Monday, July 29, 2013

Chelsea and Rosalie frolic in the Swiss Alps

What happens when two Ford Sayre/Hanover High/Dartmouth alums reunite in the mountains of Switzerland?

1. They miss each other at the train station due to failures with technology.
2. They see really famous athletes because that’s what happens in Davos.
3. They try to find food that their recent-graduate wallets can afford.
4. They talk about what they are working on--how’s it really cool but they have like no money. They suggest job options for each other.
5. They study maps (lots of them!) to plan the next two days at hiking. They think they are really good at reading these maps.
6. They go on really REALLY awesome hikes, get really tired, and eat good food (or hop onto a train without water or food and then eventually find some several hours later).

The Train Station
For months now, Chelsea (Hanover High '05, Dartmouth '09) and I had been planning to meet up in Davos, Switzerland. She is working on fieldwork concerning alpine plants for her master’s thesis, and I am working on a climate change project in the capital of Bern, just over 3 hours away by train.
You’d think that after all this planning, we would have no trouble meeting up and finding one another upon my arrival--especially since I had been to Davos before. But, thanks to Chelsea’s Swedish phone and my Finnish phone with hardly any Swiss credit on it, we managed to miss each other by about an hour. Just when I started scoping out which super cool athletic-looking person I was going to ask to spend the night with, uber-tanned sunshiny Chelsea pulled up on her bicycle and we both laughed about the situation before heading into town.

Famous Athlete Spottings
As we walked towards the gorgeous lake on the northeast side of Davos, Chelsea and I exchanged stories from our travels--highlights, woes, and everything in between. I asked her if she’d been to Cafe Clatsch, this cute place in Davos Platz with long, wooden tables and incredible (and unfortunately $$) food. She said that she had indeed, and that it was a pretty surreal experience because at one point she looked up and there was Marit Bjørgen sitting at the table across from her. “Wow, I live in the place where Marit Bjørgen goes on vacation!” was Chelsea’s reaction.
As we approached the lake, this situation repeated itself. We saw a very jacked guy running with bounding poles. Chelsea exclaimed, “I think that was just Dario Cologna!” and then we gaped and he saw us gaping, so we ran away squealing as only female admirers can do.

Affordable Food
Since restaurant meals start at 20CH (about $20), Chelsea and I spent our first evening walking around the street festival in Davos that happens every friday, where food vendors and entertainers take over one of the main streets. After continuing to be appalled by the prices, despite both of us having lived in this pricy country for several weeks now, we came across a vendor selling curries that were reasonably priced and went for them. Curry in Switzerland- who knew. It definitely hit the spot.

The following evening's meal was even more exciting. Chelsea had bought lots of yummy things to grill--sausages, zucchini, corn, and this Swiss "grill cheese" covered in herbs and spices. We lit and fire outside and got to use a cool griddle thing that you can raise and lower depending on how much heat you want:

Chelsea and her fieldworker friend Sophia (from Sweden) carefully tending to the zucchinis. 
We had about a 50% success rate with our grilling. Some fell into the fire, and some turned out like this:

Aww sad...we think the burning was due to the corn not really having any husks.
Epic Hiking
As I’d mentioned, we looked at maps for a while. Okay, mostly Chelsea did. I brought her every Davos/Chur/Arosa/Flims (the surrounding towns) maps I own, but wasn’t of much help after that to be perfectly honest. She suggested we try to hike out the door. Of course I thought that was an increbible idea--who wouldn’t want to step outside their home and hop onto hiking trails? Seriously, Chelsea lives in an amazing place:

Chelsea takes after the Koons brothers and already found a housesitting gig-
she gets to live in her supervisors' sweet house while they are away on vacation

For the first day of hiking, we planned a pretty big loop with lots of elevation gain, including a category HC climb. Chelsea's friend Sophia joined us and we had an incredible journey. Each time I looked down at my watch, another hour had passed. I think that's what I love most about long hikes with great company :)
Here's the link to the hike on Strava if you are interested:
And here are a couple pics of Chelsea and me:

happy hikers!

Once we got back, we headed to the glacial stream at the bottom of the hill Chelsea lives on in order to ice our legs. It was cold, but not the coldest any of us had experienced yet in the Swiss mountains. The stream ran under a railroad bridge and I decided it would be a fun idea to try to do pull-ups on the metal underside of the bridge. Just then, a road cyclist biked by, stopped, looked puzzled, and then kept riding. I jumped down from the bridge laughing, wondering what could have gone through his head.
Then, the three of us proceeded to take a lovely nap in the sunshine (like we needed more sun...) on the grass beside the bridge. When a train roared by, we interpreted that as our alarm clock and strolled back up the hill for dinner. 
By the end of the day, despite our nap time, we were pooped. After dinner when we looked at the maps (always studying those maps...), Chelsea said, "Let's do something more chill tomorrow, maybe like 6 miles."
When we got a few hours into our hike the following morning, it became clear that we were about to cover way more distance they we'd planned to. Chelsea cannot take all the credit for this, since, once again, I just said "uh-huh" to everything she pointed out on the map the previous evening, did not argue, and didn't really act as a second pair of eyes for that matter.
Hiking day 2 was definitely a challenge due to our tired legs from the 13 miles of serious climbing and descending the previous day. It soon became evident that Chelsea and I were both awesome and not so awesome hiking partners. Chelsea recently ran a marathon ("for fun") and is training for some European ski marathons this winter, and I am training to run the VT50 at the end of September, so both of us are in pretty decent shape even though we are not racing competitively--or on a team at least. We could take turns leading up the steep climbs, and we matched one another's pace without trying. However, at one point I said,
"Wow, it's so strange, I can hold a perfect conversation with you right now and the terrain is pretty steep. But back there, where it was more gradual, I was completely dying. To be honest, I was pretty embarrassed that you might hear how loud my breathing was."
"Haha, me too!" was Chelsea's reply. "That just shows how we are both too stubborn to admit to the other how we are feeling. Like when we're finished, you're probably going to say, 'You were killing me there!' and I will have been dying too."
Once a nordie, always a nordie I suppose.
Here are some photos from near the top of the day's climb:

Me making snow angels.

Snow frolicking. 
Chelsea standing high and mighty above our play spot. 

Eventually, there came a time during the hike when I never thought it would be over. Part of the trail involved descending down, down, down for what felt like forever on a slanted narrow path of sketchy loose rocks and gravel with a cliff on one side. 

The Alps are funny because they appear extremely disjointed. When we were on the sketch trail, above us stood dark peaks made of the same loose gravel and topped with bright white glaciers. Then all of a sudden the rocks beneath our feet changed--they were now dark and light, like salt and pepper stones. When we were finally rid of the sketchiness, we came around a bend and found ourselves in a high-up lush green alpine meadow dotted with wildflowers. Eventually we descended some more until we reached lower elevation coniferous forests.

One interesting aspect of our Davos experience that I forgot to mention was the overwhelming presence of Hasidic Jews. They were absolutely everywhere, including some of the hiking trails. At one point we thought we must be hallucinating from hunger and dehydration because we saw a jewish couple pushing a young child in a stroller on rocky singletrack. We felt like we were that road cyclist from the previous day who saw me doing pull-ups on the railroad bridge...he probably thought he was losing his mind after all that climbing, and so were we.

Eventually, after hours of feeling the soles of our feet, of having finished off our water and savored our last carrots (the remaining source of calories and water), and of noticing the tops of our noses starting to hurt from the sun, we reached the bottom of the endless descent and entered the "town" of Frauenkirch. I spotted a kiosk window disguised among the short line of village buildings and asked Chelsea if we could get ice cream. She agreed, saying that was a perfect idea before the big hill of her "driveway" that was still to come. We both went for Ovomaltine bars and they evaporated instantly--due to both the heat and our hunger.
When we finallyyyy reached Chelsea's house, I pulled out my GPS, curious to see how far our "6-mile hike" actually was. My GPS beeps every 5 miles and I hadn't heard it go off for the 3rd time, so my guess was somewhere around high 14s. 
"Prepare yourself" Chelsea warned me. 
"Oh my god. 18 miles!" 
If you want to check out this hike you can find it at:
The GPS didn't start picking up satellites until a little ways in, so we actually went more like 20 miles. Wahoo! So much for a chill second day...
Overall, we had a fantastic two days- according to Chelsea, her "best weekend yet!" Davos decided to be very un-Davos-like and not rain on us, and our thunder and lighningaphobic selves much appreciated the continuous clear skies.
Here's a shout out to our Ford Sayre coaches- we were thinking of you the whole weekend :) We knew you were pretty pumped about this reunion. After our technology and map-reading failures however, we're not quite sure what message we are sending to future generations of Ford Sayre alums. Perhaps that one is never too old for an adventure, and that post-racing training can be pretty awesome. Dennis, I know you love to revisit places, and the whole time I was with Chelsea I thought about this. Davos was the first place I visited that made me "hooked" to the Swiss mountains-- to running and biking in them, and to trying to get by in the many language areas that they divide. I feel very lucky that I got to revisit this special place with the one and only super fun, super spunky, super badass Chelsea Little :-)

Thanks for a fantastic weekend Chels!

1 comment:

  1. Next time Chelsea bumps into Mariet, please tell her that she is on a Powerpoint slide that teaches the superlative ("Mariet est la meilleure skieuse de toutes les skieuses").