world’s most scenic outhouse
July 22, 2008
The first time Kim and I went hut to hut skiing in the Alps (I LOVE saying that–the FIRST time we did it. Cuz, you know, we did it more than once.) Anyway, the first time we did the Haute Route, with Kim’s Dad and her brother Daniel, we took a helicopter up from the top of Alagna to the saddle of Monte Rosa, and skied the Grenz Glazier down into Zermatt. Then we took the Tram up from Zermatt, and skied down left, off piste, around the edge of the Matterhorn, and up the valley below the north face. We skinned up the valley floor for a few hours, turned sharp right, and climbed almost straight up onto the slope across the valley from the Matterhorn, to the Schonbiel hut.
When people mention huts in the Alps, don’t be lulled into thinking they are the same everywhere. Many of these huts are a hundred years old, made of stone (most are made of stone), and, um, they tend to smell like it. Italian huts are a bit primitive and gross. French huts are disgusting. Austrian huts are like hotels.
This was an Italian hut. We slept in a huge bunk room filled with fellow travelers–that is, lots of stinky men who had been hiking all day, maybe all week, in some cases all month. In fact, maybe all their lives.
Whatever. French and Italian huts don’t have bathrooms in the hut, they have outhouses, usually a short walk from the main building.
So here’s where I mention that these huts are generally high on a mountain, often right on the edge of a cliff. In this case, we were high on a mountain, right on the edge of a cliff, across a glacial valley from the Matterhorn. Which is spectacular to look at, but can be a bit sketchy to walk around on. In the dark. On the icy ground. Next to a cliff.
But when you gotta go, you gotta go. I got up early (not that I was sleeping–seriously, 30 stinky, snoring men in a bunkroom), and made my way by headlamp down the stairs, out the door, and along the frozen path to the outhouse, situated literally on the edge of the cliff. This is an outhouse where you just have to leave the door open while you do your business, because the view of the Matterhorn across the moraine might be the best outhouse view in the world. World’s Most Scenic Outhouse.
Now I’m not sure if was clumsy because my legs hadn’t had blood for a while, since I lingered in the World’s Most Scenic Outhouse admiring the view, or if I am just clumsy by nature (I guess it can be both, it’s probably both), but when I finally tired of the view, and started to make my way back to the hut, wearing just socks, I slipped on a particularly sketchy patch of path, both feet flying straight out in front of me, and I landed flat on my back, my body from my tailbone to the top of my head thudding to the ice.
Whoooooof, went the air in my lungs. Not sure how long it took to get any air back in there. But I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t move, for fear that I would slide right off the edge of the cliff.
So I just laid there for a while.
After a time, a nice British woman came out to use the loo, and saw me. “Are you okay” she asked?
Erp! Ack. Still not getting a full breath.
Which meant, “Please don’t go tell my wife that I’ve fallen on the ice on the way back from the outhouse, and that I can’t get up.”
That’s not how she heard it. Damn the British.