Mountains have inspired men for time immemorial.
They are considered places inhabited by the Gods. Mythologies consider them to be sacred and the greatest of these mountains have been idolised.
At the elementary level, these mountains are just rock and ice. This rock in its geological formation and geographical placement has often penetrated the human soul. They have compelled the human mind into contemplation about life and existence. They have provided the theatre and have inspired men to persevere and accomplish many a great feat.
Here I do not talk about mountains which are pleasing and provide the ideal environment for life to flourish. I here talk of those harsh places which offend the idea of life. These mountains enjoin the lay of the land and dominate the landscape with their imposing presence. These mountains rise from the face of the earth and extend into the attenuated limits of the atmosphere. Here the great force of gravity is no longer able to concentrate the air. This place is this called the death zone. Lungs fill up with water and membranes of the brain swelled to bring spontaneous death. When I ignore the science behind altitude sickness and evaluate the sight, it is as if the mountain through its infinitely diverse powers draws life out of this man intending to conquer its summit. This does not prevent men from trying and many have sacrificed their lives in this pursuit. May be the mountain does call.
The most respected of mountaineers have described climbing these mountains not as a victory over them, but as a journey within one’s self.
I have walked into the valleys of a few such mountains. Not to climb them, but only to revere their presence. Maybe these mountains are the Gods. This Earth being the creator of life and these rock formations being her most magnificent creations, are an expression of her greatest powers.
The call of Stillness
Looking at the picture of this mountain, taken half a century ago creates an obsession within. An obsession which creates a longing to visit and look for myself at this landscape in the centre of which is embedded a great mountain. This obsession is followed by fear. Fear shapes into respect for this stark force of nature. I reach this place and enter the valley. The floor has risen to such an altitude; I lose breath every few steps. With some difficulty I continue walking. My struggle keeps me from noticing my surroundings. Tired from my suffering, I make camp and sleep. The morning is almost divine. I walk higher up into the valley. I feel the struggle of the previous day crawling into my life again. Before I can notice, my walk has a rhythm with which my breath agrees.
Slowly, suffering ceases and I can now notice my surroundings. I notice that stillness. This stillness my mind replicates. I become oblivious to the irrelevancies of life. I had failed to imagine that that so desolate a landscape can stimulate the mind in this manner. I can understand that a journey like this would inspire a mountaineer, an artist, a scientist and a pilgrim alike.
Walking in this valley has made a revelation, that a visit to such high places would make one understand the potential of their mind and body. So I shall return to such a place and absorb myself in its magnificence and mysticism. Thus began the chapter of my life in the mountains.