One of my legs disappeared in the snow up to my hip. Again. I crawled out, distributing my weight as evenly as possible on the snow covering the mountain of Vitosha in Bulgaria. When I tried to get up again and take another step, the same thing happened. My other leg sunk into the snow up to the knee. I was heavily breathing, crawling up that mountain. Giving up was no option, I was gonna get to the top of this mountain. I looked back, David and Christian had fallen behind a little. But I was in a tunnel, I couldn’t stop now.
Every time I glanced back into the distance, I could imagine how the view from the top would be. That kept me going. Over and over again I did sink into the snow up to my hips, over and over again I did crawl out, until finally reaching a black ski slope. The surface was flattened and solid, no more sinking in. I was relieved. Feeling revitalised, I picked up the pace. It hardly felt like any effort at all to get up the last few hundred metres.
And then I was there, on top of the highest mountain of the country. Looking around almost made me cry. Although feeling exhausted just minutes before, I jumped and ran around in joy. I had made it. Somewhere in the valley, there was the city of Sofia, hidden under a blanket of smog. In the other directions, there were layers and layers of valleys and mountains, as far as you could see. Majestic views lay right in front of me.
The setting sun was bathing everything in a golden light. The silence was overwhelming. All you could hear was your own breath and the blood rushing through your ears, the snow absorbed every sound.
Eventually, we decided to start back. Going downwards was much easier than upwards. While still on the firm ground of the ski slope, we enjoyed the colour palette created by the sun, ranging from golden to orange to violet to dark blue.
When we took our eyes off the beautiful sunset and looked into the valley, we immediately realised our mistake. The sun was still setting on top of the mountain, but it was already dark in the valley. Without talking to each other, we accelerated immediately. We had to get back to the ski resort as fast as we could.
The reflections of the snow gave enough sight. At some point, the ski slope took a sharp turn to the right, but the ski resort we had started at was to the left. We had no choice but to leave the slope. It was dark and we couldn’t see very far. In the distance there were the lights of the ski resort, everything in between was pitch black. Not knowing what else to do, we decided to head towards the lights in a straight line. We crawled on, down steep descents and through the woods, sinking in even deeper than before. Things hadn’t seemed this scary in daylight. Nothing can describe the relief when we reached the ski resort. Trousers frozen, hands numb and heavily breathing, we sat down for a hot cocoa.
Yes, it was stupid to go up that mountain without a map, without snow shoes and without anyone knowing where exactly we were, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it. But that was one of the best days of my life, and I don’t regret doing it. If I could relive that day, I wouldn’t change a thing.