back to the alps

Sun sparkles over rocks,
Parts mists, lights mountains, and shines
On all those who smile.

I got another chance to see the Alps, and this time was absurdly fantastic. The comment I put on my Facebook album was that "this place was stupid gorgeous. I'm photo-retarded and wound up with some great shots."

I got to see Alex's "office," and by that I mean the obscenely gorgeous (and freezing) river he has to climb into every day. The water is a really fascinating blue; he told me that it's because it's running over limestone and picking up some of the minerals.

The place that we stayed the first night was a little hütte in the mountains that was owned jointly by a guy named Charly and a guy from Nepal. Charly rides his motorcycle into the mountains along a crazy trail every day to get there. There's a helicopter place out back so that they can airlift the beer in. At night, Charly plays the hammer dulcimer, Simon strums the guitar, and the guy from Nepal sings in languages I can't even recognize. The morning awakening (at a confused-blink-inducing 5:50am) is the same.

Some snow was still hanging on in the shadows of the mountains. I took some time to play in it.

We wandered over everywhere, spent some time stargazing (the Perseids are this week, for those of you keeping score at home), and explored a cave that Alex's supervisor had asked him to check out. The thing was not only at the top of a talus cone, there was about 3 metres of free-climb to be done to get up to it. And do you know what was at the top? Sheep poop. Damn sheep.

We ran into a friendly bunch of mountain sheep, actually, the black one among which was super excited to see us for some reason inapparent.

More wandering brought us to another hütte, where we stopped for a beer (airlifted beer... mmmm...). The rest of the day took us through the klam (gorge), where sudden rain fulfilled the double purposes of chasing away other tourists and making the place feel like a lost world. The klam is basically a canyon carved out by the Partnach (the river Alex works in); it has caves bored through the side for people to walk through, and they're lit with lights too tiny to push back the darkness of a stormy German sky entirely. It was spooky and beautiful.

I met Alex's roommates/field partners: Martin, a PhD student, and Christopher, the son of the professor he's working with. The four of us took a gondola up a mountain the next morning to start another hike.

Atop this mountain, it's apparently great sport to skydive. There were about half a dozen people packing parachutes on the grass, and there were platforms hanging into space designed for them to jump from. I wish I could've tried.

So we hiked down and down and down... pausing, since I was in the company of geologists, to survey a cave or two along the way. The route we took is evidently rather frequented: there were stairs in tough spots down it. We came to another hütte along the way, and Martin and Christopher had sensible lunches while Alex and I had less-than-sensible maßes (litres of beer). It made the rest of the hike down the mountain more fun.

We emerged through another klam, which makes for a pretty excellent story since it was the way out of hell. The valley we'd been in for a while was called Hell's something-or-other (Alex? what was it?). Anyway, this one was even more spectacular than the other one.

Following all that, we went back home for a much-needed shower. Then out to dinner with Mr. Steven Soneff, who was in the area on "business" (and by that I mean he was visiting family in Zürich and wound up committing CLs at the Google office there for part of a day).

I miss the mountains. I'll probably have to find myself there once again in the not-too-distant future. Maybe I'll be a geologist, after all. ;)

p.s. Picasa has been updated! All my photos are there now. :)Link


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