Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • We were adviced to pack lightly for 15 days for GR20. Very lightly. Ultralightly. Everything that goes over 10 kilograms is overweight. Climbs are so steep that overweight is lethal.

    We had to get everything as ultralight. Normal equipment wouldn’t do. Normal tents for two person weigh over three kilograms. We found one that was just 1,7 kilos. A record in lightness, I think.

    Same with sleeping bags. They had to give shelter during freezing nights but weigh as little as possible. We managed to get as down as 700 grams a sleeping bag. With extreme temperature of minus thirteen Celsius. You freeze then but you survive.

    Ten kilograms fill fast. Rucksacks got their own, surprisingly heavy weight. Thermarests weigh. Every morning we had to fill our Camelbaks with 3 litres (3 kilograms) of water because days were as scorching hot as nights were freezing and there was not a spring around until the evening.

    And food. And clothes. And first aid medication and bandages. And flashlights. And rain ponchos for sudden storms. They are essential. And they all weigh.

    At one mountain peak we met an Englishman whose rucksack weighed 18 kilograms. He stood on the edge of a ledge and was going to throw his rucksack down in the abyss when we arrived. “It will give me such joy”, he told us panting.

    So it was quite understandable in this ultralight mountain world that we could have just one book with us. Paperback of course, not a hardcover. I got an idea and recommended Havu to read Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. It had made me a deep impression during my university years. I remember answering to some natural science major field exam with very unorthodox, antiacademical thoughts applied from Pirsig instead of exact answers. Well, I didn't even read the questions properly, I just answered. Later I was called to professor’s room. Professor was looking sharply at my exam paper.

    - Either this is a piece of genius or doodling from lunatic asylum, he said. - I can only give you either a zero or full points. Which one do you think it’s really worth? he asked.
    - You decide, I answered.

    I haven’t read that book again after those university years.

    After tenth day of endless climbing in GR20 I took this photo of Havu with Pirsig's book. That tenth day was the first day we were able to talk for hours during our climbing and walking. First nine days we were out of breath, more or less. Usually more.

    You most probably know the story in “Zen and the Art of Motocycle Maintenance”. In the story mentally ill father and his son travel by motorcycle their endless journey across United States. Father justifies the journey with complex philosophical explanations, and boy gets more frustrated day by day.

    I had watched during our evenings in tent how Havu stared dead tired at same page, same line, unable to get ahead in text. Once in a while he had glanced at me comparing clearly his destiny to the destiny of the boy in the book. Endless journey. Psycho father.

    Maybe it was a wrong choice, I thought. The book. Maybe I should have chosen some stuff with dragons and elfs and miraculous abilities to teleport seven leagues in one second. Maybe whole GR20 was wrong choice. Just one of my obsessions for father and son to be together.

    I was very surprised when Havu announced some months later that it was a great book. And a great journey. And he wouldn’t change a bit of it. Except his still aching knees.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.