Published: November 11th 2011September 25th 2011
Today was one of those days where anything felt possible.
Maria woke me up with a question: “Wanna climb a mountain today?”
Didn’t realize it would be tallest/most challenging one in the region! No regrets though, because I don’t know the next time I’ll have the opportunity to do something like this. This has kinda been my rationale for how I’ve been living since I arrived. Carpe Diem!
La Tournette looks over the lake from 7700 feet above. To put it into better perspective for you Lancasterians, that’s 31 Mount Pleasants.
Maria's friend Johan drove us to the base of the summit in Maria’s old car (a former rally car), called La Tigresse, because, well, there was a tiger painted right on the hood. It was a very personable car. We bounced around on roads I wouldn’t have driven on with a truck or an SUV, but somehow the car remained intact and we were there.
I was ill-equipped for the climb: no boots, no hiking sticks, not enough water. I still made it to the top all the same.
Five minutes into the climb, and my legs feel like jelly. Three hours
into the climb, and my legs are jelly. Didn’t really have a choice but to continue, though. Apparently, the elevator was out of order. So worth it, though, these views were just awesome. As physically demanding as it was, it wasn’t difficult to not lose sight of the current moment, that it’s the journey, not the destination; it’s building a fort.
I was surprised by the number of people there were at the end of the first leg. Lots of rugged old people, well into their sixties. I’m always impressed by the active French lifestyle that carries well into the later years of life. It was a Sunday though, a beautiful one at that. I said to myself that I didn’t even want to think of return trip down La Tournette. And we were only halfway there.
The second leg was particularly not for the faint of heart. That’s when the people started thinning out and the mountain became a boot camp obstacle course. It became too steep to climb without the use of… chain-link ropes. So we ascended, rappelling harnessless up the side of the mountain, dodging falling rock from climbers above all along the
way. We were climbing through clouds, my ears were popping and it felt like we were closer to the heavens than the earth. La Tigresse, still within view, kept getting smaller and smaller, like a red star in a green night sky.
At this point I went on auto-pilot until Maria notified me we had one last set of chains until we were at the summit. Johan had snuck up three Krieks for us to celebrate with. Think I’d climb this damn mountain again just for that moment. The most delicious beer I’d ever had. We ran into some friends up here (of all places!?) and posed for a picture to validate our accomplishment. I don’t often pose to show all the places I’ve been, but this one felt entirely appropriate.
It’s quite powerful stuff to see these crosses alone atop these other peaks. They’re often the only sign of man in sight. Often dating back to the nineteenth century, they sanctify mountains and serve as landmarks for fellow climbers.
A rainbow appeared; the beautiful calm before the storm. As soon as we started descending, it started hailing. Heavily. It made every surface extremely slippery. It made
the descent much more difficult than the climb because I was never far from slipping and falling hundreds of meters. About halfway down I found a little cave for us to hide out in and we watched the hail pound the mountain for a little while longer. We waited until the worst was over, but it was still a challenge to continue downward. I would have loved to have taken my DSLR with me on this climb, but reaaally glad I didn’t.
After the decent back to Earth, we drove Johan to a cliff so he could paraglide the rest of the way down. I hate flying, I hate falling, but this has cool written all over it. Gotta try it out in the spring. We caught up with Johan next to the lake in a nearby town. We got home and I offered to get us pizza for dinner. Thing is, I couldn’t find any pizzeria that would let me order takeout, so I ended up on an hour-long bike ride around the city for pizza. Not quite sure where all that energy came from. Maria said she wanted either a Savoyard pizza (ham and Reblochon cheese) or
anchovies. I had a brilliant idea to combine the two. When I finally got back with the pizza, it was quite cold (that’s what happens when you ride a bike with a pizza on an autumn night) and we really had no way of reheating it. Mmmmm. (pretty sure it would’ve been gross even if it had been warm!)
All in all, I’d say a pretty good first two days in Annecy.
There are more photos below