Life in the Swiss Alps: Conquering vertigo
Diana Oehrli remembers how she survived a seven-hour hike that included a climb up the Giferhorn.
"Below was thirty-seven hundred feet of air; and I was balanced on a house of cards. The sour taste of panic rose in my throat. My eyesight blurred, I began to hyperventilate, my calves started to shake."
I thought of my children and how irresponsible I was to be doing this. I thought of my friend up ahead who had successfully climbed this mountain with his father when he was six years old. I thought of my late father, and how I had not inherited his mountaineering genes. I worried about Bizzie, our little schnauzer-mix, who had run ahead. Krakauer's words came back to me, reminding me that what I was experiencing was normal:
"The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence--the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes--all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand."
I told myself to stop worrying about the dog, to trust my legs, to look ahead, and to keep going. It wasn't a pretty sight. I was glad my friend had disappeared behind a ledge and that no one could witness my nearly-crawling posture, butt sticking out, and hands clutching the side of the mountain. Luckily, the path widened again, and I could resume my earlier pace.
I would recommend the Giferhorn hike to those of you who are not afraid of heights. Don't go if there is any threat of fog, ice, snow, or rain.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing." Thanks, Ben. Does this mean, I will not be forgotten?
Reprinted with permission of Life in the Swiss Alps.
Daughter of a Swiss mountain guide and American photographer, Diana Oehrli grew up in Switzerland, the South of France and in New England. In 2002, she moved to Switzerland and fell in love with mountain life. With her two children, she now lives in a 300-year old farmhouse above the villages of Gstaad and Saanen, where she is working on a novel and on her blog lifeintheswissalps.com.
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