On Top of The World II

I opened my eyes.

Instead of cow bells I could hear voices saying “Sam, are you ok in there? Do you need some help?” in a muffled and concerned tone. I mumbled back I think so.

My hands and toes were frozen. I tried to breathe but the air was thin and I couldn’t get enough into my lungs. I felt dizzy and the toilet cubicle was spinning. The room looked upside down. That’s when I realised it was.

“Um, I think I fainted.”

The past hour rushed through my mind: get out of chairlift, run, no sprint to glacier, stand on top of glacier, try and make a snowball, throw snowball, go into glacier cave, go down glacier slide, run back to the top, rush down again, I think I feel sick, no you don’t, GO GO GO!

***

When we were about halfway up, the first member of our group started complaining of feeling sick. He felt dizzy and nauseous and although he didn’t want to miss out on this amazing experience, he simply felt too ill to continue. I too realised the air was much thinner up here but was so overwhelmed with excitement I tried to ignore it.

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The best way to distract yourself from the cold? Try on cow hats!

I got onto the next chairlift and let it take me higher and higher. I felt like I was flying, soaring, leaving the real world far below.

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The coldness hit me even harder when we finally got to the top. But there was no way I was letting it stop me. I skipped with excitement through the tunnel and out onto the glacier. Yes, that’s right! A Glacier!!!

I clawed at the ice until my fingers were raw. I managed to create a snowball but there was no way I was going to build a snowman. I threw it and watched the ice crystals sparkle in the sun.

The American tourists laughed at my fascination with the ice/snow.

“If you had to shovel piles and piles out of your doorway, you wouldn’t find it as beautiful!”

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But it was beautiful. And magical. And there were so many things to do. I wanted to hike right up to the top. I wanted to go down into the glacier cave. I didn’t have the right shoes or clothes but that wasn’t going to stop me.

Granma was really feeling the cold and change in atmosphere. She decided a coffee inside was a better option than the glacier cave. She remembered getting altitude sickness when she had gone to Mount Whistler years ago.

Down we went. There were ice statues of houses and deer and beer bottles and mountains. And then we hit the jackpot. A slide!

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There was a rope across it (this should have been a warning) but that didn’t stop us. There were warning signs in 4 different languages but that was also ignored.

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Beware children – when using this slide without a cushion you will get soaking wet and freezing cold. When you do use a cushion be prepared to FLY!

I sat down on the ice and felt it soak through my clothes and start to freeze my bones. And then I pushed off. I flew down, screaming in delight all the way down. The others followed me. And then we hit our second jackpot. Cushions. Aha! You are meant to go down the slide on the cushions!

We ran back up, if possible, giggling even harder.

This time when I pushed off, I really flew. I bashed into the icy walls numerous times, I was going so fast I couldn’t steer, and was propelled another metre through the air when I hit the bottom.

It was exhilarating.

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SLIDE!

Not long after I told my companions a) my camera lens had frozen over it was so cold and b) I didn’t feel well.

They all felt slightly queasy too and said it was normal. Nevertheless we decided to head back up to the cafe to warm up.

At this point I REALLY didn’t feel well and stumbled to the toilets, the world spinning. Please let me make it before I throw up.

***

“Sam, can you get up? Can you open the door.”

I reached up, unlocked the door and crawled out. My fellow tour members picked me up and helped me out to the cafe where I slumped into a chair. I remember being given some really warm red gloves with a Swiss flag on them, a hot chocolate and my tour guides jacket being wrapped around me and realising when I fainted I had smashed my camera.

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The last picture I took on my poor camera. I have no idea what I was aiming for here. R.I.P Camera.

They said it was altitude sickness. Granma said we should go back down the mountain to the hotel. My tour guide said he would carry me. I said no I want to hike the glacier. They ignored me.

I still maintain it was the best day of my life.

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Next time I will wear proper shoes and clothes and not faint and hike right up to the top!

 

On Top of The World

I closed my eyes.

I could hear cow bells stereotypically chiming and my guides voice repeating “don’t open them yet, just a few more steps.” I blinded obeyed.

“Now.”

I looked up. Right on cue the clouds began to slowly retreat like the curtains at a theatre to reveal the star: The Matterhorn.

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I turned to my Granma to see her mouth wide open. You know you’ve seen something magical when someone who has been all over the world and back again, is stunned into silence.

The setting sun filtered through the clouds and when it reflected off the snow tipped peak, it made the whole mountain appear golden; as though Midas himself had touched it. But before I had time to fully appreciate it, the clouds rolled back in. They continued: coming and going, coming and going, just like waves. My eyes however did not waver. I didn’t want to miss seeing the towering mountain, its rugged peaks, rocky edges and snow capped crest. I had never seen snow in my life.

The next morning I bounded out of bed and raced outside. I hadn’t felt such excitement since Christmas Day as a child. The sky was cobalt blue, the sun was shining and this morning there was not a single cloud to obstruct my view.

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Going up the chairlift was terrifying. My stomach was churning but whether it was from excitement, my fear of heights or the car swinging precariously from the thin wire I will never know. I could see the patched roofs and flowerbeds of the little Swiss village of Zermatt turning into miniature models below.

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The higher we went, the colder it got and it gradually became harder to feel my fingers and toes and harder and harder to breathe. When we finally reached the top a Saint Bernard puppy ran over and licked my face. A fellow tourist let me get a picture with her plush yodelling beer mug. I clawed at the glacier, trying to gather enough ice to make a snowball.

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There were moments where I laughed hysterically, overcome with a child’s excitement to be standing on top of the world in the Swiss Alps. And there were moments where I simply froze and looked in awe at the skiers above me and hikers below.

My tour guide walked over and pulled out his camera. “I only take photos of really special things. Not a cloud in the sky and sunshine in Zermatt; that’s special, that’s rare. You get day like this once in every seven years if you’re lucky.”

I don’t know who felt more excited and blessed to be on the mountain that day. The sun or me?

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The story continues …