My mountain writer assault course proved successful. Of course I cannot reveal the location of the secret writing redoubt, or describe our training methods, except to say that they involved rosti potatoes. And chocolate. In copious amounts.
Above, you see the well-guarded entrance to the secret bunker complex. It is cunningly designed to mimic a train crossing. The power lines overhead served to charge my iPod.
And here’s the view out the window, designed to scare me into scribbling at least 2,000 words a day. Keep typing or you can climb it. Yeah, up the north wall.
For perspective: the summit is 14,000 feet, more than two miles above where I was standing. And the cluster of brown dots in the meadow near the bottom of the photo are not bales of hay. They’re four-story buildings.
Besides writing, the trip involved hiking along snow-patched trails where we intermittently dodged falling rocks. It also involved a lot of reading. And I now have a way to tell that a book is engrossing: I look up from the page and discover that my flight home has landed and the plane is surrounded by fire trucks.
Oh. So that’s why we circled for half an hour and came in really fast. The pilot came on the PA and announced, “We had a technical issue on approach.” Those seven words were all the explanation we got. The plane parked at the end of the runway, surrounded by vehicles with flashing lights, until a tractor towed us to the gate. There, a phalanx of ground staff in yellow safety vests surrounded the plane while we passengers were herded onto a bus and taken away.
And that’s when I encountered the scariest sight of the whole trip. The bus rounded a corner and I saw, dumped beneath the eaves of Heathrow Terminal 1, a pile of luggage ten feet high — enough suitcases to fill my living room to the ceiling. They looked like they’d been poured out the back of a garbage truck. The woman standing beside me said, “They’ve been there for weeks.”