Thursday, June 28, 2007

Stage 6

After a rest day yesterday in Oberammergau, today's hike was relatively short -- only about 9km,+900m, -180m. It was supposed to take around four hours, but in fact it took somewhat longer since we were in no hurry. But first a few words about the rest day in Oberammergau.

Russ and Sally went looking for replacement / better hiking gear in the morning... and appear to have found it. Sally finally found a rucksack that fitted her, as well as new (slightly larger) hiking boots and orthotics to address her Morton's Neuroma problems -- the result, for the first time on the H2H a pain-free day. Russ bought himself a thin pair of socks and wore only them instead of 2 to 3 pairs simulataneously: the result being that his ankle rash seemed to get better.

In fact, today was the first day that both of them seemed to be having a really good time. As Dave put it: up until now their body language said that they weren't sure that they either would be able to or would want to finish the hike, but today that changed. A turning point? Let's hope so.

On my side today was less brilliant. My Morton's reasserted itself, and I developed a muscle strain my left thigh out of the blue that by the end of the day was giving me some real trouble. 3 ibuprofen solved it for this evening, but I'm a little nervous about the 6 hour hike tomorrow.

Back to Oberammergau: I spent the morning learning poetry and blogging, then the afternoon largely on the phone in a board conference call for one of the companies I'm involved with. Lidia and Madeleine arrived around 2PM and we had lunch together, then they played a couple of games with Russ and Sally before going off to play Minigolf with Richard (who had spent the rest of the day on errands, visiting a local friend, and together with Dave eating boundless amounts of icecream and cake). After I surfaces from my calls around 8:45 we had dinner and then played a game of Zug um Zug before turning in. As you can see, blogging about a hiking day is much simpler... at least then everyone does the same thing.

Another spectacular hike today -- including a small and easy Klettersteig up Kofel, with lunch on top while enjoying spectacular views of Oberammergau There followed a great ridge walk with vertiginous drop-offs that visibly worried Sally, and a great hut at the end: good food, funny and entertaining Wirt (owner / server), "urig" (traditional / ancient) common room, and tremendous view into the upper Ammertal. The fact that there are no showers and only one toilet for everyone sleeping upstairs dampened our spirits only marginally (in large part because it turned out that we are the only ones staying here tonight).

The weather gods continue to smile upon us: no rain, a little cooler than the last few days, a little wind, but overall great hiking weather.

Gotta sign off now: Huetten Ruehe started 7 minutes ago: time to go to bed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Russell's Second Post

Once again my brother Russell provides more bloggy goodness... wait... I've
just read what he has written... I'm not sure that "goodness" is the right
term. It seems as if the stresses and the strains of the last few days
have seriously impacted his brain. But I'll let you form your own


Stardate 1.03 Lieutenant Uhura reporting

I am awoken by small nerves screaming for respite. It is arguable that I
did not sleep at all overnight. Can one call it sleep when only one eye is
shut, the other open, and one is massaging one's feet? I think not. I fear
that sleep and I will be far from companions on the days and weeks ahead.
Perhaps I will see sleep far in the distance, out-pacing me upon the hike.
I get to the hut, he is pleasantly rested and ready for more activities.
Sleep takes off for more hiking leaving me sleepless. I hate him, this
from-afar-viewed hiker named Sleep. He is invariably in front and skipping
along effortlessly. Sometimes he waits and when I catch up, low and behold,
Sleep has turned himself into one of my companions, perhaps Dave or Sally,
but some resentment towards the lack of sleep sours the interactions with
my friendly companions.

It is a high art to become the nay-sayer of a group. One provides a
necessary counterpoint to the optimistic leader. One points out the lows
and down-sides. This takes devious communication skills. Without the dark
there can be no light. It is no easy task always finding the bad in the
good. Someone has to take on this onerous yet challenging task & during
today's hiking I realize that perhaps this should be my role. I obviously
cannot be the leader as I know nothing of the what the day holds. I cannot
be the engineer as the that also requires some knowledge. Perhaps as Uhura,
I can accomplish this evil goal ? And if I am to task myself, let me do it
with aplomb and vigor! Let me make of this task real artwork, real
accomplishment, with darkly crafted nays of many days duration, artfully
woven negatives of woe and despair, downsides of supreme rot and undermining!

Such are the thoughts of he who must whine and winge, Winey Wingey Man. As
we, probably from my most negative of inputs, miss out on a hike up and
across the BenediktenWand, I realize my training regimen has been woefully
inadequate, and I have only myself to blame for the state I find myself in.
Perversely, I blame all those around me for this.

Stardate 1.04

Gollum reporting. My brother is the darklord, and I have lived a life of
torture and pain. Today we arose at around the time Bavarian birds start
the morning cacophony, earlier than I have ever been awake my entire
life. Apparently the weather is to deliver storms and lightning to us
later in the day. Ah joy. The daily breakfast ritual is a saving grace as
I can eat pork to my heart's content . I occasionally feel guilty at
breakfast. I have been consuming, on average, enough to feed a family of
four for a week or so, per breakfast. It is the feeling of well-being I
seek. A quick respite from the ever-increasing presence of a
dissatisfaction of the body.

Various parts of the body are checking in with damage reports that make it
inevitable that the starship will soon crash into the upcoming hiking path.
My forward shields ie. my ankles and feet, are down with a sock-created
pressure rash that burns like hydrofluoric acid. Note to self - take a
picture so that those who have viewed the perineal chafe achieved upon the
Sea-2-Sea hike can also be wowed by my stage eleven flesh eating
streptoccoccal macerated infuriated cellulitic lymphanigitic class Z
gangrenous ankle hamburger.

A new companion, Richard, has arrived today. He appears to be in even
better shape than most of my companions. I resent him immediately. I cannot
blame this on freshness as he too has hiked a few days to meet us. I cannot
remember the day' s torture as the pain has blotted this memory from my
brain. I do remember Richard running down the stairs the evening prior. I
learn to hate all with whom I interact. It takes many more muscles to smile
than to frown. I save energy by frowning. I hope my companions understand
this innately without explanation, as none will be forthcoming.

Stardate 1.05

GarbageScow cleaner-complainer Billy second class reporting, Sir! A new low
has been reached. It was highly evident to me during last summer's hike
across England, that I am not built for walking on the flats. My excessive
bulk flattens out the natural arch of the feet. More foot surface area on
the ground naturally creates more friction. This slows me down in
comparison to my companions. The bones of the feet, 29 in all as I recall,
each need to be in a specific position relative to one another to create a
state of dynamic tension. When the arch is squashed, the tension is no
longer present, and thus one flat-footedly smacks each foot upon the ground
successively in a parody of walking known as pain. I look like a
carpet-beater in action. I have 29 naysayers sending messages to the
intestines to take control, sit down somewhere to never move again, and
consume pork until some sensation of well being might be achieved
somatically. How am I to deny these 29 important folk their last dieing
wish prior to fracture?

Bradley's rule of hiking #230
Throw everything of any weight out of the pack as rapidly as possible.

Most important items for hiking will be carried by others and can be either
borrowed, as in toothpaste, then returned, or lent for a period of time
whilst not in use by the owner, as in shoes or underwear. I now must hike
at night and must return to the starting point each morning. Pick a very
good place to start
this practice. Seriously, a backpack of 20 kilogrammes is far too heavy.
And that's empty!

Bradley's rule of hiking #231
Water is a non-essential. Sweat and urine can be collected, and reconsumed.

Tomorrow is being named a rest day. I'd like to rest the whole rest of the
trip. I note to our fearless leader that there is no clause for escape from
this hike according to the document (Document - 200 pages long, much
history of all places to be visited, their natural history, geology,
populace, arts and crafts, points of interest, fact, statistics, etc. All
in all far too long a document for me to have taken seriously) ; he points
out, there are alternative routes listed for every day should one choose to
take them. He then points out that I will be relegated to the level of
"join-along-the-way" hiker, a much belittled entity, should I choose to
avail myself thereof. I will not give him this satisfaction. I will take
them all down with me. I must plan for the disaster.

Russell's First Post

I'll turn the blogging "pen" over to my brother Russell... whose unique
writing style will no doubt give you much to think about :-).


Stardate 1.01 Captain's log
With the best of intentions we set off into the wild blue yonder of
Bavaria. We we`re accompanied the first couple of rainy hundred meters
along the road by close family, and some neighbours. I suspect they were
all happy to see us eventually leave as the preparations for departure had
taken days encompassing event planning, party preparation, cooking,
cleaning, cooking again, cleaning again, guest introductions, parties
(numerous), entertainment, pretense of pleasantries, suffering close family
too close for too long, and of course the fears as to would these people
ever actually get underway.
Already downcast from my loss of my brother's house key, I felt that
perhaps starting on a low note could only help me as there seemed no where
to go but up. I was wrong about this. There was to be much further down to
go as we went up, and down, and across the fields towards our first day's
destination. The family waved us away, and the ordeal was embarked upon
with good humor and well wishes.
Thanks be to God that the next major occurrence, Sally's loss of passport,
driver's license, and all the money she had changed so far (thousands? tens
of thousands? $28.50?), took me out of the perceived mental spotlight as I
had already surmised that something untoward was to occur. My subtle lack
of training the last few weeks had put me so far into the portly category
that I could be mistaken for a barge. My once proud muscularity had waned
and my bulk seemed solely to compose of sausage stuck into a human's skin
sack. For some reason, perhaps the daunting prospect of months of endless
hiking, I had been disinclined to do much hiking in preparation. The closer
the event loomed, the less I exercised. As hiking has become one of my sole
forms of exercise, taking it away left me with walking, sitting and lying
as forms of caloric consumption. Topping the scale at over 250 pounds, in
Munich, my performance anxiety fears were soon to be realized. Day 1
however proved to be physical
ly easily accomplished, and the pork I ate for dinner erased all worries as
to overweightedness - food steers blood away from the brain as it brings on
the sensation of satiety. Who can worry when one is full?

Stardate 1.02 First Engineer Scott reporting
Mutiny on the Bounty is essential reading for all hikers. Or please refer
to the recent hit movie, Pirates of the Carribbean. One has expectations as
to the day's hike, and more often than not, these expectations cannot be
met. I was looking forward to a pleasant stroll through the Bavarian hills,
with happy fresh-faced farm folk waving to us and perhaps offering fresh
milk warm from the teat, or a choice pork sausage recently stuffed. Sadly,
as the bulk from my recent zealous "eating with abandon" philosophy of
preparation made itself known to my feet and legs, the path seemed to
stretch further and further in front. I naturally only had myself to blame
for my feelings as to this day's hike. In an effort to get as far away from
all that I know, and practice, as possible, I had once again put myself
solely into my brother's capable hands. To release oneself from
responsibility might be the goal of every vacationing physician, as we are
too often responsible for the lives of all of
those who seek our help professionally. So, in my warped mind, this means
knowing absolutely nothing about what the day holds in terms of distance,
route, destination, weather, etc. I thus travel as the happy idiot, eager
to follow, an elephant holding the tail of the beast in front, wandering
gaily, free from intrusive worry or concern. Somehow much to my chagrin,
loud concerns were raised by various body parts, and as the day stretched
from, when inquired as to length, some few hours, to some few more hours, I
felt betrayed from both within and without.
It is inadvisable to purchase boots on T-1 day of a hike. I know this now.
I must write all the rules of hiking that I discover along the way to help
the future H2H hikers.
I wonder if I turned off the stove back in SLC?

Stage 5

A tough and long day yesterday from Walchensee to Oberammergau. The day dawned fair and the weather forecast was encouraging, so at breakfast I managed to convince the others to take a higher route over a saddle rather than the lower level path along the Eschenlaine stream. This added about +/-500m to what we would have otherwise have done and made the day closer to what I had originally planned (going from the Herzogstand Haus to Heimgarten and then down to the saddle).

The trails were lovely, the views spectacular, and morale was high for the first few hours. Sometime around two and a half hours into the descent to Oberammergau, however, as feet began to complain, the group happiness index began to drop, and by Eschenlohe there was a noticeable sentiment of "Null Bock auf Nix" (no desire to do anything).

This feeling was not helped by the fact that, as was the case last year when I did my test hike, none of the three Gaststaetten in Eschenlohe was open For various reasons (terribly maintained hiking paths, inaccurate signs (where else can one walk for 40 minutes in the direction of X from one sign saying "3 hours to X" only to find another sign saying exactly the same thing?), the fact that everything is always closed when I am there, and the singularly unwelcoming appearance and behaviour of the inhabitants), Eschenlohe is not my favorite village in Oberbayern :-).

After a second lunch we pushed on, crossing the wide flat valley of the Loisach to Plaicken where the final challenge of the day -- a 600m climb to and descent from the Laberjoch awaited us. The climb goes along paths that at first have a medieval feel to them and go down from there reaching a nadir of true Dark Ages awfulness just before you reach the top. Russell, poor fellow, was suffering big time by now so I sang him a few freely adapted verses of "Summertime", which seemed to cheer him up. Here's an example, as well as I can remember it:

Summertime, and the hiking is easy.
The trail is smooth, and your pack is light.
Your legs are strong, and your butt is good-looking,
So Russell, don't you cry.

And there was more of the same. At least it had the effect of getting Dave to start singing something else (perhaps to shut me up?), which then led to Russ singing... and the crisis passed.

Dave, by the way, as I have said before, is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. One of the principles of hiking in a group is that no-one should ever be allowed to trail behind alone. There should always be one other person who hikes with them. Dave always plays this role and is a great comfort to whomever is feeling weak and slow at that moment.

Dave is also a remarkable hiker in other ways. For example, he doesn't hike like other people: he is more like a dog, stopping to take photos then running to catch up; running ahead to take a photo of the group then waiting for us to catch up. In fact he seems to run much more than he actually hikes, and this despite carrying some 16kg on his back and a huge honking camera with telephoto lens in his arms. He is a remarkable fellow.

After 9 hours and 20 minutes of hiking, almost 11 hours after leaving Walchensee, we arrived at Oberammergau. Although it seems to have rained almost everywhere else in Bavaria yesterday, it didn't rain on us. But we were exhausted anyway. The following day was to be (and as I write this, now is) a rest day, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

5 down, 86 to go....

Monday, June 25, 2007

Stage 4

Another day shorter than planned, but this time due to inclement weather. We were up at 5:50 and hiking by 6:45, in order to get to the Herzogstandbahn Bergstation before the last gondola descended at 4:45. Ominous clouds and thunder as we came down from the Jochberg at 1PM, however, convinced us that in this case discretion would be the better part of valour, and so we decided to walk along the shore of the Walchensee instead.

This means that tomorrow we will take the lower route via the Eschenlaine river to Eschenlohe, which is probably not a bad idea anyway, for a couple of reasons: firstly, if the weather is poor (as it is predicted to be), then a traverse of the Grat between Herzogstand and Heimgarten is not a good idea, secondly I don't know the route and so it will be interesting to see something new, and thirdly I think that the team is still inclined to shorten the hikes wherever possible!

Other than a little rain and thunder at the end of the day, the weather was once again beautiful, and the hike from the Tutzinger Huette to the Jochberg is one of the prettiest I know.

We are starting to amass various minor injuries and irritations: I have a slight infection of one toe due to an ingrowing toenail, Russell has a rash around his ankles, and Sally's Morton's Neuroma is giving her ever more pain. Nothing yet, however, that has caused any of us to skip a day. I think, though, that we are all looking forward to the rest day after tomorrow's hike to Oberammergau.

Richard Maerz showed up around 6PM today, having hiked up to the Herzogstand Haus under the mistaken impression that we would be spending the night there. After walking in and being told that we were not there and had no reservation, he remembered that I had also talked about a hotel in Walchensee. A few telephone calls and fortunate timing in catching the last gondola down brought him to us just as we were finishing dinner (yes, at 6PM -- what can I say, we had lunch at 10AM and were hungry!).

We chatted for a while as a group, then the other three went off to an early bed while Richard and I talked further and then played a quick game of Carcassonne. We'll be having breakfast at 7:30 tomorrow, so I'll sign off here for now. More, perhaps much more, during the free day on Wednesday after we get to Oberammergau.

Stage 3

We made it to the Tutzingerhuette in 6 hours, 1.25 hours shorter than planned. Of course, taking the easy route down from the Rotohr Sattel may have had something to do with this. There was a general feeling among the group (with the exception of YT (Yours Truly)) that we should skip the Benedikten Wand because the previous day's hike had been much longer than planned.

Weather, beautiful and hot, a fair number of people on the trails, but not that many, especially considering that it was a Sunday. Morale fairly high... Russell being the exception due to not being in as good shape as he perhaps should have been and various minor ailments. Sally has also various ailments but still marches out in front (at least early in the day; later I seem to pull ahead :-).

When we got up to the Brauneck Huette there was an accordeon player playing for anyone who cared to hear. That plus the view and the Apfelschorle was a sort of summary of why hiking in the Bavarian Alps is such a pleasure.

Tough day tomorrow... we'll be up early and racing the clock to get to the Herzogstandbahn Bergstation before the last lift goes down at 4:30. Unclear if team is going to be very pleased with me at the end of the day :).

One very nice surprise: Thomas Bili showed up this morning to hike with us up to the Brauneckhuette... bringing good cheer. With Bea and Arnulf yesterday this is becoming a very welcome habit. We seem to be blessed with excellent friends!

Lastly, this is being posted a day late due to the fact that there was no cellphone access at the Tutzinger Huette... something that will no doubt occur frequently.