I have what is known in the German language as Höhenangst or for my American readers, a fear of heights. Thankfully it does not fall within the truly clinical range but it is enough to render a physical sensation that radiates from my feet up into my guts and triggers my brain to play out the various scenarios associated with that one misstep leading to my gruesome and untimely demise.
Ok...so maybe we are talking a bit boarder-line here.
Saddled with a phobia that appeared hell-bent on holding me forever its hostage, it has been over the course of the last five years that I have seen my way fit to challenge the very notion of it. Armed with a new found love of all things outdoors (minus anything that involves assembling and/or sleeping in a tent), I have stepped out of my 'safe space' and propelled my buddy Höhenangst to experience both figuratively and literally, new heights.
In the Footsteps of Heidi
So this past week found V and I engaged in what we know in America as a Stay-Cation, that which can be defined as proper time-off from everyday life however one which requires no passports, travel size hair products (hate) or being manually patted-down (with particular suspicion given to my afro-puff) by strangers. As part of the stay-local program, V and I tapped into our outdoorsman spirit and sought out a hiking adventure to rival last year’s junkets. Feeling a sense of excitement and vigor I can only liken to a Superhero, we opted to tackle a trek of the famous Rheinsteig region which featured a six hour tour of up and down maneuvers that left my muscles questioning if I ever had their best interest at heart. While the overall hike was an exercise in perseverance, it was the 'Alpine' features so cryptically described in our guide book that gave my Höhenangst pause and sent my brain spiraling back to an adventure where such colorful descriptors claim both their name and their legendary fame.
For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you might remember an essay a few weeks back that featured the wistful musings by my brother-in-law surrounding the tragedies that had befallen many an experienced hiker as a well-placed (?) lead-in to the adventurous, two-day Swiss hike he and my sister-in-law Regina had planned for V and I, along with three of their four boys, to that very same mountain range?
It’s called Säntis.
According to Wikipedia – at 2,501.9 meters above sea level, Säntis is the highest mountain in the Alpstein massif (a subgroup of the Alps) and located within northeastern Switzerland. This wedding present adventure from them to us, began at the base of the Säntis were we set off on an aerial tramway in order to reach the point from where we would begin our climb. Keeping my height anxieties to myself, after reassuring V I felt confident I could calmly manage any mountain-top “episodes,” – all bets were off as my fears reared their ugly head following a glimpse out over the expansive space that opened up into the rocky gulf below.
Our first day’s trek was beautiful and came without incidence but I soon came to learn that it was the next day's trail that was responsible for running up that nasty body count as recounted earlier by my brother-in-law. In starting out the day, I gingerly made my way along the narrow path, silently thanking the heavens for the fogged in morning that shrouded the deadly rocks in a fluffy, white blanket and me in its blissful ignorance. Regina, my heroic guide throughout the trip, is Swiss by birth and shared colorful stories of her mountain adventures including those she had previously experienced with her young sons on that very same range. The Swiss I came quickly to believe hail from a different kinda stock, one I can only equate to the result of the vast Alpine mountains they call their neighbor. It appears to take hold of them, become part of them and with that comes a fearlessness that filled me with both admiration and alarm, as I watched my nephews leap around like leprechauns as I in turn held steadfast to their mother.
"Just take it nice and slow. There is no rush. I’m with you,“ Regina softly coached into my ear.
I guess it goes without saying I made my way safely down and because of this, boldly lay claim to the conquering of that magnificent mountain and to an extent, some of my Höhenangst fears.
Thank you Regina.
We are off again to Switzerland for the weekend - excited to be celebrating with my sister-in-law as she ushers in another exciting birthday year. And while there are no Alpine adventures on tap this time around, there is sure to be lots and lots of Swiss beer to fill the void.
Note to Self: no hand-holding or coaching required in managing this one.