You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know. - Rene Daumal
If you've been keeping up with the blog, you know that I recently returned from a backpacking trip in the Talkeetna Mountains.
If you haven't been keeping up with the blog - for shame...
Just kidding, I'm going to let it pass. Just this once.
Anyway - once we set up our base camp, we set out on a day hike around one of the high alpine lakes near our tent. As we rounded the southwest side of the lake, we could see all the way out to the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Wasilla. We were above the lake, but falling sharply down much further to our right, was Archangel Valley. As we continued around the far corner of the lake, the ground dropped away again. This time - more precipitously. A sheer rock face sent me stumbling backwards in vertigo. It was a 600 foot drop to our previous camp, along Reed Creek. It was an incredible sensation - one of falling forward as the world tipped back. I suddenly felt light headed - my knees gone wobbly. Looking down into that valley was like looking down the throat of a great beast, his mouth agape in preparation to strike. You could almost feel the valley below trying to inhale you. If I had looked up, I likely would have lost all sense of place, and began to tumble. Luckily, I wasn't looking for 'the quick route' down.
Once I regained my sense of balance (this followed a stark realization of my mortality...), I edged closer to the cliff's lip, and dangled my feet into the abyss. I could see miniaturized versions of people inching their way along the trail below. Perhaps 'millimeter-ing' would be more appropriate.
So, what did I learn 'from above'?
Besides the fact that I will never be a 'big wall climber'...
I learned that it is great to search for another perspective. If only to have a memory of that perspective in the future.
That applies to far more than climbing, altitude and exploration.
It is all about perspective - and the simple (albeit, slightly reeling...) reminder that ours are not the only ones that are of consequence.
'Altitude' and 'attitude' are not that different, it seems.
Wild places are reminders that the world doesn't revolve around us. It doesn't care about our little successes or smashing failures. The tides ebb and flow and the seasons change regardless of how we live or die. - Heather Lende
Thanks to Scott Slone for passing on the first quote, and to my mother - for passing on the latter.