Conquering the Hochkönig is a challenge for many hikers and climbers. All the more so for Roland. Because he is blind. Yet for him, this is no reason not to try.
"Roland, now comes a narrow spot and in the middle is a stone. After that there is a small step and then the path becomes wider and flatter again", mountain guide Ingolf describes the path in front of him. We are at over 2000 meters, on the "Übergossenen Alm" and fight our way up the stony path to the Matras House. We, that is Ingolf and Lukas, both mountain guides by profession, myself and Roland from Northern Germany. What distinguishes Roland from us is that he has been blind for many years. He can only distinguish between light and dark, otherwise he sees only black.
But this does not prevent him from going into the mountains and feeling nature. Since 18 years he comes once a year for one week to Maria Alm and enjoys the vacation with his partner in the Salzburg Alps. From the very beginning, however, it was clear to him too: one day he would like to conquer the Hochkönig. With Ingolf and Lukas he has already made several tours, but a few floors further down than he is right now. "It worked well with us right away," Ingolf remembers. Mutual trust was immediately established between them and there was no shortage of fun either.
"So Roland, now it goes down two steps. Watch out, there are loose stones here," Ingolf guides his blind partner further towards the summit. Behind it, Lukas follows and watches out if Roland should stumble. He is connected to his front guide with a climbing harness and rope. Every hour Ingolf and Lukas take turns with the guiding work. Because it takes a lot of concentration to guide Roland. Every mistake can mean a fall for Roland. Every overlooked stone of his guide can end badly for him. But not only Ingolf's instructions are important for Roland. He holds on to Ingolf's backpack and can filter out a lot of information about the path ahead of him. For example, if Ingolf climbs up a step, Roland can feel over the rucksack and he knows what to expect.
So we fight our way over the "Übergossene Alm", the last part of the ten kilometer long hike, before the last key point in the form of a steep ladder is waiting for Roland. The day slowly draws to a close. We have now been on the trail for almost seven hours. The many technically difficult passages after the gate column have taken time. Hikers already have difficulties with the easy climbing passages. For Roland this is partly a tightrope walk. Crashing is forbidden here.
We quickly climbed the ladder. "I do myself easily. The rungs are all in the same position", Roland explains confidently. The way to the summit cross is not far. The last meters resemble a triumphal procession. Relief is written all over Roland's face. He has made it. 10 kilometers, almost 1700 meters of altitude difference over hill and dale. What an achievement!
We are standing in front of the summit cross and Luke describes Roland the beautiful view from up here. This is important to Roland, even if he can't see it himself, he wants to know what the nature around him looks like. The sun sets to the west and Roland humbly touches the summit cross for the first time. For him it is the moment he has been dreaming of for 18 years and which is now becoming reality.
We go into the warm rooms of the Matras House and fill up with energy for the next day. Anyone who comes up here has to come down again. For Roland, this is just as strenuous as the way up.