Friday, February 11, 2011

The Mountain and the Climber

He sat with his friend and said ‘I like that mountain, it looks amazing. I’m going to go up it today’. His friend agreed that it was a nice mountain, but that he should take care and make proper preparations. Mountains, though immobile and ageless, could still be unpredictable.

Oh no, the mountaineer said, I am just going to look at it today. But when he got to the mountain, he found it intriguing. He wanted to scale its heights. The mountain called to him and he could not resist.

The start of the climb, the path was smooth and the slope gentle, the harder bits easy enough to negotiate with his experience. He knew mountains.

His friend wondered why he was gone so long, but was not concerned. The weather at home became windy, then it started to rain hard. He was worried that a storm was on its way. He decided to call the mountaineer and warn him. But the mountaineer had his phone turned off.

Halfway up the mountain the going got tougher. But he persevered, this was a lovely mountain and he wanted to reach the top and see the view. As he climbed further and further the slopes became steeper. He had no rope or crampons, but his hands were strong.

But then the weather changed, suddenly – unexpectedly. He was smothered in fog; a wet, dank fog that sank into his light clothes and chilled him to the bone. He started to shiver, but he continued. He could get above the fog, still see that view. His feet, clad only in light shoes, were blistered, but still he continued. That view was in reach.

The friend wondered now what had happened to the mountaineer. He thought. Should he send out a search party? Should he go looking himself? Whilst he pondered, the mountaineer was still climbing. But now it was snowing.

Cold and weak, he realised at last that the summit of the mountain was probably too high to reach, but still he persevered. He clambered over an icy boulder and slipped. He tumbled down a hundred feet. Battered and bruised he picked himself up. To climb on, or turn around? He was nearly at the top – and the view still held promises.

He thought about what his friend would say – how he would admonish him for not being properly equipped and for taking on such an adventure. Even more so he would be cross that he had not turned around at the first sign of trouble. And while he thought he continued to climb. He was annoyed. How dare his friend tell him how to climb? He’d been doing it for years! He knew that the view would be worth it – a view in a million to be sure.

The friend knew that nothing he could have said would have made a difference. Even though on frequent occasions he had reminded the mountaineer to check the weather first, he knew that the mountaineer was driven and if the impulse took him, he would not listen to his friend. The friend began to feel resentful. His wise advice had been ignored. If the mountaineer was in trouble, it was his own fault.

Nearing the top, the mountaineer was excited. The view… the view… he panted as the cold air froze the very sweat on his skin. With the summit in sight the mountain shifted. A few loose rocks, some icy shale. The mountaineer fell. He slid and tumbled down and down. He was cut and bruised by unfeeling rocks, he was scraped and scratched by brambles and bushes. He found no purchase on his descent, until he reached a bleak outcrop above a precipice where his torn body finally came to rest. He looked up at the sky above him, and to the tantalising summit above.

He sat up, realised that he could not walk and that he needed help. He fished his mobile phone from his pocket. It was, amazingly, still working. He tried to call his friend, but there was no answer. He pondered – should he call emergency rescue? There he was, injured on the mountain, but in no small part it was his fault. Well, his and the mountain’s.

Deep within the mountain, its soul chuckled. For mountains see, feel, breathe and move. Mountains are not just the rock and soil, they are the air and wind, the clouds and sky. And mountaineers cannot truly conquer them, and the mountain knows this.

The man sits on the mountain, injured and bleeding and needing rescue. And rescue will come – for it will be noticed that he has not returned. His ill-conceived venture will be acknowledged and someone will come for him eventually.

Meanwhile he is cold and bleeding. But it’s alright, he doesn’t’ die. And he still has the top of that mountain to see one day.

Do you think the view will be worth it?

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