but for the likes of her, she demands respect, simply by being there.
We ascended close to 4500 feet up Schilthorn, a summit in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland. The hike took us 7 hours, the experience was scary and the view was spectacular but we were just too tired to take more pictures.
We were given the ‘are you sure’ look when hikers at a midway rest point heard about our intention. Others were either optimistic or trying to be encouraging (We realised soon after). They assured us that we should have enough time to make the ascent and catch the last ski lift down at 6pm.
I was determined to do it as it was our last day at Murren and we were blessed with the best weather that day. It was clear blue sky for the first time since we reached Switzerland. The trail was marked as an ‘experienced hiker trail’. We had been hiking almost everyday on trails marked under the same category and so far, we were comfortable with them. This however will be the longest hike. It took us 3 hours to reach the midway. According to the sign, the hike to the Schilthorn peak will be another 2h 50 minutes. But for us, lugging a 4 year old, an hour buffer seem reasonable, which left us just enough time to catch the last lift down.
We walked on trails marked with manure from grazing herds, balanced precariously across rocky rivers, crawled on all fours up rock piles and walked on narrow trails with loose gravel. We stopped to catch our breaths and realised that it wasn’t very wise to ascend with 2 litres of water in our backpack when we could quench our thirst with mountain streams.
Malcolm was good, he walked whenever his leg muscles could bear it and rocky terrain seemed to make him forget the strain on his little muscles. Other times, he sat obediently on my husband’s shoulders, with a towel to support his chin, once a while chanting ‘jia you’ (keep going in Chinese). I realised that the trail wasn’t very distinct, unlike others we had walked so far, which could only mean one thing, not many have walked this path
We met some hikers, all going the opposite directions. 2 of them warned us about the narrow ridge ahead with steep slopes on both sides. One was kind enough to tell us quite frankly that he didn’t think we could make it over with a kid, the other warned us to be very very careful with a smile. My determination began to waver, I began to second guess our decisions, What IFs started to flood my mind but it was too late to turn back. I wasn’t confident that we could do the descent with my husband balancing our 4 year old on his shoulders. I was assured that we could do it but I knew my man too well.
Fatigue seemed to take over our bodies rapidly as we climbed higher. The summit looked deceivingly near. The terrain seemed to get worse and at the back of my mind, the ‘narrow ridge’ that we were warned about kept haunting me. Malcolm was in a great mood after his few bars of chocolate and we couldn’t be happier when he agreed to climb some of the rugged terrain on his own with my husband supporting him. He crawled up metal bars built for better foot hold, climbed up a flight of metal stairs to go over a huge boulder. The cold wind sent chills down my spines and the terrifying height didn’t help. My remaining energy was channelled onto making the next step and grabbing onto the supporting cables. Such intense focus which I never thought I was capable of. It helped tremendously to alleviate my fear and prevent my thoughts from going wild. My 4 year old was however unaware of the danger and his laughter and chattiness lifted up my mood a little.
To keep our spirits high, we began to talk about What We Will Do When We Reach The Peak. We will give each other a big hug, we will give each other a big kiss, Malcolm will be allowed to eat all the chocolate he wants, we will thank the mountain for letting us walk her… just at that moment, 4 French hikers passed us and the words that came from them were music to my ears. We were told that the peak was only a mere 20 minutes away. It was 5.10 pm.
We made it over the top of the huge boulder, walked across the narrow ridge and saw the plateau that led us to the final steps to the summit. Time checked 5.35 pm. We were just in time to catch the last ski lift down.
We were exhilarated, elated, ecstatic. We hugged, we kissed and we let Malcolm have all the chocolate he wanted. The joy we felt was beyond words and we were thankful for many things.
We were thankful for Malcolm’s cooperation to walk on some of the roughest terrain on his own and we were thankful for the mercy the mountain had shown to us. We thanked her for letting us walk her on that day.
P.S.- The next morning at a souvenir shop, we met one of the hikers who warned us about attempting the summit. He gave us a “My god, you made it to the top alive look” and we subsequently blew a fortune at the shop as a reward to ourselves.