Yverdon-Les-Bains is a beautiful little town on the western tip of Lake Neuchâtel. I’m not immune to the charm of its center, with cobblestone streets and houses painted in terracotta and yellow shades. After refueling with coffee and apple pie, I change into short cycling bibs in the toilets of the bakery and wave goodbye to Yverdon. A few kilometers later, I stop at a closed campsite on the lakeshore to apply a generous amount of sunscreen on my legs. The rays of sun of the lake, sandy beach and tall pines make it feel like I’m somewhere on the Mediterranean.
Shortly after getting back on the bikes, we leave the road and follow a gravel trail in the forest, along the Lorze river. Away from traffic, we enjoy the steady climb and the freshness provided by the trees and proximity of the water. It feels very much like an oasis of peace.
I was looking ahead, squinting in an effort to grasp the terrain ahead and determine how to approach the next slope. What would normally feel like a breeze on a clear day, was starting to feel quite oppressive. We were skinning up, engulfed in a thick fog. The first part of the skin up had been easy, we knew the route very well and the surrounding trees gave contours to the landscape. Then we decided to push on a bit, in a direction that was less familiar but out of the way of the popular ski touring route.
Looking back on it, these 2 days were pretty much filled with everything that draws me to the mountains and keeps me coming back: the highs but also the lows. The warming sun and the moody fog. The moments filled with pure joy and the moments of doubts. The overwhelming feeling of being all alone under the night sky and the dreadful realization that you still have several hours of trudging through the wet mist.
We could make out the shape of the peaks and glaciers surrounding us. Sunsets are beautiful but there is something to be said for sunrises in the mountain. Enjoying the stillness of the world and watching the light of a new day take over the darkness.
Hidden from the trails by some rocks, the view from where I stand is breathtaking: the first rays of sun are bathing a distant snowy massif in a pink-orangy light. I’m soaking up the moment and I start realizing that this is it. Even if you don’t make it any farther. This is all worth it, worth the 3am alarm on a Saturday morning, worth the pain to try to find the trail in the dark and the cold. This exact magical moment. This is why you’re doing it.