Two brothers set off from a hut high up in the French Alps to start the legendary Haute Route (High Route) from Chamonix to Zermatt in Switzerland. It had been an unpredictable winter season in the Alps with unsettled weather and many disappointed skiers facing unsatisfactory conditions. This journey however, was a classic ski mountaineering trek well away from the traditional ski runs and resorts.
When they set off the weather forecast yet again was not promising, but as they only had 20 kilometres to the next hut, they felt confident that they could make good time to the next night stop. Climbing to the top of the first col had been relatively easy under a star-studded sky and, reaching the top, they were greeted with a beautiful dawn. Stretched out before them lay a wondrous vista of snowy-topped mountains. Looking back however, they could see the ominous approaching clouds of an impending storm. They needed to move with best speed. Descending quickly onto the glacier with snowflakes beginning to flutter in the air all around them, the first problem arose. A crampon, vital for grip on the ice, on one of the brother’s boots broke. This in itself would slow them down – time that they didn’t have as the snowflakes turned into what is called a ‘whiteout’ – a maelstrom of driving snow making visibility nigh on impossible. Recognizing that it was dangerous to move on a glacier with impaired vision and slow movement, the brothers decided to construct a snow hole to get out of the worsening conditions.
After making themselves a hole in the snow they sat inside and waited for the storm to blow itself out. 24 hours later and with no signs of better weather and no food left, they decided that they had to make a move otherwise they would either freeze to death or get caught in one of the many avalanches that were now roaring off the mountain above and around them. They trusted each other that this was the only thing to do. To stay would make them prey to the next avalanche; they had to move, but where? To continue across the glacier in the hope of making the safety of the hut was fraught with dangers. Their only chance was to climb out of the glacier. This too was a risk as without an accurate idea on exactly where they were, they could end climbing a dangerous slope. Still, they trusted each other. The brother with both good ice crampons started the climb with no pack, just a rope and two ice axes. The other brother stood at the base of the slope belaying the line. Very soon they lost sight of each other. The climber felt that the angle of the slope was so steep that at least no avalanche could form on it and climbed steadily in almost blind conditions. Suddenly as the climber tried to place his ice axe into snow and ice, he found that it gripped thin air. He was at the top! Carefully he pulled himself onto the ridge and made himself safe. He shouted down to his brother that he was on a ridge but could see nothing from there due to the conditions. It was a predicament indeed – what to do next? Dare to go over the other side with no knowledge of what was there, or return back down to the potential hazards of the glacier. If only he could see…he asked God and anyone who might be listening for help. Then suddenly, as if by magic, the clouds opened and for 30 seconds he could see for miles and miles and miles. He could see the valley below, the fir trees and the sparkle of village lights in the distance. Quickly he took a bearing on the woods and looked at a potential safe route down. He shouted excitedly to his brother that he had been shown the way, and that he could now make his way up to him.
Within six hours the brothers were walking into the village and the welcome heat of a hotel and a hot meal. They had an incredible adventure and both realized that they had been lucky, particularly as the locals were astonished to hear that anyone had made it down from the mountain in the conditions outside.
Moral of the story:
Try always to be prepared for any eventuality – life can sometimes pull a surprise or two on you. And secondly, trust that all will be well, even in the darkest of moments, because if you ask for help, the universe will very often ‘show you the way’ – it is simply called the Law of Attraction.