“Red Angels” Alpine Peaks
The town of Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, at first glance, is no different from neighboring towns and villages. The same neat houses with a bright smear of indispensable geranium on the window are also unpretentious and at the same time cozy cafes, bars and bistros; on the streets, as elsewhere in alpine towns, the multilingual rumble of tourists. They perfectly understand each other without translators. The euphoria of novice climbers, wherever they come from, helps them in communication. Everyone who comes here, of course, seeks to climb to the top, known as the main local attraction.
It is loudly called the Mountain of Mountains, although the height of this peak is far from the record one and is 4478 meters above sea level, but its silhouette, resembling an almost regular pyramid, seems to embody the idea of perfect geometric shape. And everything perfect, as you know, attracts a person uncontrollably …
If you move a little away from the town, you can immediately hear the gentle melody of the alpine foothills – the murmur of streams, the chatter of grasshoppers. Mountain landscapes to this accompaniment appear as the personification of peace and harmony. It seems that here, in this reserve of pure colors and transparent air penetrated by sunlight, the most inexorable time stops in all other places on Earth. But a few dozen meters were walked along the path, and the view opens to the Zermatt cemetery. A serene mood dissipates by itself, like a morning haze in mountain crevices when the day flares up. After you just walked in a crowd of cheerful, young, optimistic people in bright sportswear, it’s especially uncomfortable to read the inscriptions on the obelisks that such a person died in the mountains at 30, and the other at 26, and these three, lying nearby, fell off, walking in one bundle. Especially when you look around and see that such inscriptions are repeated and repeated …
But what, right, this is surprising to the mind suggests: statistics are objective, and it testifies – only in 1992, more than thirty people died on the peaks in the vicinity of Zermatt. In total, this martyrology numbers already thousands of people, starting in 1865, when the first climb to the Mountain of Mountains took place, clouded by the death of several climbers.
Sometimes literally one step separates joy from tragedy here, one moment – life from death. People die from weakness and fatigue, due to lack of experience, adverse circumstances, due to their own carelessness. But then, according to the logic of things, then there must be someone who can come to the aid of those in need, to do everything else that can be done in a critical situation.
And there are such people in Zermatt. Officially, they are employees of the local airline, but here they are also called “guardian angels,” and this is the very rare case when a figurative comparison is an exaggeration only to the smallest extent. Like angels, they also appear from the sky, though not in white robes, but in red overalls, and not under the sweet sounds of prayers, but under the chatter of the helicopter blades. But then they are able to perform miracles without any stretch. People get out of such deep cracks in the glacier, which can only be imagined in a nightmare. Mountain climbers are removed from such sections of mountain walls, which even a very experienced mountain climber and in calm weather will find it difficult to climb, and even in a blizzard, when the icy wind knocks down, is simply unthinkable.
“Alpha-12” is the radio call sign of the rescue team, in which everyone, including pilots and doctors, are mountain range aces who know the secrets of how to take risks, contrary to all norms of sanity, when it comes to saving a person’s life. As soon as these callsigns are heard on the air, a small, red, with a white stripe along the side helicopter, called by its creators, the French, “lark”, starts flying around the houses of the team members, and in half an hour everything is assembled. The first to board a helicopter is Bruno Ielk, a customs officer at his main duty station and rescue commander. His list of personal climbing achievements includes two ascents to the Himalayan eight-thousanders, not counting other famous mountains. Bruno is laconic, harsh, and his friend Gunther Biner, on the contrary, is cheerful and sociable. So different at first glance, they seem to have been deliberately reduced by fate in order to prove that all the so-called characteristic features by which it is possible to guess a person’s identity are nothing more than erased stereotypes, sheer nonsense compared to how much one can learn about cool professional, if you see him in business. It is important at the same time to evaluate such a person not only by what he can and can, but also what goal he is achieving.
On a personal account, both Bruno and Gunther have hundreds of saved people. All these cases had their own characteristics, but in all of them there is something in common, and this is primarily the fact that the lifeguard risks his own life each time. From fatal accidents, maximum concentration insures most reliably. This means that you can’t even lift a finger during such work without comprehending this movement.