there as a last reliquary of a bygone winter.

Already the moment I set off I felt how much a balm mountains can be to the soul. The mere fact of seeing and touching them, the view they offer, the wind that blows away mundane worries about workplace stress made me finally feel at ease. This is an easy excursion, loneliness is enjoyable as there is no particularly big risk and I feel just so happy. At times my thoughts wander away, I feel you, and I feel this eagerness to finally hike the same routes with you.

From the ridge it takes me 26 minutes to reach the summit. It is easy to hurry up when there is cold. The view is worth those six hours in the train and all the money the journey costs. The indescribable savageness of the other side and of its steep precipices mesmerizes me. I feel also how the bone-meal is going stiffer in me with the wind getting to power. First I couldn’t take my eyes away from the other end of the valley in the direction of the Wildstrubel and Lenk, and now I cannot see much of it.

The facing ridge is ceaselessly generating cold clouds, relentlessly sending over these dark missionaries of a cruel, stormy caprice. I put my jacket on, have a bite of chocolate and dig my mobile phone out. I am doing all this in one huge mass of grey cloud as the morose messengers all unite around my summit here and around my wind-blown lonely self. Clouds keep coming and coming and coming, not giving wind a chance to break up their line…

No, this will not be an sms. I want to call you, consciously forgetting the roaming fees. The only thing I don’t want to forget is to start downwards as soon as possible. I hear your surprised voice.

‘Yes it is me indeed, you see, I just wanted to be the first woman to call you from a cloud’, I say. You chuckle, ‘you actually ARE the first woman ever to call me from a cloud.’ Never did I miss you so much, but I didn’t say anything about this, I just spell you the name of the mountain I am on and I blow a kiss in the wind. We disconnect, I start balancing down, and can no more afford to think of you. The slope consists of broken haphazardly heaped plaques of stone, it wouldn’t be fortunate if any of them played banana peel with me.