Nose to Nose with Mr. Marmot

by

An Unexpected Encounter While Bouldering in Lech, Austria

Marmot scrambling up a boulder

Marmot scrambling up a boulder

Bouldering on the Madloch trail just west of Lech Austria, I had quite a startling experience one afternoon.  I had walked up the summer  trail after working at Strolz Boots one day. During the winter,  this area high above Lech, sees skiers flying by after having taken the lifts up from Zurs.  They then ski around the backside of the Madloch mountain, and take the long trail headed for Lech. But this spring day was quiet, and no hikers in sight. I had found a nice slabby boulder to climb, with small nubbin holds, requiring delicate footwork. I monkeyed around on block for about a ten minutes near the bottom of the face. I decided to go for the top of the boulder, working delicately. The only activity was a small breeze which blew on the cloudless blue sky day.  I reached for the final moves on the boulders ridge line, and pulled up slowly.

Marmot's whistle at point-blank

Marmot's whistle at point-blank

As my face cleared the boulder’s ridgetop, a marmot that had been climbing up the other side, also made his final move for the ridge from his side. We met  nose to nose. For a second, I stared at him, and he stared at me. Second number two- He let out his marmot’s alarm, a shrill whistle at point-blank range.  Without thinking I reached for my ears, covering them, which set me rolling back down the boulder. I assume the marmot didn’t stick around either, and ran back down his side. I saw, (more importantly heard) no sign of him.  I picked myself up, inspected my few minor bruises and continued on the trail for a great afternoon of being in the Austrian Arlberg’s Lechtal.  Aside from the ringing in the ears I had a nice scramble. But I’d had enough bouldering for the day.

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