We'd planned on going for a proper hike through the mountains today but when we awoke to the sound of rain on our tent, we had second thoughts. For most of the morning we hemmed and hawed through the on again off again sprinkles, vacillating between an adventurous urge to go and an equally compelling impulse to laze around in the tent doing nothing all day. When the skies cleared "for good" we decided to take the plunge.
Before we left I went to seek the advice of a fellow camper I had seen talking to people about hiking and mountain climbing. The route we'd picked was, unsurprisingly, one of the longest and hardest in the pamphlet we'd gotten at the tourist office and I wanted to make sure we weren't getting in over our heads. I found Curtesh in the bathroom cleaning his clothes and introduced myself. He was in Zermatt for two weeks working on his lifelong goal of climbing the Matterhorn solo but the weather had kept him at camp as well.
We got to talking and he offered to come along with us. He was happy to have something to do with the day other than sit around, though he cautioned that the weather might prevent us from completing the entire loop (about 8 hours). Plans settled, we all got our backpacks ready, stocked them with food, water, rain jackets, and gloves, and set out to find the trail.
It was almost 1:00 PM when the three of us left camp, a ridiculously late start in the world of hiking/climbing. The clear skies we'd decided to leave under had already filled with looming, ominous clouds. The hike began just outside our campsite, and climbed steadily to the "village" of Tasch, following which you could walk along the ridge of a glacier before returning to Tasch and then looping home to Zermatt. By the time we reached the path it was pretty certain we wouldn't make it the whole way but we figured we'd give it a go anyhow.
On our last mountain hike, Tara was crampy and not at her best. Today was, unfortunately, the same. Like the trooper she is, she came along anyway. When most girls would be in bed bemoaning their periods, Tara soldiered along with me hoping to walk on a glacier! The three of us trudged steadily upwards as mists rolled in eerily among the pine forests and woodland waterfalls. About an hour and several hundred meters of climbing into the hike, Tara waved the white flag, opting to turn back as the weather was getting steadily worse and she was already exhausted.
Curtesh and I both encouraged her to come on a little further but she smiled and declined, looking forward to making her way back down to camp as slowly as she pleased. Before she left, I armed her with some of the food from my backpack and a big hug while Curtesh offered his walking stick. Thoroughly prepared, she set off on her own back down the mountain to camp.
Curtesh and I continued on in the face of increasingly poor weather with a series of, "let's just make it to here"s before turning back. As we arrived at each of our self-defined checkpoints we decided to go "just a little further". This entire process mirrors almost exactly the mentality Tara and I have about our entire trip. It was really nice to meet a fellow adventurer who used the same tactics to accomplish goals. As we hiked along amidst the mist and fog we had a great time getting to know one another.
About a third of the way into our route the clouds started rolling in at a pretty good clip, bringing with them a light misting rain that finally fizzled our desire to continue on. Neither of us minded returning to camp wet but we decided it wasn't worth the effort if we wouldn't see anything along the way. Though I've been told several times about how quickly the weather can change at high altitudes, this was my first experience seeing clouds whipping by practically at chest height. It was incredible!
As Curtesh had warned, heading down was indeed more work than hiking up. The few hours it took to return to camp were very difficult and my knees took a beating many times worse than any of our hardest cycling days. During the hike back I was quietly hoping to myself that Tara had prepared dinner for us. When we arrived at camp, dripping wet and fiercely hungry, we found Tara holed up in our tent, warm and dry, stirring a thick hearty soup she'd made for supper. I felt like the luckiest man alive!
Tara encouraged us to sit down and tell her about our adventure, glad we were home safe and sound. We shared the details of our foggy hike (with no views of any kind!) over steaming hot bowls of soup. She laughed saying repeatedly how infinitely glad she was she had turned around. It would have been nice to have her along, but as I felt the life and warmth return to my body from her delicious potato soup, I was glad she had too!