Eiger Sanction

Now that is a serious location for a hotel. One day hopefully we will stay there. Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland. It means minor watershed and stands at 2060m. You get the deepest blue skies here. But when the weather closes in it is magnificent and moody – almost sinister. So many climbers have been taken from us here. You can only get here via the cog railway or by foot. The Hotel is where the Clint Eastwood movie The Eiger Sanction was filmed. Can you believe the movie is now 44 years old. 1975….

1975 that’s the year

  • Home Video tape systems are developed
  • Vietnam War ends
  • Iron Maiden was formed
  • The first portable mobile phone was patented
  • Microsoft was founded
  • First disposable razor was launched

And Britain had been in the European Union for just two years. How times change.

What is reassuring is that in all those years of change this Swiss View will not have changed in the slightest. Hopefully it never will.

Train journey to the Ogre

It’s Sunday and it’s Switzerland time….

Switzerland is a spectacular country which means its train journeys are often just off the scale. No need to read a book here. Just look out the window and drink the views in.

The trip from from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg is one such experience.

The train goes on further up through the Eiger Tunnel to the JungFrauJoch. Known as the Top of Europe. But that was just too expensive. One day maybe… So we got off at the stop where a short walk takes you to the base of the famous North Face of the Eiger.

On the trip up I remember looking out of the train window in awe with our son repeatedly saying

Mum can you tell me the story about the legend of the three mountains AGAIN”

The legend is that a beautiful young girl (The Jungfrau) is in danger from an evil Ogre (The Eiger). Only a brave Monk (The Mönch) can protect her. They forever stand next to each other in an eternal struggle.

Son loved this story and his mum loved telling him it. On this trip she must have retold it at least 30 times. Another smiley memory. Happy Days and my love keep telling that story.

The view

Looking out into the distance.

Dad that’s a top View. Unbeatable.”

It is. Completely fogged out. Can’t see more than 5 yards in front of us. See kids with Aspergers can do irony.

The garden could be beautifully cut and looking like a football pitch before a major cup final. Wonderfully straight stripes.”

Now he is in full irony mode. It’s more like a cow field at present.

Since we don’t have a view to look at we have license to make our own one up. I’m seeing Whitby Habour on a stormy day.

Dad I’m seeing one image. Do you remember that day when I stood on top of the world. I loved that.”

I so do. He was about 5 and we ventured onto his first mountain. A beautiful Swiss one. Glorious blue skies. Fresh alpine air. Surrounded by dream like peaks. The two of us having a crazy snowball fight. My partner and her mum happily sat in the mountain top restaurant having hot chocolate.

A beautiful moment.

This can be such a wonderful life if we only just give it a chance.

Alone

Complete white out. Zero vision. Your boots constantly struggling to find grip on the sheet ice. All you can hear is the wind howl and your rasping breathe. Somewhere to your right are bone breaking crags, to your left a 200 feet sheer drop. Holding the ice axe waiting for the inevitable fall. The trail has disappeared. The map is useless. The compass won’t give an accurate reading. Alone. Are you too far right or god help you …. too far left. Too late to turn back. Your only guide is to follow the sharp slope upwards to the summit.

The delights of winter mountaineering. Or is a metaphor for life. Disorientation, lost, no idea where your going, unattainable goals, alone, no plan, fear and panic.

Then hope. A kind word. A caring hand in the dark. Brief enlightenment.

The clouds briefly part. The beautiful mountain summit reveals itself. You survived that crisis. Panic subsides. Your pounding heart starts to ease. The break in the clouds is short lived. But you have a path. You have a direction. You have hope. The climb continues.

Up or Down

It’s been a few days since the last bit of Switzerland. Time to correct that. Still nothing from the Swiss Tourist Board…… maybe if I threaten to release a photo of a Swiss train being one minute late.… Or maybe I just cut to the chase and threaten to release a photo of me semi naked on top of a snow covered Swiss Mountain.

My partner was the clever one. I was the dim one. My partner was practical one. I was the one who tended to get things the wrong way round.

My partner had a very sensible approach to walking in The Alps. Catch the train or bus or cable car to the top. Have a bite to eat and drink. Then walk down. Finally have a Swiss Beer on the train.

My approach was to slog my way to the top – usually taking the wrong path several times. Collapse in a heap at the top. Have several Swiss Beers to numb the pain. Then roll down to the bottom. Collapse onto the train and watch the steam explode from my clothes.

Strangely I was usually overruled….

The above photo was one of those entirely sensible days. Carried to the top by public transport and walk down. But this one had a slight twist. We had a 5 year old with us. A 5 year old who wanted a piggy back – all the way down. So our son loved his 2 hour decent. My back and neck – not so much. It’s a good job the Swiss do make exceptionally nice paths. But at least the several Swiss Beers on the train helped numb the pain.

Now to find that semi naked photo…

Alpine sunset

This photo was taken on the last night my partner had in her beloved Switzerland. During a stunning sunset. Watching the moon rise over the Alps was just the most wonderful experience.

Little did we know that she would be gone 12 months later.

This is a photograph I can look at and still smile. Other photos bring tears but not this one. Don’t know why. In fact the more I think about it this was probably the last Swiss Photograph. It really should bring tears. Strange.

That night we racked our brains trying to work out ways of emigrating here to retire. Drawing up plans for spending all of our long life’s together. So many plans. In reality just pipe dreams with no chance of coming to fruition. The one thing we never factored in was an early death. You never do probably.

A few days ago I walked behind an elderly couple who had been shopping. They walked slowly hand in hand. Behind them a broken man walked sobbing his eyes out. In our pipe dreams that was us in thirty years.

I can’t tell how much that hurts.

Embrace the stain….

Picking up from this mornings post. Spiez is just a perfect place. The building at the front of the picture is the hotel we would stay at. The mountain dominating at the back is the Niederhorn. Before our son was born I was practicing for a mountain race. As part of the training I managed to run up this beautiful mountain. I remember lying at the top ignoring the stunning view – just thinking do I run back down or call for a helicopter evacuation…

I recount this story as it came to me again this afternoon. Setting a goal, achieving it then rather than basking in the success you immediately worry about the next step or challenge.

This feels a bit like fighting the system for our son. So many peaks to climb. You climb one but you then immediately have to face a new climb. It can be soul destroying.

We have potentially found a specialist who will assess our son’s dyslexia. But now I need to find the money to pay for it (the leaking washing machine will have to survive another year before it’s replaced). AND I somehow need to find a way of getting the education system to adopt the recommendations of the assessment. I was speaking to another parent who has been trying unsuccessfully for two years to get her school to adopt the same specialists recommendations. Why do we make it so difficult for our kids…

You then see the news which is dominated by talk of Brexit. Our so called Prime Minister is trying to bribe another party with up to a billion pounds of further funding if they will vote for her shambles of a plan. And yet they can’t find the money to adequately fund our schools or mental health support services. She takes great delight in telling the rest of us that money doesn’t grow on a tree. Clearly our Leader values her own career and legacy higher than the kids of our country…… Sadly she is not the only world leader like that.

Then my mind drifts back to that mountain. The Niederhorn. I didn’t ‘get into the chopper’ in an Austrian accent but decided to run down. It was an interesting decent. As some breathless pillock had collapsed at the top into a fresh pile of some unknown and clearly legendary bird droppings. Running while trying to prevent passerby’s getting a good view of the your oddly coloured rear is just embarrassing. Rather than embracing the stain I just tried to run as quickly as possible while keeping my bum always pointing away from people. I can hear my dad saying ‘son as quick as you run you won’t increase the separation between your shorts and that stain’. Maybe that’s a really good analogy for state of our governments overall strategy……

Happy Days – Spiez

Looking out at the rain and the trees bending in the wind. It’s all just a bit too grey. Sometimes you soul needs more. For us that was a holiday in Switzerland. We probably couldn’t afford it but was it worth it – you bet.

We always used the small town of Spiez as our base. A stunning and friendly place sitting by the banks of Lake Thun. A transport fanatics dream. On one side you can take the regular boat service (sometimes an old steamer) to explore the lake from Thun to Interlaken. On the other side a brilliant train station offering precision perfect links to the rest of Switzerland, Germany and Milan.

After a hours of exploring we always ended the day with a walk up through the vineyards to a small hill top with stunning views across the lake to the Alps.

Memories and views like that are worth so much more than money. It’s why my beloved partner indicated that she wanted some of her ashes scattering here. A perfect choice. One day hopefully I will do the same. So our souls can wander here forever…..

Cragfast

Somedays you wake and the world is full of hope. Yes it’s a challenge but you stride purposely towards the light.

Whether it’s the alignment of the stars, or the moon, or the lack of sleep or the weather or the cards are stacked against you or the demons have woken ….. but for whatever reason somedays the world appears different. You are alone and operating without a safety net. It’s is dark, cold and scary. Often I liken the feeling to a Tolkien like scene. You are stood on the ramparts of Helms Deep. It is cold and the rain pours. You are besieged by an evil army of Orcs. But this time you are stood alone and Gandalf isn’t riding over the hill top to save you that day. You feel like hope has deserted you. A battle you didn’t ask for and one you cannot win this day.

In climbing the dreaded word is cragfast. Basically you are stuck. You can’t go up, down or sideways. Less polite terms also exist for this ……

My mind drifts to The Eiger. Back to 1936. Four young climbers attempt to be the first to scale the infamous North Face.

Andreas Hinterstoisser, Edi Ranier, Willy Angerer and Toni Kurz.

On the ill fated ascent Hinterstoisser opened up the mountain with an astonishing traverse now named after him. Tragically they decided to remove the ropes they had fixed in that section. A huge storm set in so they tried to retreat. They discovered that the Hinterstoisser traverse could only be completed in reverse with the aid of fixed ropes. They were suddenly out of options. A suicidal decent was attempted. Over the next few hours three climbers died. Rescuers got close to the remaining climber Toni Kurz. But they did not have enough rope to reach him so they had to retreat leaving the young climber stranded. They left to the echos of a climber pleading not to be left alone. The next morning a second rescue attempt was launched but they found the young climber close to death. He quietly said “Ich Kann nicht mehr” – I cannot go on. He died feet from rescue.

The German 2008 movie of this tragedy “North Face” is one of the bleakest movies you will ever see. I have stood at the bottom of the North Face. Your mind can’t help thinking of those brave young climbers. Too many climbers have been lost here. It’s a truly cathartic experience.

What is the point of this post. I am not sure. Maybe it’s just about saying that life can be bleak and dark. You will come across times when you become stuck – cragfast. You find times when you are on the ramparts alone. You hope that when that happens people will come to save you. But rescues sometimes fail – even heroes stumble. These are the times you have to stand alone. Those are grim times. Times we must endure. You hope to just make it through the night. The morning may bring new light or a hero. Or you may have to struggle on for another day alone. It’s a sobering thought.

Song Lyric Sunday

I love effective targeted marketing. Those emails carefully selected to match your profile. So I really enjoyed today’s little gem “Perfect for your needs …a beautiful camisole Tutu dress. Available in a range of sizes.” – I suspect not in my size…..

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Jim has given us Hill and/or Mountain as the theme for this weeks Song Lyric Sunday.

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/64726988/posts/2175747300

This instantly flagged up the brilliant Joe Bonamassa and Mountain Time. Beautiful and almost hypnotic. This song just instantly takes me back to days those golden times with my partner.

https://youtu.be/93Ek1rist1s

You drive west on 80 and it won’t take too long
‘Til the road starts climbing up to mountain time
There’s a girl I know there, she lives free and easy
And she shows me wonders and she takes my mind
And she’s wild as eagles
She’s as sweet as honeysuckle
Her life’s flowing like a mountain stream
And she takes me somewhere
And it’s good to be there
And she pulls me into her bright golden wing
Now I hate the city and I love the country
And I love that feeling on that mountain high
And that girl is waiting, but she won’t wait too long
So I drive all night to that clear blue sky
And she’s wild as eagles
She’s as sweet as honeysuckle
Her life’s flowing like a mountain stream
And she takes me somewhere
And it’s good to be there
And she pulls me into her bright golden wing
I can feel it in the wind blow
I can feel love flow
And I’ll be there when the morning comes, yeah
And she’s wild as eagles
She’s as sweet as honeysuckle
Her life’s flowing like a mountain stream
And she takes me somewhere
And it’s good to be there
And she pulls me into her bright golden wing
Bright golden wing
And she’s wild as eagles
She’s as sweet as honeysuckle
Her life’s flowing like a mountain stream
And she takes me somewhere
And it’s good to be there
And she pulls me into her bright golden wing
Bright golden wing

Written by Will Jennings and Joe Bonamassa

Lyric source – AZLyrics