Humbled by the Alps.
My buddies who really know me will never ask "Jeff! Let's do this hike. It'll be challenging!" They know what my answer will be. "Hell! No!"
I'm at the stage of my life where the biggest daily challenge I want to face is finding the "ON" switch for my coffee pot. I don't seek challenges. I'm a closet wimp. I want to breeze up passes because I trained for them. I like easy.
That being all said, I'm physically suffering from the onslaught of the Alps. In my four days of hiking here, I've accumulated 17,191" (5240 meters) of uphill. That's 3.25 miles of ascent. OY! No wonder I'm fatigued and cringe at the thought of a no-elevator third floor hotel room.
All the tromping I did in Colorado's High Country failed to ready me for the sheer steepness of the Alps. I might as well have sat in an Iowan cornfield reading Harlequin Romance novels, munching on Bonbons, all washed down with gooey chocolate milk. I thought I came prepared!
I discovered on these four days of hiking, my three stages of extreme physical activity. Within fifteen minutes, my cotton t-shirt is just-got-out of the washing machine wet. In thirty minutes I'm exuding an "Eau de Sambur" scent. It's definitely not an expensive cologne. In an hour, I'm taking intermittent breaks to scrape the grit and grime off my tongue. Between the steep terrain and the exertions, I'm dragging that particular body part in the dirt. As the Aussies say, "this is hard Yakka!"
Odds and ends musings:
Upon meeting backpackers coming in the opposite direction, I notice they wear hollowed-eyed, vacant, Prisoner of War looks. I dare not ask them how's it going. Their personal countenance says it all.
A word about the trail conditions: In my past, I've heard "alternative facts" about the physical state of the Alps paths. From what I was told, I envisioned groomed and manicured tracks. I fantasized about seeing scantily clad French maids vigorously sweeping the trails with old fashioned corn brooms. Sigh! That's not the case. The trails are every bit as rocky, rutted and rough as the ones in America's wild places. (Maybe worse). There's no daydreaming on these hikes. You really must watch your step.
A note about the trails vertically: I'm sure many of you think I'm over-embellishing the difficulty here. Unto those I say, "Au contraire!" Yesterday, I was hiking at eye-level to ground dwelling blueberry bushes. I managed to pluck a few anti-oxidants off before my next stumbling uphill step.
So how am I doing? My legs have the feel of over-cooked spaghetti. My resting heart rate is averaging 10 beats/minute more than BTA (Before The Alps) time. Every once in a while, my heart forgets to work. Huh? Arrhythmias! While my energy output has gone Mount Everest, my appetite has taken a leave of absence. I'm losing more weight. At this present rate, I'll arrive in Zermatt the equivalent poundage of two Nalgene water bottles.
The demographics here: Most of the trail's users are European or Asian. Senior citizens (like me) are an exception instead of the rule. My fellow Americans aren't prevalent at all. I did notice a few smirky Canadians with maple leaf flags attached to their packs. I suppose it's their snarky way of saying, "We're still in the Paris Climate Accord! Please don't compare us to our Southern neighbors. Eh?" Those hockey loving Canucks might add (since they are all so civil and polite) "We're sorry your glaciers are receding. Maybe you can make more beer with the melt water while you still can. Eh?"
I'll sum up this lengthy post with this: A few days ago, I sat outside a cafe at the Col de Balme. This mountain pass serves as a border between France and Switzerland. (No Wall, no Border Patrol). From a proprietress as ancient as the Alps, I purchased an overpriced cheese sandwich (minus the cheese) and a half liter of water. I took my humble bread and water meal outside and looked into Switzerland for the first time in my life. I got giddy and began to laugh out loud. These mountains are whooping me! This is nuts!
Then I calmed down and realized if Hannibal (the Carthaginian General) was able to get 40 elephants over these passes, I should be able to get my solo Jewish butt over them as well.
It's all good.
Keep looking in, the Alps are amazing...