I knew this would happen – outraged emails of the “Why would they want to kill Paul?” variety. I think the question should rightly be: Why the Swiss?
This is what happened. We were climbing up the face of the Eiger – no, wait: we were climbing up near the face of the Eiger, and when I say “we” I mean Paul and Stevie and me but when I say “climbing” I mean mostly Paul because Stevie and I had found the gift-shop-and-bar and were splitting our time between fortifyingly adult breakfast drinks and looking for the perfect souvenir snowdome - when Paul decided that it would be really excellent if we took the tiny train to the top of JungFrau instead and went for a walk in the gale-force winds.
How we laughed!
Here’s one of us, laughing.
So Paul went off on his own, a little bit Shackleton, a little bit Scott of the Antarctic,
caught the wee train to the end of the line on the highest peak in Europe and got out and started walking.
Here’s a photo of what he walked through.
When he got all the way up to the top, he was confronted with a perilous 100 metres of suspended walkway that led a kind of take-that!-gravity restaurant. The walkway was iced over, and because this was an enthusiastic spur of the moment kind of thing (have you met my husband?) it could be said, perhaps, that Paul was not entirely appropriately kitted out. He had a nice down vest and a wooly scarf but no walking sticks and not even a smallish barrel of St Bernard brandy for emergencies. He got to the restaurant ok – but on the way back, he paused to come to the aid of a lady of a certain age who was unsteady and stumbling ahead of him. Having held the guide-ropes tight for her, so that she could get her footing, he was blasted by a sudden gust of Weather and his feet went from under him, to leave him dangling – I swear this is true – dangling above the kind of fall that he says probably wouldn’t have killed him, exactly, but would certainly have shattered a lot of bones. (That’s comforting, isn’t it?)
The lady walked on.
The lady walked on.
Man that he is, he pulled himself up the rope in a hand-over-fist kind of way, and as he grabbed the walkway-bridge with the very tips of his fingers, he was distinctly relieved to see a well-built Swiss gentleman (properly kitted) standing over him. He gulped down a few breaths and said “I seem to have slipped. I’m afraid I’ve got the wrong shoes on” in a fairly apologetic tone, and waited for the Swiss gentleman to reach down a helping hand. The gentleman instead – without betraying any emotion beyond tighty-clenched disapproval – said “Yes. You should only wear Swiss Army Boots” and walked on, leaving Paul – well – just leaving him… Hanging.
Turns out the Swiss Gentleman was the falling-down-lady’s husband: which makes me wonder if Paul interrupted some kind of Insurance Crime…