Germany?! II: The Alps

The trip started light. After a 7 hour plane ride and an interesting Shabbat with the Munich Jewish community, they took us snow-shoeing in the Alps. This is a shot of the team trekking up a smaller Alp.

At first I didn’t understand the concept of a snowshoe. At the base of the mountain, where we put on the shoes, I walked around in only my regular boots and found no difficulty. I didn’t sink into a snow cave. We’ve all walked on snow before, and without the help of a crazy plastic shoe.

Dahlia putting on her snowshoe, but is it necessary?

I was going to forget the whole snowshoe business and just walk along without the cumbersome things, but I thought I’d go along for the sake of the group. Everyone was doing it, I didn’t want to be a party pooper. If you know me, you know this kind of thinking is contrary to my personality. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen way up in the Alps, or maybe it was the effect of the group starting to cohere…

Whatever the reason, by the time we started up the mountain I was happy to have the crazy plastic things around my feet. As we climbed, the snow got fluffier and deeper. Without the annoying shoes, I would have been struggling to keep up with everyone.

The snow itself was like no other snow I’ve seen before. There were two-inch chips, or crystals of snow/ice sticking out everywhere. Here’s a picture:

I asked our mountain guy:

what had caused this phenomena and he went on for five minutes in German. I then asked our German guide what he said, and she told us that the snow would evaporate at dusk when the temperature would drop suddenly. This vapor would freeze and evaporate repeatedly. The crystals of snow/ice are the result.

The high mountain air, fantastic vistas and crisp temperature shocked us out of any remaining jetlag. I felt energized. This feeling propelled me through the rigorous schedule of the rest of the trip.

One incident on the mountain removed any doubts I may have had about the shoes. Elana Stein, our second in command, fell waist deep into a snow hole:

After I went around to take this photograph, I said to the team, “I don’t understand how that happened-” whereupon I fell into the same trench. I expected the same rush of help that Elana received, but I heard only laughter.

I eventually made it out of the hole and back down the mountain. On the train ride back to Munich I felt groggy from all the clean air and exercise. The shot of the day remained clear in my mind as I dozed off to the quiet, guttural German conversations on the train:

No comments: