My friend John Bird from Utah arrived last night all jetlagged and anxious.
I'd recruited him some months ago to take me through to the end of my journey, which will require ropes and safety belays nearly every day. Last night as he tossed and turned all night without sleeping, he didn't feel at all good about what he'd gotten himself into.
But today couldn't have been better. Starting tomorrow we'll be on glaciers at high altitude almost without break. But today John got a wonderful taste of what my typically great days until now have been like, other than the solitude.
We were joined by Roland Baumgartner, my friend from Switzerland Tourism. Together we hiked 11 hours from Gondo to the Almagell Alpen hut. First we walked through larch forest, then alpine pasturages, then ever higher until we were on moraine from recently vanished glaciers, until we finally reached the cold and windy 3,200-meter Zwischbergen Pass. The weather, the scenery, and the company couldn't have been better. I think I'll get used to talking to someone besides Shadowman, who can't be depended upon.
The day ended at the 101-year-old Almageller Alpen hut with wine and a splendid multi-course hut meal. We spent most of the day in the green zone, with only a brief foray up where nothing lives. John and I both like it that way, so I was delighted for him to experience a pretty standard day on this trip.
Because tomorrow everything changes. Tomorrow we launch into the white zone, up there where nothing can live. It will be another world, a world with no life except our own and our fellow climbers. This will be fun, we hope, but both John and I were glad for this superb day in the world of living green things. And for the day with Roland, who knows more about Switzerland than just about anyone. Roland pointed eastward on our way up the pass, identifying mountains and valleys that I crossed since entering Ticino, including Monte Generosa, where I spent that magical night.
Most impressive of all was looking down the extended length of the Centovalli, where the continents collide.