The other night, we spent hours talking, remembering our great adventures from foreign countries. You told me about Norway, about the mountains there, how you struggled to keep up hiking these hills up and down. "Everyone is so fit!" I wanted to know more, I was curious - of course. I have never been. Curious if you made it north, curious if you saw the Northern lights. You said yes, but it was unbelievably cold. You told me about the week you spent in Tromsø, a town I've heard from remarkable runners around the world, there is a race - which I'd love to visit in the summer. You went in the winter, you said. First, it was fun, but after three days, only one hour of daylight was just miserable. You guys became depressed, and it felt like you are losing time if you weren't able to see all the sights you planned in those 60minutes. It was tough you said, you wanted to see this one mountain, wanted to get deeper into the forest, higher towards the top. You tried three times, three days, trying to outrun the darkness. You couldnt make it, three attempts lost - or won?
As soon as it turns 2pm, your body just shuts down. It's scary, you know, your brain knows that it's only 2pm - but since it's dark outside, you feel like you want to have dinner and go to sleep. But you had great experiences that made you smile all over your face. You went to a whale expedition and saw a baby whale jump out of the water right next to you. You cried. Amazed by the beauty of these creatures. These beings that have feelings. We are only a small part of this world you said. You went to a dog-sled ride and spent a full afternoon feeling like a child again. And you did indeed see the Northern lights. You sat there, in your snow suits, making click, click, click and that was it.
You came back to Germany this year, had another summer here with hours and hours of daylight and you said You know what, that week made me appreciate the sun, and life in general so much more. Even if its raining out and gray, we still have so many more hours in the wintertime to keep ourselves up and motivated.
It made me think, as I am writing this, of the great adventurers, the glorious mountaineers who leave their friends and families behind to go on Himalayan expeditions, attempting to climb the 8,000s, sometimes for 3 months, sometimes waiting at base camp - sitting there for days in and out - waiting for the perfect weather, the sky to clear up, looking forward to sun for a whole week. Blue skies, skydivers would say. Then, it takes more than one attempt to move forward, to hike, to climb. Some with additional oxygen, some without. Some trained, some untrained. Some with sherpas, some without. And there's a risk of not returning, rushed by excitement - adrenaline - to climb up, higher and higher, losing all what was once there.
So - is it lost, if you must return half-way, not reaching the next camp, learning that this time you don't have enough strength, you haven't learned enough about the conditions, you haven't learned to understand this particuliar mountain. Don't mess with them, they say. But if you want to live, better be a good student. It's never a loss you say, of course, crushed at first because there was money involved, time involved, dreams that haven't come true - but isn't it more beautiful to go out there again, one day, more experienced, better prepared, dream a little bit longer and go along as the elements tell you what to do.
The other story you told me was about this 6hour hike. One way. People usually camp there overnight, not rushing to make it back down. Was it the naivete of yours, of the five of yours to want to return to the parking lot the same day? Or was it that you just didn't know until you met the other hikers. You said it took you a long time to get up there. It was incredibly fun at first, not an avid hiker yourself, the first 4 hours were so pretty - there was always something new to discover, but after those first 4 hours, you got tired and bored. Bored by the sameness. The same trees, the same grass, the same Norwegian lemming -- a tiny animal dwelling in tundra and fells, committing suicide to keep the family's population in order because there are too many and it can't be all of us -- following you. Or you followed them? The knees and hips falling apart - you were thinking - this is so tiring, we must take a bit more time to get back down.
Arriving there, the five of you were the only ones. It was a bit scary -- one Australian student from your university just died there - slipping at the edge and falling down -- but overwhelmed by nature's majesty, you guys danced, jumped, took 200 pictures of each and everyone and totally forgot the time. Slowly, you left the sight and met a few hikers who prepared to build up their camps. It started to get cold. You still wanna go down? You are not camping here? Do you have headlamps? 'Youre not going to make it - the sun will be down within 6 hours.' As non-runners, all of you, rushed, trying to hike faster. Gladly, it was all downhill, most of it, well not really, you said. Your knees felt okay though. No headlamps. It turned dark. All of you werent sure anymore. Which way was it? One after the other pulled their smartphones. You werent sure. The eyes had to adjust to the surroundings which looked so different now - knowing that it became somewhat of a familiar space after only a 4hour hike.
You finally made it - almost - you were a few steps apart from your rental car.
Well, maybe not a few since it took you one and a half hours to walk up these old stairs - built up many decades ago 200m above ground. The stairs, wet, nothing left and right, the only tool that helped you manage to set the right foot after the other was a rope - connected to the parking lot. It was dark. All but one phone died. You were close, not too long, it got very tiring and very boring. You guys kept up your mood by telling each other random stories while walking down the stairs in a caravan. I imagined it, all of it. Looking at you guys from afar. Dark, wet, muddy, everyone in rain jackets. Don't slip I would have said.
You made it, after another one and a half hours, you couldn't believe you made your return in only 4hours. All of you laid down on the ground. Exhausted, dehydrated, hungry. You laughed though. Life can be so good. We made it! And if this wasn't the whole story, you still had to drive all of you guys back to campus - which is a 4hour ride. You were very tired. Slowly, everyone sitting in the back fell asleep. From time to time, it was a long straight road, trees left and right, you had hallucinations and fell asleep yourself several times. You thought, man, I am gonna kill us. I am gonna kill us. I am gonna kill us. Trees were filled with squirrels, ready to jump on the car. You had to pull to the side and take a 20minute nap. So you did. Twice.
Somehow, the dutch friend sitting next to you, kept you awake - singing, yelling, anything. Arriving in town, all of you were suddenly awake, not finding your way to campus. It was exhausting to you. Damn you said, a moment ago, in the woods, I felt like I conquered the world and made it back safe - the next moment, on the road, I was in danger, we were all in danger, and then the other moment, in the city, I am feeling lost in translation. All these signs, I didnt get it you said. Home. You fell into your bed, clothes and shoes on. We laughed, we laughed hard. Life is very remarkable.
Photos and Inspiration by @leniloni