Posted by: David D. Daggett | July 21, 2008

Beauty Can Belie Danger

Beauty Can Belie Danger

      A week ago this past Friday our family was enjoying the view from the top of the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. At almost 3000 meters (over 9700 feet) the mountain is located on the German Austrian border, and the beauty is breathtaking. Looking out over the snow peaked Alps you can see four countries.

       Our trip to the top started in the small town of Ehrwald, Austria. We went up by cable car gondola. This was a first for us and quite an experience. During the 20 minute ride we were treated to spectacular views. I also noticed trails going to the top. As and endurance athlete, the trails were quite enticing.

Two days after our trip was the 8th annual running race to the top of the Zugspitze starting in Ehrwald and going up the trails I wished I could test. In all, a full field of 800 runners would test themselves on the 16 kilometer run to the top. The fastest times are generally just over two hours.

The day began rather fair, with some rain expected later. However, several hours later the temperature dropped to below freezing and sleet and snow began falling. The winds picked up and suddenly the race was turned into a survival event.

Two of the runners ended up dying due to hypothermia, exposure, and lack of oxygen. Many other had to be rescued before finishing. Rescue helicopters in the area were limited due to the conditions making the situation worse and more urgent.

The events were very unexpected. it was a good reminder was us who pursue endurance and excited to always be wise and to be prepared for a change in conditions. I experienced a small taste of this Christmas weekend last year.

Please, enjoy the excitement and beauty of our extreme pursuits, but also beware and be safe. Our Zugspitze experience will keep me watchful for some time.

Please be safe,

David

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