Jack scrambled up the last of the scree and flopped inelegantly onto the grassy ledge. He stood up and saw that they were only a few hundred yards from the summit of the mountain. Turning round he called out.
“Come on, slowcoach! We’re almost there!”
“I’m coming! Some of us don’t have the ease of trousers to scramble in!” The retort floated back up, followed by a squawk as his companion lost her footing again. He grinned and looked over the edge to see what had happened.
“Go to the left a bit. There’s more purchase there.” He watched as she attempted to climb up the scree and laughed as another squawk reached him. Finally, he held out his hand to help her onto the ledge and Jo flopped onto the grass, gasping for breath.
“Did you bring me up that way on purpose?” She asked, once she was able to talk.
“Would you prefer to go down that route?”
“I’d have preferred another route altogether.”
“I said we were taking the quickest route and we’re almost at the summit, now.” Jack grinned again as Jo made an indescribable noise. He stood up and took her hands, hauling her to her feet once more. They walked along the grassy ledge companionably until they reached another section of rocks and scree.
“I thought you said there wasn’t much scrambling on this walk?” Jo said, eyeing the path dubiously.
“There isn’t. This is the last bit and then we’re at the summit.” Jack set off up the scree, scrambling agilely between the boulders strewn in his way. Jo was left to follow as best she could. She wished she could wear trousers, especially for walking. Her skirt was short, but it still hampered her progress. She sighed and started up the scree, herself. Before she was halfway up, she was out of breath and freely cursing Jack and his quickest route to the summit. Eventually, she reached the top and grabbed the helping hand Jack held out over the final boulder. Then he took her rucksack from her as he turned her around to admire the view.
Jo stood in silence as she drank in the scenery. There were row upon row of mountains fading into the distance. Below her, she could see the Sonnalpe with the Sanatorium and small village to one side. Even the Tiernsee was only a small speck of blue in the distance. The only sounds she could hear were the singing of birds and a lonely cowbell in the distance.
Jack moved away and looked for somewhere sheltered so they could eat their picnic. He was hungry and he knew that Jo would stand there all day if left to her own devices. He soon spotted a slight dip in the ground and, when he dropped into it, discovered that there was no wind. He quickly unpacked the food and drink before returning to fetch Jo.
He found her still standing in the same position, a faraway look on her face. As he went up to her, she finally dragged her gaze away from the scenery and smiled dreamily at him. Jack smiled in return, captivated by her. He felt an urge to kiss her, but knew that she had no idea of anything other than friendship with him and he didn’t want to risk losing that.
“Come and eat, Jo. I’ve found us a sheltered corner out of the wind.” He led her along the grass to the little dip where he had set up their picnic. Together, they made short work of the sandwiches, pies and cakes, washing them down with lemonade.
With his hunger satisfied, Jack lay back in the grass and watched the clouds drifting lazily across the sky. Jo curled up next to him and dozed in the sunshine, enjoying the fact they had no need to talk. Their companionship was a happy one and they both enjoyed the moment of peace at the summit.