Our relaxing time in the Alps is turning into a series of life threatening events. Just yesterday, Jan thought that we were about to die on the cable car on the way to the Zugspitze. And today we are heading off to a town about 12km straight line, 50 minutes by mountain pass, south of us called Haiming. We are going canyoning.
Jan gets a nod for the quote of the day when she said (and she wasn’t joking): “You almost killed me today”
And Jan has a bowel misfire once again.
Jan and I, again in LBAJ (Life Before AJ) went canyoning in Slovenia in 2004. The idea is you go up into a canyon (either by car or hiking) and then walk down the river that has made the canyon and on the way down jump into deep river pools, rappel down cliffs, and in general try to break your legs on the big rocks. When we did this in Slovenia, it felt more like a kidnapping than an actual event sanctioned by some licensing agency that ensures the safety of tourists. We met a guy on the side of the road, gave him some money. We crawled into the back of his car (a very small automotive specimen left over from the cold war) and were driven to a house in the woods. We were told to get out of the car and walk into a cabin at the back of the property where were would be hung by our arms, disemboweled and our story told as a tale to tell small children on what not to do while traveling.
Actually the cabin had wet suits, boots and the equipment to go canyoning, the guide was excellent and we had a hell of a time. This time we would use an actual company. Probably won’t be as fun.
We get up at 7am, get to our free breakfast at exactly 7:30, grab a brotchen with cheese and meat, stuff them quickly into our shorts and sprint out of the restaurant to the car. On our way through the Fernpass to Haiming and we make it by our 8:30 link up time. There are three groups heading up the mountain today, two dudes from Israel, a couple from Austria, and the three of us. Plus Doug our guide, who is from Scotland. The language of the day, it is decided, will be English, and a special thanks to all that is holy, because otherwise we would’ve been screwed. Doug gets us dressed in our wetsuits, neoprene socks and boots, we hop in his van and he drives us 45 minutes up the mountain.
After crossing a bridge, Doug pulls off the side, announces our arrival and we all get out of the van. We put on a climbing harness and get a very detailed class on what will be happening over the next three hours. We will be abseiling, German for rappelling, which is French for stupid people jumping down rock faces on ropes. We will also be climbing along the river attached to metal cables, jumping from rocks into water from heights of 3-5 meters (meters doesn’t sound so bad), and going down rock water slides. Fun!
Three other very large groups join us at the bridge–this is a very popular sport and the other rivers in the area are closed for now due to high water. One group of adolescents heads down first, we are the second in line. Our fist obstacle is the bridge. We climb over the rain. Doug, who we just met, will attache a D-ring to our harness and we will push off and drop 40 feet to the river while Doug, WHO WE JUST MET THIS MORNING AND SEEMS A BIT SKETCHY, will control our
descent fall. The two Israelis hop over first, throw their arms in the air and throw themselves off in a manly way. AJ steps up and he is over. Jan goes next then moi and we are in the river. And the wet suit’s purpose is apparent. This water is COLD. I didn’t zip my suit up all the way and when I came into the stream, water entered the suit, dropped straight down to my feet and filled the suit to the brim with freezing cold water.
We all gathered together in the river bed and then started off down the canyon. The hardest part was not the jumping, or the climbing or the abseiling/rappelling/falling. It was walking along the creek bed on the rocks without pitching face first into the water. I’m not the most graceful person to start with, and this put my abilities to remain upright to a major test. The trip started off pretty easy and then worked up to the final waterslide down a small waterfall into a deep pool. The climbs down (or across rock face) had metal braces driven into the rock onto which we could put our feet, and I noticed that those were all pretty big steps. Jan informed me, later, that those things just about killed her–she could barely stretch her legs from one to another.
Doug, our guide, was very helpful in telling us what we needed to do at each obstacle in order to maximize ‘fun’ and minimize ‘injury.’ That is, if one decided to listen to Doug. I’ll give you an example:
There were three points at which we jumped from the top of a very large rock, over a waterfall and into the water below. Doug would point to a place in the pool below and that was our target. Hit outside the target and you ran the risk of jumping onto rocks. Or sharks. Probably not sharks, but something else equally as bad. Doug would also tell you where to place your feet on the rocks so that you got close enough to the edge to get a good jump, but still have a stable platform from which to jump. One of us was uncomfortable with Doug’s suggestions and would move forward past the place where he deemed it safe (he being a certified professional with years of experience in this canyon and all) so that she would get closer to the edge. Doug would politely suggest she move back, SWMNBN1 would step forward more, Doug would reiterate that this was for her safety, SWMNBN would move forward MORE and then jump into the pool. Doug would then sigh as his career stayed on track, at least until the next jump.
I remarked to Jan, after one of the jumps into a deep pool, that I was happy that the suits kept the water away from our bodies because that alpine stream was so cold. She replied that she was happy that the suits also trapped fluids from the body inside the suite….there may have been an accident after the previous jump. Jan also informed me that there were at least three times she though she was going to die on the experience (the final waterfall and two rappels), and asked if it was my intent to continue to find events bent on terminating our lives. Note to self: Relook our schedule.
Upon completion of our canyoning we walked a short distance to the road, Doug picked us up in the van and we headed back down the mountain where we rewarded for our efforts (and for our survival) with a shot of the local schnapps. Not a friendly, winter, mint variety of schnapps that warms you up gently from the inside, but something you could use, should you need, to remove paint from the side of a car. And which would have brought tears to my eyes, but I was surrounded by manly men. I would wait until I got in the car.
We shower and based on a recommendation head to a local restaurant that serves burger/fries and is laid out like an old cafe with an automotive theme. It was fantastic and all of the people from the canyoning trip were there for lunch. Then back in the car for the trip back when we discovered ‘the stau.’ Or traffic jam. The pass we came through had some construction happening in the tunnel and when we got within a kilometer of said tunnel we came to a stop. For awhile. People were out of their cars walking and talking and motorcyclists had their helmets and jackets off, smoking and joking. Eventually we moved through the tunnel and slowly up the mountain and back to our hotel.
Where two of the three of us fell immediately into bed for a three hour nap while the other played his video games. This vacationing thing is taking a lot out of us….
1 She who must not be named