The Altitude that changed his life – 08.09.2015
The Altitude that changed his life – 08.09.2015
How? You ask.
Let’s rewind to my early twenties, I was a young man who got involved in wall climbing thanks to my dad who was a climber himself and he often went to the climbing gym named Klimax. Which is a massive indoor and outdoor climbing wall and it also has a very large boulder wall as well.
So, he said to me one day that I should start climbing and so this adventure started to take a big part in my life. Although I wasn’t competitive minded and I still am not, I did manage to pgo climbing every Monday evening together with a great group of people including Roger, Marc & Ben, among a few others.
And they convinced me to join their forces to the higher mountains since 2010. I was all prepared for the new adventure and we had a succesful trip to the highest mountain located within the borders of Switzerland, namely the Dom mountain, reaching an altitude of 4545 metres above sea level.
My very first 4000 + metre mountain was a great achievement for me. Which led us to two years later, again in the beautiful Switzerland with two more 4000 + metre mountains named Weissmies and the Allalinhorn.
After the second trip to the high Alps it was time for an Italian mountain named the Gran Paradiso. And it was there that I, oddly and unfortunately enough, had to slow down quite a bit. To mine and the other’s surprise I experienced a massive pain in both knees during the long traverse between two mountain huts due to too much force on my knees.
After this trip I had to take a break from climbing and mountaineering and to this very day I am still not going to even try to put too much force on my poor knees, although the desire to pick up climing and joining that amazing group of people on their hikes in my own country is in my head every single day.
By Alan Cuypers, once a climber, now a collector of old stories and waiting for my knees to completely recover, after which adventure awaits me once again.
It was the third time I would hike the high mountains with the same group as in 2010 & 2012, where we topped the Alphubel, Dome, Weismiess & Allalinhorn mountains in Switzerland. All reaching an altitude of 4000 metres above sealevel, with the highest among them being the Dom mountain lurking a shy 4545 metres into the sky. Ultimately we topped this one in a timespan of a mere 7 hours climb starting from the Domhütte at 2940 metres altitude.
Now, as we speak it was September 2015 when me and the group of 3 others would climb the Italian Gran Paradiso mountain and so we succeeded our goal. For me, it was tough, at least for my knees it was. It was the weight of the 16 kilos backpack and climbing rope on top on my back that was the killer of the trip. Another mistake of mine was not using walking sticks, but soon after I told my fellow colleagues about it, they gave me one to further support my right knee. I had lost a bit of hope on the day before our ultimate climb to the top of the Gran Paradiso, but after all I managed to reach the top with all of them, although at a slow pace when going down. I succeeded the climb but they had to operate my right knee on 10 November of 2015.
The operation wasn’t actually that bad, it just made me a bit more cautious when doing long hikes, putting too much force on them, among other things.
Let’s rewind to 2010, me counting 20 years of age, young and fearless, young and loving the high Alps, like a lot of us do, waiting for the moment of joy when reaching the highest point of the mountain covered in a white carpet of snow. Trust me, it’s truly asthonishing to actually stand above that thick layer of clouds hanging down below, and actually waiting just for you after finishing your exhausting yet beautiful adventure… Let’s hope they’re gone by then!
The Dom mountain top © Marc Deschryver | 06.08.2010
Below picture was taken on the first of August of 2010 with from left to right, me (Alan), Marijke, Roger, Marc & Johan. All wonderful people with the love for climbing in their hearts. Me being clearly the youngest of them all going sharing the same goal as theirs, reaching every top on our list.
But first we have to reach the Fluhalp Hütte at a height of 2620 metres.
First time sleeping in a hut
I remember very well how it was, it was nice, at least this one. It’s big, comfortable, there are many rooms with different floors and the food is more than great. On these trips I always used to say: “the food’s more delicious over here than at home”, but nowadays I take back my words and I must say that mama’s cooking is still the best in the world. The experience I had was great and the view outside as spectacular as it could ever possibly get. White mountain tops all around us and a sweet view of the valley below us. There’s more adventure awaiting us the next day…
And then came September 2015 with a new mountain peak to conquer called the Gran Paradiso located in the Graian Alps in Italy between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont regions, reaching a height of 4.061 metres above the sea.
All of which isn’t a huge height to climb, but I’ll try to keep the long story short…
It was the heavy weight on my knees and the rough terrain we had to endure in between the mountain refuges that became just a little too much for me. Also a bummer is that not using walking sticks whenever possible, is going to put too much force on your ligaments and therefor damage everything.
The Gran Paradiso
It was a very early morning after a good sleep at an altitude of 2.000 plus metres followed by a quick breakfast and getting outside to start the long hike to the peak as soon as possible
Our schedule looked like this:
Expected hour of arrival: 11 to 12 am.
Expected time back at the refuge: 5 to 6 pm.
Start of the day: 2 am.
The lone ranger
To slowly recover from a rather painful and very exhausting hike two days earlier the group let met go back to the first refuge first. I was ok with the idea and started the long battle. This time my backpack weighed a lot less and I could walk somewhat comfortably to the refuge.
Two 3.000 metres ridges had to be climbed still, although they’re considered easy level, to me they felt quite decent. I knew already what was about to come.
The most difficult part was going down instead of up as it puts more force on the knees and legs, so this was to my disadvantage as there were a lot of altitudes to cover today.
Today I feel very well, I must say. No pain in the knees, only during extensive force or long hikes I can feel discomfort in them. Short hikes and long biking trips are truly no problem whatsoever.
Let’s hope that all pain and discomfort goes away over time and that I can join my exuisite mouintaineering team to reach new heights!
I truly miss the high altitude and adventure within…
Alan Cuypers | Adventure is my middle name