A pair of giant dark eyes, like pools of chocolate, looked me in the face. Not a sound broke the silence except for the clunking of bells. I stood with my hands on my hips, gazing back into the dark eyes.
“Moo!” the sound emitted from the giant beast in front of me and I burst into laughter. The sight of a shaggy Swiss cow up close was just too funny. The beasts are scattered all over the towering Alps. They are heard long before they are seen, given away by the giant bells that hang around their sloping necks.
“Moo!” bellowed the cow again as she slowly blinked her huge chocolate eyes, her mouth continuing the chew of her cud. I laughed again as I ran up the hill, passed the grazing cattle and caught up to my brother, who stoically marched ahead on the small dirt track, part of The Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, Switzerland. My mom, sister and dad followed. We were like a small rag-tag train, twisting and climbing up the mountain,
It was the first of several days backpacking through the Swiss Alps. That night, we stayed at the Hotel Weisshorn (http://www.weisshorn.ch) at the top of a 2,000 foot ascent from the small village of Zinal, Switzerland. The next morning, we hiked across ridges and shallow valleys towards the “Meidpass”, the pass that would allow us to cross the ridge to descend to our destination, the village of Gruben.
A sense of overwhelming peace swept over me as I hiked. Speckled around the slopes were gorgeous mountain flowers in vivid blues, yellows, and violets. Their sweet aromas drifted into my nose as the wind whistled in my ears and the sun beat down on my head. Passing clouds threw shadows over the landscape and offered fleeting relief from the glaring sun. After several hours of hiking over small ridges and dips, we reached the base of the Meidpass. With a deep breath of determination, we began our ascent.
Calves burning, lungs aching, and back sweating, I laboriously made my way up the mountain. Though the temperature dropped as we ascended, the strenuous exercise kept me warm. After an hour of arduous hiking, I was suddenly buffeted by a blasting wind, chilling my sweat-soaked body. I had reached the top of the mountain and I sighed with relief.
High on the mountain, there was no sound beyond the whistling wind. There was no movement down below, nor any indication that time slowly ticked on. It was as if a pause button had been pushed and the earth had ceased to spin. The blue sky stretched above me, the scattered clouds so close I felt I could reach up and touch them. The air was crisp and cold, biting my chilled skin. Rocks were strewn about in the snow, like chocolate chips in ice cream. About fifty feet below, the glacier faded into rocks and mud. Looking straight ahead I saw the endless peaks of the Alps with glistening glaciers at their tops. I got the chills as I looked out over the valley and realized that I had just climbed to 9,200 feet. The thrill was incredible.
The rest of the family joined us and we sat and enjoyed the view for a few minutes before we started the trek down. Before long, the sounds of cow bells reached our ears and I knew that I had lost that moment of tranquility that was felt at the top of the mountain. The final ascent through the Meidpass was incredibly difficult, but in the end the reward was well worth it. On this adventure through the Alps I discovered that in life there are many mountains to climb and to overcome. It is up to ourselves whether or not we choose to take the first step.
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