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M Return to the Fight! Lightweight Rematch in the High Annapurnas

by Perrin Lindelauf

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Article Summary:

Huang-shan, Yellow Mountain, a fist of sandy-yellow limestone thrust into the sky. Sick of the cities of eastern China, I had caught a train to the interior, intent on a dose of natural beauty, and had arrived two days later, gobsmacked at the sheer stony monstrosity that was somehow possible to walk up. I set off at full speed, leaping up sets of stone stairs cut into the cliffside, full of pride at my strong western hiking legs, scoffing at the Chinese tourists that bought flimsy wooden hiking sticks and goofy hats, that had arrived unprepared, in business suits and heels. I had to tip my hat to the stout porters, carrying heavy loads of drinks and apples up the mountain, but I couldn't understand the men waiting by bamboo sedan chairs, offering to carry people up. Who but the most arrogant or frail would ride in such a chair, rather than take the cable car or walk? Who could suddenly require their services, when the mountain was a dayhike, an overnighter at most?

Twenty-four hours later I found myself swaying high over a cliff, borne up the stone staircases by two men in the very same bamboo sedan chair, a swollen knee useless and my pride in tatters. The same hubris had pushed me along the previous day, kept me walking when an old knee injury started to complain about the large stone stairs. "Just a little knee pain," I had thought, "These grannies are managing, surely this isn't going to stop me." My knee eventually gave out entirely, refusing to support my weight or arrogance. A kind group of Chinese students saw me struggling and started making phone calls, resulting in an entourage of two security officers, a manager, a doctor, my sedan bearers, and a crowd of interested Chinese tourists crawling up the staircases and through narrow tunnels, to deposit me, their inert burden, at the cable car, where a guide and a taxi to the hospital had been arranged. Would I ever hike again? So much of my identity was invested in my relationship with nature that I couldn't imagine life without hiking. I was disconsolate.

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