Eyes of a Child

Larissa, Simone, Olga, and Yuliya climbing in the Grimsel region of Switzerland. ©Karen Bockel.

Larissa, Simone, Olga, and Yuliya climbing in the Grimsel region of Switzerland. ©Karen Bockel.

When I am out in the mountains climbing with my Chicks, my friends or my colleagues, I often think about how lucky I am to get to go to places like these, to call the mountains home.

What stirs these thoughts are often just the tiny glimpses of what makes this world so special, so different.

This past weekend, for example, I was out in a beautiful, remote region of Switzerland. I was with four women, mostly new to the mountains. We had a long trek to our mountain hut where we going to spend the night. The trek followed a narrow footpath above and around cliffs and gorges, adorned with steel cables and ladders along the way.

Not five minutes would go by before one of the four would stop to take a picture, or three, again, and again. I started getting impatient and urged the group to keep up the pace. I wanted them to concentrate on moving along.

Then I caught myself. This was their first foray into the wild and beautiful alpine world. Everything was new and they had to take it all in. The view of a giant glacier above a granite-walled gorge, the sound of the melt-water rushing down the narrows, the wildflowers along the rocky steps, the stones piled into cairns guiding the way through fields of talus, the brilliant blue sky above. The mountains were so new and so fascinating. It was as if they saw it all with the eyes of a child.

Views I had seen many times, steps I had taken without a second thought, evoked their curiosity and wonder. “Just amazing!” they said.

The next morning we started up a glacier in the pre-dawn to find yet more unexpected, previously unimaginable experiences. Navigating with headlamps, the women heard the first crunch of their crampons on the old, hardened snow and ice. And so they kept going, finding new horizons as they went.

At the end of the trip, their legs were beyond tired, their backs were bruised from their packs and their skin burned from the sun, but their eyes shone so brightly, and they could not stop recounting what they had just lived. My heart was full.