One week ago, the annual old boys gathering with people from Woodpeckers home town was due again.
As we were going to meet at lake Tegernsee close to Munich, Woodpecker and one guy who lives here too decided to prolong the gathering by an extra night on a hut close to the lake, a ca. 3 hrs / 1.000 height meter hike up on to mountain top.
The hut was assumed to be pretty booked but the week before our trip a huge autumn storm hit Germany. So one day prior to our departure the landlord called me up and strongly recommended not to go, as +1 meter of fresh snow had fallen in the mountains, with a lot of wind to produce snowdrifts, the ways not cleared and the storm still raging outside.
Well, if you ever fought your way uphill through the mountains in 1 meter of fresh snow you know that this is not quite an easy task.
However, the next day was calm, the mountains glazing in the sun (so the webcam told me) and after a second call to the landlord and a check for the avalanche situation we decided to start anyway. We rented out a couple of snow-shoes for the flatter first half of the hike, and packed avalanche shovels, snow trousers and all the other winter gear plus enough schnapps for the steep upper half.
The first part was easy-going through a fairy tale snow-white and untouched winter forest, crisp air and nobody else walking around. The snow-shoes served us well and soon we reached a hut half-way up.
That was where the real fun started. The inclination got too steep now to use the snow shoes efficiently and the snow was so soft that they were sinking in anyway.
So the only way was to bulldoze our way up, sinking in up to the hips with every step, with snow everywhere, taking turns every 50 meters. Fortunately we were good on time, and a jigger of booze every half an hour gave additional energy. 🙂
Woodpecker did some similar (although shorter) tours before, but again and again it is amazing to feel special atmosphere and the quietness of the snow-covered mountains. It is also fascination to observe the different textures snow on a mountain face can have. From soft powder to sticky, from unstable to compressed by the wind, or with a hard icy surface that makes you hope it can hold your step until you break in and have to fight your boots out from below the ice cap.
And it is always amazing to feel your senses and your body absolutely awake and at maximum alertness once they feel a challenge is more real than the ones they encounter in their daily office routine or in front of a computer game.
Your mind feels the thrill once it notices you will not make it during sunlight, your body chemistry reacts once the shadow of the night creeps in, when the temperature starts to drop quickly, and the wind catches up icy closer to the top with your muscular energy level going to reserve. You perception gets sharper than you think possible when you look out for a weather change, for signs of avalanche danger or for the optimal route through the hillside. No small noise or crackling sound goes un-noticed, every small change in the tone of distant howling wind is recognised. In other words: You can barely feel more alive.
Obviously all of this was not actually dangerous and I would not have done it if it was, but still, the hike was a challenge and far out of the typical comfort zone of us modern humans.
But that is the point:
The true reward, the kick of mountain happiness comes only if you have a prolonged moment of suffering on your way up.
A moment where you curse it all and wish you would have stayed at home on the sofa. This moment then is followed by complete emptiness of the brain, where you just fight on step by step. And only then you will be rewarded later by an overwhelming flow of happiness once you reach the top. Something all the flip-flop cable car riders will never experience.
Every mountaineer, every climber and generally every sportsman will confirm.
And what a reward we got! Reaching the hut when the last bit of the twilight faded with a last look on the mountain range of the Alps under the stars. Finding ourselves the only guests in a normally very crowded hut. Drying in front of the cracking fire, a good Bavarian beer and some hearty food at hand.
And at the break of dawn this view:
Boy, this was a good tour.
Something no money ever can buy.
Any similar experience to share? Let us know!