OoIt has been a while since my last posting but I assume I have a good excuse. Traveling. And prepping for travels. I embarked for my 3-week European tour last week, and it probably is not a surprise that the days leading to my departure were rather hectic as I had to get a bunch of things sorted out, farrier and veterinarian appointments scheduled…. on top of my regular work.
My trip started by flying from Nashville to Copenhagen via Chicago and Frankfurt, a quick stop in Copenhagen before the 3-day weekend in Salzburg, Austria. Mountains have always had a special place in my heart as I started climbing and mountaineering a couple of decades ago, and have been involved in mountain rescue, guiding as well as teaching avalanche awareness, technical rescue and just basic mountaineering skills. My first time on Mt McKinley, or nowadays Denali, was also one of the reasons why I moved to Alaska in the first place. To get to climb more, and more of those majestic Denali range mountains. And I sure did. Quite a few times.
This time I didn’t have any major plans for Austria but decided to play it by the ear, with weather permitting. It turned out that some of my old mountain rescue buddies were around. A few Facebook messages and a WhatsApp group message got things going, and the gang was together again. Ellmau, Austria, the beautiful village on the foothills of Wilden Kaiser became our destination on Saturday: ropes were coiled, back bags packed, and mountaineering boots’ laces tightened. And just like that, we were out again. Jokes were flying, stories were being told, and old times remembered while diligently planning every move on our climb.
My heart was full of joy.
The old saying says something about no matter how long it has been since seeing your friends, the true friends can pick up the conversation like they’ve never been apart. This is how it is with these guys. It has been over ten years since our last climb together, and a lot has changed over the years. Marriages, divorces, babies, climbing mates lost on some grueling climbs in the unforgiving heights, new mountains conquered …. some of us made the climbing a professional career, other semiprofessional, others just still climb because they love it and can hear the solitude of a mountain calling their name. Days like this truly remind me how much I miss the mountains and the thrill of climbing. Did you know that I have a fear of heights? And I love that darn fear – it makes me feel so alive.