gmhTODAY 23 gmhTODAY Dec Jan 2018 - Page 93

(7,800 feet). They crossed a glacier and scrambled through rocky expanse. Next up, Pas du Chevre or “pass of the goat” (9,785). This required a long, exposed climb up two vertical iron ladders; nearly 100 rungs in all. “I’ll admit I was scared. My hands were shaking a bit. But I had set a goal and prepared for this trip. I reminded myself, it’s all mental, and I did it.” They were rewarded with breath- taking views of Pigne d’Arolla, Mont- Blan de Cheilon, and Mont-Collomb. All that separated them from a hot shower and a tasty meal in the story- book Swiss hamlet of Arolla was a mere 6,660-foot downhill climb. On Day 8, Laura and her group transferred to Cotter to begin what they, as experienced hikers, agreed was the easiest day of their trek. As they ascended the Col de Torrent (9,630 feet) they were surrounded by the spectacular Dent Blanche range above (14,380 feet) and glacial lakes below. “The vivid turquoise color of alpine lakes is attributed to sunlight reflecting off the fine minerals, sometimes referred to as glacial flour, in the water,” Laura said. “We hiked down through alpine meadows filled with edelweiss and for- get-me-nots and female fighting cows! They like to fight with each other. Each herd wears different-sized bells that ring in different tones so the herders can keep track of their own.” They spent the night in the historic Swiss village of Grimentz, which still retains much of the “old ways” of moun- tain village living. The next day, the hikers transferred to Zinal (5,500 feet) and into the German- speaking part of Switzerland. They made a steep climb through a forest thick with larch trees, heather, and wild blueber- ries. The route required them to traverse a long “balcony” (basically, walking sideways across rock). Towering above them was the Matterhorn (14,692 feet), arguably the most famous and alluring yet treacherous peaks for climbers. According to sources, 500 people have died attempting to scale the Matterhorn including several people who perished in the first attempt on record. The group made a second steep ascent toward the Col de Forcletta (9,480 feet). Then they descended GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN december 2018-january 2019 93