I am not the sporty type but last week I climbed a mountain… for the first time in my life.
I will admit I had my reservations about trekking for three and a half hours, for some 14km and I found the best way was to not think about what this would entail and just go for it.
That’s just what I did and I’m still revelling in having accomplished this feat, but I also feel a sense of appreciation for nature, for being able to have done this walk and for coming to a few new realisations that will stay with me for life.
I’ve been living in Munich for almost two years now and despite the fact that I hail from a country where it is sunny for over 300 days a year and where the sun is so strong, I hide from it in the peak summer months, I find myself doing the complete opposite here in Germany. Come a sunny day and I can be found lying on the grass or sitting in a beer garden, lapping up the sun.
There is really something special about walking through the mountains. Perhaps I appreciate them all the more because I did not grow up with a mountainous landscape. Indeed appreciation and realisation were a key part of this hike. Just after halfway through our trek, when we had begun our descent, I experienced what I found to be the hardest part. Going downhill I had to really concentrate on where to place my feet. Chatting with one of the seasoned hikers later, he commented how this gets better with time as you learn where and how to place your feet. Living in the city means we don’t think about where we place our feet but walking along a mountain gave me appreciation for how I walk, and how to do so carefully.
There is something quite special, quite quietly powerful, quite sublime about those craggy peaks and being able to climb up them, to stand surrounded by them, is a feeling quite unlike any other.
I’ve learnt a few things, which I’d like to share, so read on:
Good shoes are imperative: While you don’t need to deck yourself in sports attire from head to ankle, you do need to think of your toes, and your feet. While our hike wasn’t the most gruelling and we followed a gravel or paved path for a good part of the trip, there were parts – particularly at the beginning and towards the peak of the mountain – were the terrain became rough and I was grateful to be wearing boots with a good grip. Mine are Mammut Pikes GTX, which I also wear in winter, in the snow. They’re comfortable and didn’t require much getting used to; I had worn them immediately after buying them and suffered none of the initial soreness that sometimes comes with a new pair of shoes.
Protect yourself: Being outdoors for most of the day meant we were exposed to the sun, and being high up meant we were even closer to it. We doused ourselves in sunblock and wore hats and caps or scarves on our heads.
Nourishment: I wish I had taken more water with me. All that exercise means you sweat a lot and two litres of water weren’t enough. Admittedly it is annoying to start off with that weight, but it’s worse to feel thirsty, or worse still to get dehydrated. Plus as your drink your load obviously lessens. You’ll also get hungry so pack a hearty snack, and one which is not too sugary from which you’ll get a burst of energy, but then have to deal with the low after that. I had some leftover ross il-forn – a Maltese dish which is traditionally rice baked with eggs, cheese and a meat sauce. I used soya mince instead of the meat as I’m vegetarian. To have said it all, there are a number of little restaurants dotted over the slopes, but what kind of a hike is it if you stop at a restaurant for lunch?!
Take your swimming things! If you’re hiking in summer, what better way to reward yourselves and cool off after all that walking than with a dip in the fresh lake water? Sweaty and a bit dusty from our hike, we relished the rush from the cool water as we floated in the sprawling lake, the surrounding mountains gloriously looking down on us.
This was my first hike, but it definitely wasn’t my last!