Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First hike of the year

Final third stage of the treacherous hike.
A few weeks ago, I over-exerted myself by going on a hike from Reusch (1,350) to Scex Rouge (2,971m), the last part of the Glacier 3000 Run course. It may have been an unwise idea for me to attempt 1,621 vertical meters for my first hike of the year.

The two girlfriends who had invited me, had--unbeknownst to me--been going on weekly hikes since April, one of them actually participating in the Glacier 3000 Run. I figured if people can run up that mountain, I could certainly walk it. I had been running five to six miles on the flat four times a week all summer.

So upon their advice, I purchased expensive walking sticks. Later I would be glad I had them. Our planned Tuesday hike was delayed because of fresh fallen snow. We let a few days pass, and then Thursday evening, we decided to go the next day. I packed a small rucksack with a bottle of water, a spare shirt and sweater, some almonds, and a hat. I decided to leave the dog at home. I had a feeling he might be too much of a distraction for me if I experienced vertigo during the steep parts.

During the first third of the hike, the three of us chatted our way up to the Oldenegg, where the path narrowed and steepened. Walking through Martinst√§lli, I noticed that I had trouble keeping up with my two friends. I kept them in sight, but knew that my heart rate was in anaerobic territory.

At one point, just below the Cabane (or middle station), I got off track and tried to head straight up to the station itself, instead of keeping left and heading towards the old Cabane. I found myself in the middle of sliding rock shale, unable to go up or down. As I started to retrace my steps, my cell phone rang, but I couldn't answer it, as I was too busy keeping my balance on the slippery shale. Eventually, I met up with my colleagues who appeared worried and cold from waiting. I felt guilty and decided to forgo drinking water or eating a snack. A big mistake. We immediately started on the final third part of the hike (see picture above).

On this treacherous ice-encrusted path, my colleagues stayed near me, encouraging me the whole way. They knew about my vertigo problem and they kept me distracted with instructions on how and where to plant my poles and my feet. By the time, we got to the top, we were in 50 centimeters of hard snow, and I was exhausted.

As we arrived at the bottom of the little Scex Rouge chairlift (near the top), one girlfriend asked if I wanted to take the lift. I refused. I had made it all this way and wasn't going to cop-out now. A stranger near the top asked me if I was okay. I said, "yes, of course." I must have been swaying.

We had a lovely lunch of soup and bread on the deck overlooking the glacier. I felt nauseous. So, I tried to drink as much water as I could. Then, to my relief, we took the lift down. I sat the whole way.  The rest of the day, I felt a bit spaced-out. Nevertheless, I was able to participate in karate class later that evening and did not have muscle soreness the next day.

I know I overdid it. But I feel proud for making it to the top and for pushing through my limits. Two days later, I went on a six mile jog including a run up the mountain to my home, and it was easier than I thought. Since then, I've gone on two more (less adventuresome) hikes with one of the  mountain goat girlfriends. I've discovered one of her secrets; she eats dried figs along the way. I'm a very lucky girl to have friends like her and to live so close to so much hiking!

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