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the Karwendel Range

Above Innsbruck:
Climbing Karwendel

Story by Frank Mazer

reathtaking. Mind-boggling. I am reading about Alex Honnold's free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite but my mind cannot gain a firm foothold on what Alex does and how he ticks. However, reading the story of his El Cap climb rekindled memories of my first experience dipping my toes into the dimensions of what he does. Welcome to a story set among the magnificent beauty and outdoor spirited, playful people of the Tirol, Austria. I first saw images of Innsbruck on television from the 1976 Winter Olympic Games. Thus, was planted the seed of passion.

While spending part of each summer in Innsbruck from '91 - '98, including studying at the U. Innsbruck, I was fortunate to become buddies with some of my professors there. Through them, I was introduced to some joyful, young, local climbers. (As well as being introduced to far too much local schnapps!) I then got to do my best to keep from peeing my pants when these climbers took me along on a few "hikes"/ climbs. These are called "klettersteig" in Austria. It means they are not necessarily vertical climbs but are also horizontal along ledges (4 inches or 3 feet wide) with, in many places, metal cables drilled into the mountain side for you to clamp your climbing belt onto for safety. They took me to t beautiful, fantastic, scenic views amid wondrous areas. I am forever grateful that they tolerated me as the silly newbie. I was extremely keen. This must have helped. Or it provided them plenty of laughs.

trekkers at a peak in the Karwendel Range

We took cable cars up halfway and then had to do plenty of climbing and scrambling up and up along steep crags usually with wide footholds. We inched our way along the mini-ledges.

One day is particularly memorable.... We had climbed up and up there in the Karwendel Range above Innsbruck. We paused to enjoy great views down to the city 7,000 feet below. Then we went up and over a crag to the side away from the city to where nothing but deep valleys and mighty snowcapped mountains stood before us as far as one could see. At this point we proceeded along a narrow ledge. The drop down to the valley below was steep, not vertical but about 75 degrees. It was about 6,000 feet to the valley bottom. My stomach was sick. My brain screamed at me and I froze. But I had asked these dudes to take me along and they had grown to tolerate me from earlier slightly less exposed and frightening climbs so they said yes, come along. I forced myself to stare into the cliff face, not look down! I glanced only at the place to put my boot in the next moment as we slid along this ledge. We were roped in together. I was in the middle of 4 experienced climbers to whom this was a walk in the park. They had no fear of the exposure and height.

As jovial Tiroleans they were joking around as they proceeded but they were also speaking to each other in serious, technical terms. They were encouraging me and telling me that I was roped in with them and entirely safe. On numerous occasions, despite trying not to look down, of course I would look down by accident as I glanced down between my feet and then saw the vertical drop! My bowels wanted to empty. I wanted to not move ever again.

We stopped every couple of minutes to stare at the wonderful panorama. After we had been edging along for about 20 minutes the guy in front of me, let's call him Anton, suddenly became alarmed as he looked back at me – he told me "stop, don't move !" He inched back along the edge closer to me and fiddled with my climbing belt. Then he said, "Oh my, your climbing belt was unhooked from our safety line somehow and so you had no safety if you slipped." Argh. This precipitated a huge moment of enlightenment as I then instinctively took a good look at the precipitous drop of 6,000 feet down and imagined having slipped and how I would have been thinking, in the first instant, that I was perfectly safe and attached to those guys.... And then my confused mind would have briefly realized I was hurtling off the side looking up at them above just before meeting some jutting rocks. The next reaction was to then feel a surge of far less fear! This was due to the knowledge that I now realized how supremely safe it felt to be firmly attached. Despite numerous panic attacks for the next hours I made it all the way with these guys. What choice did I have? No retreating on my own. They were patient with me during my frozen moments of "meditation" to calm down.

At the end I was exultant! There was an overwhelming, deep sense of a truly significant life moment – a breakthrough. A humbling new perspective on self, world, life.

Alex Honnold speaks of feeling only peace and tranquility as he chills his way vertically upward without safety devices. For this more vertigo prone athlete, peace and tranquility arrived back at the bottom, at Innsbruck, in a chair at a café' next to the glorious, rushing Inn River whilst filled with gratitude to my fun, tolerant Tyrolean guides.

Related Articles:
Innsbruck, Austria; Fruit Flies in the Pyrenees; Hiking Stryn: The Norwegian Fjord Country

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I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK


The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.


* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!



For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!


--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,


* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,


For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy


I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA


Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA

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