A thing that reminds me of moving upward
I bought my Leki Makalu trekking poles about 15 years ago in a second-hand hiking equipment store, and later bought my first hiking boots there. Back then, I was only starting to hike in the Alps.
In her collection of translations into Polish, “Nitroglycerin of Unease” (2023), Argentine journalist and writer Leila Guerriero writes: “Traveling doesn’t always help you write. Returning does not help you write. But movement does.”
My first hiking trip was in the summer, with my experienced friend Jakub. Dressed like a mountain rescuer, he was waiting for me on the platform of the Munich train station. From there, the train would depart for Mittenwald, an area in the northern Alps where our one-day hike to the Karwendel mountain range would begin. I noticed surprise and fear in my friend’s restrained, cocky gaze when he looked at my thin running shoes and white socks. “Who is this frivolous amateur? Where will I get to in the mountains with him?” he seemed to think. However, our journey through the rocks at an altitude of 2500 meters ended unpleasantly for Jakub. He injured his knee while climbing a snowy slope.
After this hike, I bought both boots and Leki Makalu poles. This model was created in 1974, when the German engineer and founder of Leki invented a system for adjusting the pole length, and in 1978 Reinhold Messner first climbed Mount Everest without an oxygen tank, but with Leki Makalu poles.
During one of my next hikes, among the tourists, usually dressed and equipped in the most modern brands, I noticed a dark-skinned man with a beard standing in the hot Bavarian sun. He looked like Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator, and was dressed like an early twentieth-century traveler. He wore only short shorts and thick leather hiking boots. His wide shins were covered with woolen socks, and the leather straps of his backpack pressed into his tanned shoulders. In his hand was a wooden stick taller than himself. And like Tolkien’s Gandalf, he confidently climbed the rocky slope, deliberately avoiding the marked path.
Late at night, on the way back from a hike in a half-empty subway car, a drunken passenger noticed me and said: “Your poles are still more or less [modern], but your boots are like my grandfather’s.”