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Hiking in the Dolomites with Ilse: The People

The Dolo-Mighty16 and our amazing guide, Karl Mather. I’ll probably cry, while I write this post, because I miss everyone SO fricking much. We all arrived with our respective spouses and/or friends, and from the first day, we knew the specialness of this group. By the end of our second day together, we were best friends. By the end of the week, we were forever-friends. All 16 of us, plus Karl! I knew I’d have fun with this new job, but I had no idea my heart would get so deeply involved.

This photo captures our essence.

Karl Mather was our guide through the mountains. I could list his mountaineering credentials (he has them all!), I could regale you with his accomplishments (multiple mountaineering race placings, cover of Runners World mag, etc), I could stun you with his daily morning exercise regimen (yes, every single day—even before our 8-hr hikes!), but Karl was so much more than a resume to our group; he inspired each one of us and became our friend.

Despite being a serial straight-faced jokester (“the black salamanders taste like licorice”), we trusted him implicitly. Karl knew when to slow down for us, when to stop, so we could catch our breath (we all arrived straight from sea level!), when he needed to tighten up our line, and when it was safe to string it out.

When someone was unable to walk the trail he picked out, they were given an alternative. When someone was reaching way out of their comfort zone, he placed them behind him and talked them through it. Karl intuitively cared for each one of us at the level we each needed (“Take your hands out of your pockets along this ledge, Bart!” [That’s my husband, and he gave me permission to call him out here!])

And if you go back through all the photos I’ve posted about this trip, note that there aren’t any other people in them! That’s because we would hike the beaten paths for only a VERY small portion of each day; Karl had us off the beaten path most of the time, so we had those Dolomites all to ourselves!✨

Karl’s in his mid-60’s … I’m certain that for the rest of my life, when I want to succumb to laziness, when I don’t want to go on that hike, when I’m afraid to embrace the adventure of a moment, I’ll find my inspiration, my motivation, by asking myself, “What would Karl do?”

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