Add Heading HereThe following is a short story I wrote on one of many long solo trips along the Sierra Nevada Glacial Divide.
Coming up over the ridge, I saw him moving, gliding almost inches above the ground with a self-determined pace. Had to catch up, something deep inside pushed me to follow. I drove on beyond my self imposed limits, but every time I got closer he seemed to disappear around a huge erratic; monster glacier-ed boulders the size of buildings, strewn endlessly in this high altitude Shangri-La, or he somehow magically disappeared over some ridge line. I kept pushing on, his mysterious reappearance's became annoying. Every time I got close I could swear he looked back at me with a sardonic little smile beckoning me on. He was telling me I could push it a little farther, new limits to transcend ... I could see it in his eyes. On I went....Late it was! I thrust my pack off, and was instantly bitten by an icy wind on my sweat drenched shirt. I knew he was looking at me, a benevolent look, I felt self assured, a sense of well being. I had to refocus now and setup camp. At this altitude hypothermia is a reality not a topic for discussion. These were new limits of endurance I was experiencing, a threshold of change from which one can't return. Try to sleep ... hard at this altitude ... catnaps is this best I can do .Thoughts cascade through my mind, and I wonder where the Mystery man is. As soon as I do he enters my consciousness. I sense his presence, he’s right outside the tent. I can hear him breathing, a slow, calm deliberate cadence that only comes with one who is bold and confident. I unzip the fly to the tent and look out intently. No one there, this is strange; but I know he’s there, I can sense his presence. Then, all of a sudden we're having a discussion. It’s very philosophical, about pushing through your inner demons that tell you to be frightened. Climbing to a higher location tomorrow is what you have to do he says. I was hesitant, this was a solo trip at my limits. He wouldn't hear of it. You will top the summit and when you do, you'll cross over to another place and look back at the person you used to be. I knew he was right, the decisions been made and that was that. Try to sleep...I never thought coyotes were this high up(12000 ft. Plus) but there they were; 5:00 AM and an orchestra of yips and yaps and high pitched wines. No one can sleep through this. Anyway it’s time to head out and up. Open the fly to the tent and step out into a tapestry of ice forms everywhere. It’s too beautiful to be cold. That first deep inhale and the exhilaration of frosty breath. Soon Sun rays will be streaking through the rock formation of this most grand mountain. It’s time to start the ascent. Mystery man is nowhere to be seen. But wait, I see a speck moving up the snow field just above those erratics. He’s there and moving without flaw. I can see him looking back at me. That’s strange! I can see those dark penetrating eyes and that beckoning smile. How can that be, he’s too far away. Time to move fast up past this glacial lake, up the incline and over the talus. Then up that steep snow pass. It’s melt-water crust (breakable; can trap feet if thin crust breaks; good walking if thick). It may require crampons, but I didn't bring any. I hunched exhausted looking up at this snow pass. Another mystery, I see no footprints in the snow, but there he is moving around the base of that cliff and up through a narrow corridor, his head down and cocked slightly in my direction. Okay I'm coming. It’s time for the push, that instant when you feel your heart in your throat, and that tingle in your hands. It'll be over once I get into the flow. I must move with intention, focus and surgical accuracy. A broken leg or worse here and it’s over. As I move up the inclined snow ridge it becomes apparent I need something to penetrate the ice crust to avoid falling through. I decide to use my tripod. It can work as a probe. Whoooof ...this is tough. I stop just before a snow-melt waterfall over the cliff face to my right. I turn to look back at base camp, I see the general area, but can't make out my tent. As I look in this direction my eyes travel the cliff face downward and notice the full moon setting over the horizon, through the early morning alpine glow. I move beyond the snow line now and turn along the base of the cliff. There in front me is a narrow passageway, obstacles of huge boulders to negotiate, hadn't counted on this. I look up and see a ridge, there’s an end in sight and now my curiosity is driving me onward. Finally I make it to the ridge line and look back down. Must make sure to mark a route for the return trip, I may have to do it in the dark. Mistakes are not an option. As I turn and look up I see another huge snow field at a more tenuous incline. For a fraction of a second, I see mystery mans back and then he’s gone over the horizon. I’m being pulled by this magnetic apparition, this eidolon. Again no foot prints but I can see the route clearly in my minds eye. I’m completely in the flow of the present, I’m getting closer to the summit and almost can’t contain the overwhelming sense of what’s there. Pull up, over the last ledge. Who knew! To the right a sheet of snow and ice sub-duct a small glacial pool, a hundred meters in diameter. Turquoise merging with azurite as it transitions to the deepest part. I refill and hydrate with a liter of magic water, it must be, it tastes to damn good. Some of the H2O molecules here have to be centuries old. Don't know why, but the idea of it just puts a feeling in me. Mystery man (A Quantum Partner, a Probability Wave, a Teacher?), is nowhere to be seen. The sense of a penetrating presence from places eternal; where all things are possible. At every instant a choice, or pure probability? Form and substance, shadows at the edge of existence, always in transition from one eigenstate to the next.
“It moves. It moves not. It is far, and it is near. It is within all this, and it is outside all this."
-Words of the Upanishads
“The relationship of form and emptiness cannot be conceived as a state of mutually exclusive opposites, but only as two aspects of the same reality, which co-exist and are in continual co-operation."
-Lama Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism