Lightning strikes my leg as my heel touches the ground again and I do not want to lift it, I do not want the storm to come back. But I have to keep moving and so, less than a second afterwards, I lift my leg and take another step, bringing that piercing pain back.
But then I look up and see the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif… And right next to me are these mighty mountains coated by little boulders. The small rocks slide down slowly, its movement only perceptible throughout the years. And I cannot help thinking that there is something more to it, that maybe the mountain reached greatness and then crumbled or perhaps it was slowly detaching itself from that coat of rocks, trying to reveal its true shape.
I look back and can just make out the spot where I camped last night and in that moment I feel freedom. I do not have to get anywhere, no one obliges me to finish the trail; but somehow I know I can do it, and I will. I realise I do not want to be anywhere else and I am ready for the challenges the second half of this hike might bring.
All the time it feels like I am exactly where I want and should be, except when I am in the middle of a really steep hill, then I want to be at the top of it as soon as possible. And most of the times, all of a sudden, I encounter myself on the summit and after a few deep breaths, I almost forget all about the challenging assent that I have just gone through. The right here and the right now; I become conscious of this.
Everyday worries disappear and I start to appreciate the small things. Sleeping in a bed, a hot shower or using an actual towel feel like a big luxury after only seven days of hiking. For people who have been staying at remote refuges, having a room to themselves or a TV have a similar effect.
Sacrificing or even avoiding comfort, that is what you do when you head on a trip like this. What is it about this kind of adventure that makes us lunge for them? When most of the time you do not meet the standards of life by which you usually live, yet the trip is so pleasing. What do we gain from it? I guess the only way to explain this is by getting outside yourself, then the reasons become obvious.
I remember looking up at a plane one fine evening before crossing back into France and feeling peace. I thought about people moving, people worrying about getting places in time, people making a fuss because events were not going as planned… How much we tend to overthink and worry without realising that, in the end, we will get there.
It is the simplicity of hiking that make my soul content. My basic needs become smaller with every day that passes and simple things satisfy me immensely. How easy it is to wake up at six in the morning, knowing I have a good day ahead of me. I am self-sufficient, I do not need much, and I am perfectly happy.
Originally published in Passion Passport.