Just past noon on a cloudy, gusty day a few weeks ago, I found myself perched on a ladder attached to the side of a cliff about 200 feet off the ground. My legs were trembling like a couple of leaves in the wind. And I wasn't attached to a rope.
The photo above shows the view I had at that moment, with one exception: that's Brad, my mountain guide, up ahead, moving with cat-like ease up the ladder. The exception is the neon-colored rope, which you can see running along one side. We weren't using it for the first couple of ladders, because I had told Brad that I'd be cool without it (lol). When my legs started to shake, he very generously passed me the line, which is what finally gave me the comfort to get out my phone and take that photo.
I was on that ladder for work, technically speaking, but I was also there as a tourist. You might even call me a doom tourist, although I know that sounds kind of grim. I'm trying to understand how climate change is affecting tourist destinations like the Mer de Glace, the shrinking glacier that lay below me as I stood trembling on that ladder. Does visiting a destination that's disappearing change our perceptions of the world, and our place in it?
I still don't have a full answer to that question, but one thing I can say for sure is that the adrenaline on the ladders was 100% worth it. At the top of the cliff, Brad and I paused for a picnic lunch on a grassy ledge, from which we enjoyed the view that you can see in the photo below. It's a beautiful and imposing glacial wilderness — a landscape that my grandchildren, if I have any, will probably never see.