Ricks Diary: The Swiss Alps
June 02 2014, 0 Comments
Booking a flight to Switzerland to climb a mountain with a man you’ve never met might sound a little crazy, but that’s exactly what I did three years ago. I met Bruno through UKC, the go-to organization for UK based climbers. Before I knew it, I found myself onboard Swiss-air, hovering above the mountains I’d be tackling for the next week, itching to begin the icy ascent that lay ahead. The morning of the climb I woke at 6am to crystal clear black skies. Together with my nerves and the excitement of taking on the most challenging excursion I’d ever been faced with meant I’d had little sleep, but I was eager to get going. Nothing can prepare you for how fiercely cold the environment can be when you’re climbing. The beauty of the landscape coupled with freezing air (quite literally) took my breath away; I saw huge vertical sheets of ice far off in the distance, looking completely out of my league. ‘That’s where we’re headed’, said Bruno. As the sun rose we began our ascent. After becoming just about comfortable with the climb disaster struck. Bruno was suspended 30 metres above me and the hot aches set in. Usually able to endure the torture of the hot aches, where your hands are numbed by the cold and the feeling returns in a fierce warm splintering pain through your fingers. Suddenly I fell unconscious, hanging in my belay before two nearby German climbers came to help. I’ll never forget the fear of waking hanging in the air, and the total confusion I felt. The whole event had unfolded whilst Bruno was metres above so he was none the wiser. When I told him I expected him to be disheartened and frustrated by having a less competent climbing partner but he was opposite. We pressed on and I felt far more confident. Despite my fainting the trip went as planned. I never thought I’d be able to even consider climbing the huge ice sheets that I did. The trip not only hugely improved my technique, but it reaffirmed the huge respect I have for nature. Being around such colossal ice structures and the merciless weather conditions you are faced with out on a climb is a massively humbling experience. Read more on Ricks personal blog. Plus keep an eye out for the next instalment right here.