Have I mentioned that I like hiking up Geneva’s local mountain the Salève? I like hiking up the Salève so much that I’ve done it 80 times. Yes, for some obsessive compulsive reason, I’ve kept count.
In past posts, like this one, I’ve chronicled my hikes up with various family members and friends. Most of the time, though, I’m alone. And because I’m kind of a friendly Gus, I am always on the lookout for potential hiking companions who are there to hike the mountain at the same time as me.
Here’s what I mean: One day I was getting ready to start up when I noticed a couple studying the route map. As an experienced Salève hiker, I ALWAYS offer my assistance for someone trying to figure out where the trail head is, because it’s not too easy to find. And so this time I said to the couple in French: “Vous cherchez la piste?” (Are you looking for the trail?) And she responded in English: “We don’t speak French.” And so I said: “Me neither, really.” And then I said: “Follow me, I’m headed that direction.”
So off we go, and it’s about a 10 minute walk just to get to the trailhead, which gives me plenty of time to size them up as potential hiking companions that day. After we had established that we were all Americans, I asked them where they were from and it turns out they are from a town called Lakeville, just 15 minutes from my hometown of Eagan, Minnesota. We wound up hiking together almost all the way to the top, but they foolishly didn’t follow me all the way to the top where one is afforded the the view south to the Alps and Mont Blanc.
Here they are. Kim and her husband Chris.
So that’s the idea. About once in every 6 or 7 solo hikes, I’ve managed to find someone who I’ve hiked with, for part or all of the ascent to the top. Here are some of the other friends I’ve made hiking up the Salève:
One time last spring, I encountered two guys who looked confused and in search of the trail head, so once again, I offered them my assistance. Meet Rade and Kanje.
These two are friends and work colleagues from Serbia who were in town for a week as I.T. consultants to the World Health Organization. We met at the bottom and hiked all the way to the top, discussing world events all along the way. I still get emails from Rade telling me how much fun they had that day.
Not everyone I encounter on my way up are out to hike the mountain. I came across this nice woman one day who is from the town of Monnetier, at the halfway point of the hike up. She was out on a walk and stopped to feed these donkeys.
Then there was this dude:
I met this guy a few months back as I started to pass him when he leaned over to pick up some garbage from the trail. I slowed down long enough to say “thanks” and he said he hikes the mountain all the time and always has a goal to pick up 5 pieces of trash. (The trail is generally pretty clean, but I love the spirit of the idea of finding 5 pieces of trash to pick up as you hike along.) I either can’t remember or never asked him his name in the 30 minutes we hiked together, but I did get to know him well enough to learn that he is a former semi-pro basketball player and he’s been hiking the Salève “almost every weekend for the last 20 years”!
This couple I met on the bus on the way to the Salève, and I saved them from getting off at the wrong stop. We walked together all the way from the bus stop to the foot of the mountain, about a 20 minute walk. I learned that she is a hell of a hiker, once having hiked for 10 days circumnavigating Mont Blanc, which I’m told is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest twice, in terms of the total altitude gain!
Here’s another guy I met on the way up once, and I took his picture, but for the life of me, I can’t remember any particular details about him.
But the best day of hiking I ever had with someone I met on the way up was this dude, a Polish guy name Micolaj.
He was asking directions of a local when I caught up to him, so I opened with my standard go-to line: “Are you looking for the trailhead?” and when he responded yes, I said, “then follow me!” Micolah was a public defender in Krakow, a real interesting guy and a solid hiker. On a day where I had planned just to hike up and ride back down on the téléphérique (cable car), Micolah and I wound up taking a long loop hike up and all the way up and back down. We even shared each other’s food. We spent 6 hours that day hiking together!
It’s always a little sad at the end of these hikes when I have to say farewell to these kindred spirits. But I know they won’t be the last friends I’ll make on the mountain.