Jeanne Matthews was born and raised in Georgia, where owning a gun is required by law in certain places and “he needed killing” is a valid legal defense to homicide. Jeanne’s debut novel, Bones of Contention, published in June, 2010 by Poisoned Pen Press, features a conniving Georgia clan plopped down in the wilds of Northern Australia where death adders, assassin spiders, man-eating crocs, Aboriginal myths, and murder abound. Jeanne currently resides in Renton, Washington with her husband, Sidney DeLong, who is a law professor, and their West Highland terrier. Her second novel, Bet Your Bones, is available at bookstores everywhere.
The ascent of Preikestolen is not for the faint of heart. Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, as it’s called in the English language guide books, is one of the most iconic images of Norway and one of the most spectacular sights anywhere in the world. It looks less like a pulpit than the prow of some monstrous ship. On three sides, sheer cliffs plunge 2,000 feet to the cobalt waters of the fjord below. There are no fences, no rails, nothing between you and the abyss. Acrophobes like me crawl to the edge on our bellies to peer off into space. This is a major photo op. We want proof of this feat plastered on the front page of the family album. But the sickly grins we show to the camera don’t convey the mingled feelings of triumph and terror. We gaze out at the luminous rock walls that enclose the Lysefjord and our hearts fill with awe. We gaze around at idiots perched on the precipice with their feet dangling over the edge and our blood congeals.
And then there’s the crack. The one right behind you where the rock joins the mountain. You tell yourself, I’m standing on solid granite. This rock will be standing for centuries to come. And then you peer through that heart-stopping crevice into the depths below and decide, quite suddenly, that it’s time to descend. You snap a hasty, final shot of the monolith and start down.
Unfortunately, the descent of Preikestolen isn’t for the faint of heart, either. To say that the trail is rocky assumes that there is an actual trail. There isn’t. There are rocks. Tons of rocks piled atop still larger rocks, and those piled atop boulders the size of Volvos. The large red T (T as in Trail) painted on the boulders is a cruel joke. You might find a foothold if you were a mountain goat. You might make the leap from ledge to ledge if you were a sticky-footed lizard.
I e-mailed a friend describing with great drama and high emotion the many breathtaking perils of Preikestolen. Her reply: “But did you get the shot?”
I got it.