Short story about the Mountains, their beauty and the impression of a young climber meeting them.
For the second year in a row, my summer holidays were dedicated to discovering what life in high altitude makes people so fond about.
Through my younger years I met many people that would speak about their adventures in the mountains with somewhat, a lot of respect and kind of shyness. In their eyes, you can see the absolute Love they carry for the mountains that welcomed their feet. The glitter in their eyes makes you think about how empty is your life. These people included my uncle, my grand-father, many friends of my parents and specially Hugues D'Aubarède, a French climber who died on K2 two years ago. All their stories full of heroic moments were always told with so much humility that it was hardly believable that somebody could even have lived these events.
The "demon" of climbing was there and I had to confront it. With the help of Almer, my Dutch climbing mate and with, this year, the help of Derek, we sent of once again to see for ourselves what the great lady was all about.
Like last year, we didn't wonder at all cost into the misty world of up there. Matthieu, the Mountain Guide that lead us last year, was once again there to lead our steps. This year, the objective was to teach us how to handle our own "Cordées".
Having the responsibility of another soul is not something we are usually use to. Up there, a miss step can lead to tragic consequences. Both the leader and the follower have to be sharp and take care of one another constantly. There is no space for hesitation, no space for wondering about and no space for doubting. The mind can only focus on the next step and what to do if something goes wrong. Being able to stop the fall of your team-mate is down to your own survival. If one falls into a crevasse or get blown of the ridge, the other has to act quick to save his own life first and the life of his own mate. Ones survival is bounded to the other by that tiny rope passed around our waists.
Being up there is magnificent. The staggering sky, the luminescent snow, the transcendent serac surrounding you, the silence of the lifeless pics creates a world of wonder that is hardly believable. Up there, there is peace. The only truth is the effort you put in going up or down. The only truth is your ability to make peace in yourself to keep on going no matter what. That's what it comes down to. The reward is purity of centuries of ice and snow, the immobility of the unstoppable glacier flowing down the summits surrounding you. Its the instant of absolute in a relativistic world. Its the idea that right there, you are a little ant in middle of the gigantic powers of earth.
Up there, the time is not gone. But it matters in different ways. The time is not the time of men, but the time of earth. The day ends with the vicious thunderstorm and starts with the frozen night. The outside doesn't exist. Only the peak and its robes of clouds matter. Your thoughts focus on the next step only. Your past and your future do not exist. Only the present is. The time of earth is relieving. The time of earth brings you to peace. In one single day, everything is gone.
But if The Great Lady can be full of wonders, she also reminds you on how feeble we are. One false step, one mistake, and all can be over. Going out of the hut when the clouds form is as dangerous as slipping down a crevasse. Without warnings, the thunder can blast you away. Usually nature in its greatness warns you by letting you know the hazards one easily forget. A stroke not too far; a strong electric shock down your shoulders and a shock wave through your body remind you that up there, you are just tolerated. The great lady do not accept wonderers. Climbers are only welcome because they can take care of themselves. She can be the most beautiful angel of all, but even to the best, she doesn't allow mistakes. Demanding, she is as much as rewarding. Her love is without counter parts, but her love is also absolute. She Is and that is it.
Discovering that world is somewhat dangerous. It is easy to forget on a good day what it can be like on a bad one. One has to stay conscious of his own abilities in the worst to be safe in the best. Humility is probably the greatest asset to seek in what The Great Lady has to offer. It takes a lot to continue. It takes even more to stop, specially when almost everything is fine.
It is so difficult to speak about up there... The only place that could compare would be the high seas. But not even: High seas are tumultuous powers while the Mountains are quiet forces. The high seas let you know the worst is coming while the mountains can be traitorous and blast you with no warnings. But the reward from both of them is the same: the feeling of being a part of earth, a part of this gigantic puzzle of life... And this is uncountable...
To all the people that had the chance to see these ladies and to all that they held back!
Den Haag, le 17 juillet 2010
- Document type:article
- Article type:personal article