The Mariko Aoki phenomenon is an urge to defecate when inside bookstores. I felt it now. Just that instead of a bookstore it was the menacingly snow shrouded Eiger North Face that I was facing.
It seemed that only I had been foolhardy enough to venture out that afternoon. I had hopped off the crowded train at Kleine Scheidegg in disgust with a desperate urge to scramble up the moist wet shoals of the mountain. The train carriage, gorged with humans, sluggishly pierced and disappeared into the rocks. An intrusive journey.
Once again it was only the mountain, the grass, the rooks and the marmots.
I slowly had to let go of my incongruent inhibitions. I lay down face up and spread-eagled on the icy cold rocks to look up at the North Face. I wanted to know how close I would get to the cliff face before I acknowledged the immensity of my folly.
There had been ample opportunities to climb and hike in my life but I was too busy going somewhere. I had come here to “rejuvenate”.
I had underestimated the settings. Already my face and clothes were shining from the dew. Cool, glacial condensation that I was in no hurry to wipe away.
In Search of Distance
My shoes were worn out. Its treads were shiny as silk and the rocks were wet with slush. From afar I had not judged how crucial the grip was even for the grassy ascent. I slid and slipped my way up on all fours. I had my camera on my back but I heard it crack against the surface many times. I did not care.
This was penance. The imposing stone face the witness. The sin unknown.
But climb I did.
With an increasingly lighter heart I was inching closer and closer towards the sheer rock like a blind man feeling his way to a wall. So caught up was I on the stones and pebbles beneath my feet that when I finally looked up to catch my breath my heart stopped and sweat started dripping down my face.
I was mortified. Swirls of brooding dark clouds were fast forming an impenetrable canopy above me.
I am not an expert on high altitude weather but it looked bad. Very bad. I turned back.
It did not taste of failure. Goals and wishes melted into the ground. Washed away by the thin air, absorbed into the sweet fragrant mud and seeped into the green fronds of the resilient grass. All that was left was the smell of wet stones.
As I slid down I realized how little distance I had traveled. I could have walked backwards from where I had started and the Eiger would have materialized better. As usual I had rushed on without restraint. I had wanted to touch her. To possess, capture and enslave her within an immovable frame. To immortalize my insecurity at departure. Tried to press my stamp instead of searching for her’s.
I had succumbed once again to temptation.
The Cabin in the Mountain
I walked back in a turmoil of emotions. Now I did not care if I got caught in a downpour. I could have sat through a freezing slate of rain if it could wash my thoughts. I could not redirect the incredibly refreshing air I was breathing from my lungs to my brain.
I decided to walk all the way down till my path crossed some train station. On the way I passed a mountaineer’s cabin. It must have been built by better men. Or women. A tiny cabin built to shelter humans from the elements.
It was late evening by then.
I sat down near the cabin dangling my legs over a small rock looking down at the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
How thoughtful were the locals, the government, their priorities to preserve what they had inherited. Where are people going wrong in other parts of the world? Why is nature playing nice? Was all this a shrinking illusion before the aesthetics of the Bernese Oberlands becomes a fenced museum? How long more do we have before we stop making excuses?
I got up not bothering to dust my pants. I wanted to take as much of the mountain as I could with me forever.
Sometimes you can only blame and worry. Sometimes nature is worth more than human lives.