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By Logan Foote
What a night!!! I knew I was in an exposed location but didn’t really have much of a choice yesterday. Every other spot that was sheltered was waterlogged or too steep.
The temperature dropped well below 0 and the wind was so strong. Perched up on the edge on a U-shaped plateau, the sound of the wind howling through the trees was intense. I could hear the massive wind gusts approaching from one end of the cliff top, heading in my direction like a freight train on steroids and then continuing on past me. . At times I had to hold my little tent together as I feared it would buckle under the stress.
I then started to hear the sound of either raindrops or ice being pelted against my tent. I tried to sleep but not much was to be had. At one stage I dosed off only to be awoken by the tent collapsing onto my head. I couldn’t understand this because the wind was not gusting at the particular time. Other thoughts of a branch, an animal or person ran through my mind in that split second as I awoke. I realised no one else in their right mind would be up here at this time and in this weather. I pushed back against the tent before grabbing my torch to inspect what was going on.
Upon opening the zipper I quickly released that it was not raining during the night but snowing. The snow had built up around my tent and due to the weight made it partially collapse.
I arose from my tent around sunrise to be confronted by a completely different landscape. The supposed mild winter had taken a turn and now a new set of challenges lay in front of me. The main one being: Could I still follow the track? It would be easy to take a wrong turn and be wondering around these rocky mountain cliffs and forests with almost no food left. After studying the map I weighed up my options. I could see another track that lead down to the river and a little village but was not sure exactly where it started in relation to my position.
After packing up my tent and dealing with the unpleasant business of a sudden bowl problem in the snow I was ready to go. The track was very hard to follow. At times I was guessing which direction to walk and with very steep cliffs all around me that were now covered in snow, now was not the time to be complaisant. I came across what looked like a small person’s footprint that seemed to be following the track. I knew that it had to be some kind of animal but no idea what. At times when I didn’t know which direction to walk, I followed these little footprints. I think if they were not there it would’ve been much harder to keep on the track and make it down safely to lower altitude.
I was very relieved when I managed to find the other track that lead to the river. So with that, I then decided that the wise thing to do would be to not continue along the Malerweg. The next two stages were through similar terrain with steep rocky cliffs, gorges and the unknown. My luck on the food front was not any better. The map only showed the odd little village along the way and a very low chance of a shop. I contemplated cutting across the river and linking up with another section of the trail but decided against it once I couldn’t find a bridge. I rang Francy when I had reception and filled her in. She offered to drive the 3 hr trip down to pick me up, which gave me time to walk the last 12km to the village “Bad Schandau”. I dragged myself into town searching for two things high on my list. Lip balm, as my lips were in bad shape and food. I was in luck. Once my lips were given relief I found a café and even though I hadn’t really eaten much over the past four days and was not really hungry I ordered a hot chocolate, salad roll and a donut. Awesome. I’m not sure what the locals thought of me or where I had come from but I didn’t care.
Francy eventually arrived, greeting me with a big smile and suggestion that I take a shower ASAP.