Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Granny Path 

They call it the Granny Path. It’s only a couple of miles; not much different to an afternoon spent in a shopping mall. But no shopping mall ever had views like this:

It’s probably the easiest of all high alpine walks – a cable car whisks you to Mannlichen at 2,229 meters...

...with stunning views down into the Lauterbrunnen valley...

...then there’s a gentle, slightly downhill stroll for about 4.5km over well made paths to Kleine Scheidegg at 2,061 metres, with awe-inspiring views of the Eiger north face...

...and a mountain railway to take you back down into the valley.

But in spite of its short distance and easy reputation, it’s a path that will hold very special memories for me. It’s one that I walked with my wife.

What’s so special about that? Well, in recent years, walking – anywhere - has become a real challenge for her. It’s a long story, of chronic pain, battling with the health service to get a proper diagnosis, two major spinal operations and ongoing consultations, eventually with one of the country’s top orthopaedic surgeons. Maybe one day I’ll set it all down here as one example of how our once-vaunted National Health Service is crumbling and barely able to function. Four years down the line from the night on which she woke in sudden, acute and totally inexplicable pain, the upshot is that in her left leg she now has no reflexes and almost no feeling, and no expectation of the damaged nerves ever re-growing.

Thankfully though, at least the nerves that drives the muscles are, for the most part, fine so walking is possible, but not easy. Short, level walks are feasible for her – but uphill is a real struggle. You can’t get very far though, even in the relatively flat British countryside, without encountering hills, so our walks together are limited, and the difficulty – and the risk of more pain and immobility the following day - mean it has to be obviously worthwhile in order to make the effort.

But easy access to high mountain paths opens up possibilities that we just don’t have at home. So it was a real joy for me – for both of us - to be able to share one of my greatest pleasures – mountain walking.

It may have been short, but it was certainly sweet.

I posted the first of these pictures yesterday, but with only the briefest of explanations. It deserved more, so that post has gone, to be replaced by this one.

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