Year of birth: 1990
Lives in: Scheidegg (Allgäu)/ Germany
Occupation: alpine dairy farmer, industrial mechanic, business administrator
Shoe size: 38.5
Mountain idyll? The idea makes Katharina Krepold smile. “They only exist in magazines. Or films,” she says. Sure, a beautiful sunrise, a flowering alpine meadow – there’s nothing bad about that. But any romanticism soon disappears when you have to get up every morning in the dark, sometime between 3:30 and 4:30 am, for three months in a row. When a thunderstorm is so loud that you sometimes “jump out of bed,” as she says. Or when a cow has a fall, ending up with an open fracture on its leg and jaw, and you have to put it down out of mercy. And when having toddlers in tow has slowed everything down in the mountain dairy over the past couple of years.
No, Katharina has never been a fan of mountain idylls and romanticism. Not even in 2010, when she and a friend, propping up the bar, had a “crazy idea” (her words) to spend a summer among the mountains and the cows. Back then, she drove all the way to the end of the Lumnezia valley for a job interview, “with blond hair and bright red fingernails,” she recalls. ‘Mamma mia’, what was she thinking?! “And the farmers just looked at me, like, what on Earth are you doing here? I couldn’t even shake their hands”, she admits today. The Val Lumnezia farmers should actually be congratulated for not being put off by the red fingernails and hiring the then 20-year-old as one of several female mountain dairy workers to look after their herd of 120 milking cows and 250 calves up at the S. Carli alp.
Although she grew up with livestock on her parents’ farm in the Allgäu region, after school she studied something marvellously respectable: industrial mechanics. “That’s the way to earn money, was the thinking then,” remembers Katharina. Later she got her masters, then studied business administration, for better chances of making more money – she’s never been workshy, “but then, I ended up in an office all the time”. In the end, the job with the best prospects for her was the one she found in the Swiss Alps, which lured her back summer after summer. In 2018 she packed in her career. “I decided it was never going to make me happy.”
The months spent up in the mountain pastures may not be financially lucrative. But the work is definitely rewarding. Maybe it really is more meaningful to sculpt cheese from alpine milk with your own hands and blog about it every now and then at most, than to hack away at a keyboard all day every day. It might also make you happier, walking 2,000 vertical metres a day rounding up cows, instead of sitting stationary at your desk. I’m pretty sure it’s also an alternative type of “lucrative” if you can stay up at a mountain pasture until two weeks before the birth of your first daughter, and at some point, notice that your blood count is improving, and your back is hurting less.
And there’s no doubt that there’s an element of romanticism, when at the end of the summer months on the alp, for the first time with the whole family – husband and two daughters – you can be part of the cattle drive, with the beautifully adorned cows, and people lining the streets, clapping and cheering. “That was pretty special”, Katharina admits.
You can read about Katharina’s experiences in her blog alpgefuehl.com.
Mountain boots. There’s nothing more comfortable. I don’t even own a pair of high heels anymore.
Tea. It’s healthier, plus I don’t like coffee. And I can make my own tea out of alpine herbs too. What could be better, and more natural, than sourcing nutrition straight from the mountainside into your cup? Nothing.
Thinks for a while. Accepting that everyone is different – and that they are allowed to be. Maybe it’s what you’d call tolerance.
Contact with people down in the valley. It’s lovely that there’s also this community up in the mountains too, however. There are always three or four of us. But you can’t maintain friendships and groups in the same way you would normally. Living without your own personal space, your private sphere – that’s a hardship and a benefit at the same time. On the alp, we are together 24/7, in a small space, and sometimes in extreme situations. You get to know everyone really well, and yourself too.
Cows radiate such calm, tenderness and gentleness – and at the same time such strength and vigour. After all, they can withstand any weather. They also have incredibly strong maternal instincts. Since becoming a mother myself, I’m no longer entirely comfortable with people taking their young away from them. It’s not really a matter of give and take like it used to be, its often just a case of us humans taking.
“It’s hard to decide on just one pair of boots. The robust HANWAG Sirius II Lady GTX gives me the necessary support and protection for my feet when I’m on the steep and rough mountain slopes. The HANWAG Grünten Lady is my favourite for general use – and also goes perfectly with a dirndl; these boots are definitely style meets tradition.”