These three images are composed in a very specific order of three. They document highlights from my three Yoalin trips that manifest a sort of “pilgrimage.”
The first image was taken near the top of Surenenpass in Switzerland. At this point in my Yoalin journey, I was still just settling into long-distance backpacking. I was alone, my camp routines were still clumsy and inefficient. But, I was putting myself out there and I was taking the time to settle into a sense of normalcy in nature. Often, it is in isolation that we are afforded the most time to look within ourselves.
The second image was taken in the town of Heiligenblut, Austria. This image shows the village chapel with low-altitude clouds hanging ominously in the valley. At this point in my Yoalin journey, nestled deep in the Hohe Tauern National Park, I was coming to realize small things that made me happy on the trail. I found peace in being alone, I discovered that a fresh mango at breakfast can make my day, and I began to cherish the mundane (i.e., taking pictures of churches lying just below my campground).
The final image was taken along the Tour du Mont Blanc between Les Chapieux and Courmayeur. This image, centered on Aiguille des Glaciers, embodies a moment of epiphany. After cresting over the mouth of the Col de la Seigne valley, this glorious peak revealed itself to me on my very last day of hiking. On this day, I would finish 500 kilometers of hiking and 16.3 kilometers of elevation gain over the course of 28 days. This peak felt like the final parting gift of my Yoalin experience and made me realize just how much strength, independence, and peace I had found over these 28 days on the trail.
Yoalin took me on a pilgrimage, and I am relieved to say that I have found the mountains.