Finding the Crows’ Cave

A few years ago, my mother and I went to the Alpes for a few days of hiking. We ended up strolling to a mountain refuge, and asking where the paths led from there.

"You could go to the Crows' Cave", they said. "Follow the path up the mountain. Then leave the trail and walk up and to your left until you find the cave. There's a river running through it. Here, take a torch to have a look inside."

Up we went, then, off the path and into a long stretch of green grass and rocks (that's the Alps for you: one side of the mountain covered with woods, blueberries, raspberries and other yummy edible things, the other miserably bare, and we'd picked the bare one). Naturally, it wasn't very long before we had no idea where to go. It's much harder to find a cave than, say, a peak. The slope was very steep, but we hadn't looked at the map yet and so we were unaware that it broke into sheer cliffs right below us. Then at some point, we decided to try a new orienteering technique. The place was called the Crows' Cave? We could just try to follow the crows!

And indeed, there were a whole flock of them, up the mountain, hovering above rocks with shadows at their bottom, that could just as well look like a cave. Suddenly the idea sounded very exciting, especially since it felt just like a slow-motion dice roll in a particularly good D&D game. The "roll", then, took us all the way up, in the sun, with a huge sense of purpose. And, well… failed by a few points.

The shadows were just that: shadows, and no cave to speak of. Climbing even further made no sense, as rivers don't usually run at the top of mountains. We try to walk down and look for the cave on the way. It was not very easy (it's one of those places where you don't lose your footing because of the grass, but where the declivity slows you down an awful lot, and even though it's quite safe, you can still count the vertebrae of the various sheep or mountain goats that crashed there at some point). And the throw was definitely a failure. We found the river, but no cave. We walked back on the blueberry path as a consolation prize.

Having come back this summer, though, we decided that one failure was enough and that we had to see the cave. We headed up again–the weather was even hotter this time around–, said hi to the dead mountain goats, and…

We found it. I'm happy to say that our first intuition had actually been the right one, as there were a lot of crows nesting in the cave; we simply should have followed them some more. Also, the dry weather had thinned the river down, and we could see a ways down the cracks in the mountain. It also revealed a smooth trough in the rock, which could be used as a slide of sorts, not by us of course, because we're grown-ups (all right, maybe we played in it just a little), and the only cold place in the whole side of the mountain. We ate cheese and dried sausage and smashed plums, and headed down.

Afterwards we intended to take the other trail, to a pass in the mountains, but we were defeated by a dastardly army of blueberries that robbed us of the better part of the day. But next time…

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