Just as night falls, ahead of you there’s the fiery spectacle of the sun sinking, a blood-red ball into the haze of distant mountains. And, behind you, the earth’s ghostly shadow creeps upwards – while you sit in that sheltered spot outside the hut, peaceful, appreciative – and two minutes later you’re safe inside again, next to the toasty oven.
|Sunset in the Bernese Oberland
(Photo by courtesy of Alpine Light & Structure)
You’ve drained this day to the dregs; now, overexcited, almost in a fever, you need your sleep to recover. Drained by the sunglare, you’re glad to turn in; onto that wondrously soft pallet of straw. Now listen, outside, how the mountain wind icily heralds the dark night’s chill.
Which moves you most – that spectacle of the sinking sun, ever renewed, or that stealthy shadow, unbelievably fast-growing, with all its eerie accoutrements – when you see them at sunset from a high peak’s godlike seat?
The mightier your mountain, the higher and steeper it is, the more magically the light fades, and so much the greater too the grim looming of night’s onset. But you need strong nerves if you hanker after some yet higher vantage point, so as not to miss the twin spectacles of the radiant fire and the spectre of shadow. For most of us worry ourselves sick, tremble with fear even, just to think about the descent – be that as it may, you need to get a move on.
Before the night goes pitch-black on you, while some light lingers, you need to get down as far as you can, get down the ridge, tackle the steepest bits, the water-slimed rocks, get across the snow cone or the glacier’s crevasses cutting this way and that.
Already you seem to be clueless how, before dawn today, you worked your way through the night and, with your lantern’s help, found your way through a chaos of rubble by a feeble light’s gleam. But, all of a sudden, you don’t trust yourself any more – so much sun have you had through the blazing day that you’re fainting for sleep and a rest. So, down as fast as you can, and you’ll get away without a bivvy.
This is an excerpt from a centennial translation of Ihr Berge (1916), a mountain memoir by Hans "Hamo" Morgenthaler (1890-1928). Translation (c) Project Hyakumeizan.