Happy Birthday to High Lonesome

Cover for High Lonesome by Tanya Chris features three men and a snowy mountain scene

As you may already know, I’m a rock climber. I’ve had the good fortune to travel all over the US, plus to a few other countries, to climb.

Many years ago, I took a trip to northeastern Italy where the Alps turn into a series of rock formations called the Dolomites. The climbing was gorgeous, but the trip was awful. I was traveling with a male acquaintance who was a good bit younger (a very nice guy, but practically a stranger), and I developed a UTI.

I’d never had a UTI before. I was in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language and had no idea how the healthcare system worked, out in a mountainous region where even the gas stations were spread pretty far apart, with a guy I barely knew. With no idea how to get help or even bring the subject up, I suffered through it.

So when some friends of mine suggested a group trip to the Dolomites, I thought it would be a good chance to revisit the region and hopefully have more fun this time.

That’s now how it worked out.

It was the weather that didn’t cooperate this time. On our first full day there, we hiked up to a refugio, aka a mountain hut. “Hut” gives the wrong impression though. These refugios are more like hostels, with dormitories, reasonable temperature control, a dining room open all day, and a staff. The one we stayed at took a full day to hike up to, but it had running water (cold, unless you were paying for it), flush toilets (but only upstairs), and supposedly Wi-Fi.

The night we arrived, a storm blew in. It was July, but that didn’t stop the hail. The storm blew out the Wi-Fi, put the hut on generator, and—long story short—prevented us from getting much climbing done due to the constant threat of lightning. The Dolomites had won again.

BUT I did manage to salvage something out of it by setting High Lonesome in a mountain hut. The one in the story is more isolated and more rustic, and the storm that hits it is more than just some lightning and hail—because, hey, we gotta be dramatic—but I used the basic layout and the feeling of being someplace cars can’t get to and cell signals don’t reach.

Joe likes being isolated at the top of the world, but I was glad enough to get back down. Then again, I wasn’t having threesomes up there. Maybe that would’ve made a difference.