Edge of the World

Mysterious Encounters or Spooky Action at a Distance

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 glaciered 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 whimsical 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; if all calls to rise could be this harmonious. 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 meltwater 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 subduct 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.
-Scott Humphrey

“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


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-19 of 19

Dave K - Aug 14, 2007 4:38 pm - Voted 10/10

Awesome photo

Have you considered submitting your story as a trip report?


scotta - Aug 14, 2007 5:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome photo

Hi Dave. No, I haven't. Do you think it's worth a go. It's hard to judge these things from my end.

Dave K - Aug 14, 2007 6:01 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Awesome photo

Absolutely! You've written the text so it should be a piece of cake to post. :-)

Anya Jingle

Anya Jingle - Aug 14, 2007 6:58 pm - Voted 10/10


photo and 10+ for the story!


scotta - Aug 15, 2007 8:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great...

Thanks Anya!


madeintahoe - Aug 14, 2007 7:51 pm - Voted 10/10

Thank you...Beautiful

Thank you for sharing your story! It was amazing..You write beautiful very soothing and totally took me in for the time it took me to enjoy reading it.
Thank you for bringing some peace to my day today :)


scotta - Aug 15, 2007 8:31 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Thank you...Beautiful

Thanks Madeintahoe ... Glad you enjoyed it.

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Aug 14, 2007 8:14 pm - Voted 10/10

Very poetic

I think it is a proper TR, but if you hesitate, then consider other SP "art forms" such as articles of "custom objects".


butitsadryheat - Aug 16, 2007 3:10 am - Voted 10/10

From where

was this taken. Looks like from Desolation lake area? Maybe east a bit?


scotta - Aug 16, 2007 2:33 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: From where

Hi butitsadryheat,

I was looking over my Journal. This was taken quite a few years ago from Lower Desolation Lake. It was taken about 6:00 AM, before heading up to Mt. Humphreys. It was shot with 35MM film Camera, using 50 ISO, Fuji Velvia film, at 21MM focal length, and a 2-Stop Neutral Density filter(hard edge), using Hyperfocal Distance.I used spot metering, not sure of the time exposure.

Hope that helps ...


scotta - Apr 5, 2008 6:22 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Very nice.

Thanks ...


Grampahawk - Apr 2, 2008 7:01 pm - Hasn't voted

thanks for the memories

Reading this brought me back to a time when I was out camping, alone, as a kid. I was in this cool pine forest, with a gentle breeze. I could swear that I heard voices. At first it was scary, but later they seemed reassuring. Great writing! Thanks.


scotta - Apr 5, 2008 6:23 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: thanks for the memories

Thanks ...


Marcsoltan - Jul 23, 2009 1:19 am - Voted 10/10

Pretty amazing...

story telling, and photography.

I used to climb alone a lot in my younger years and I can relate to your story. You write so well, and your photos have no equal. I wish you could share these with more people at Summit Post.


scotta - Jul 24, 2009 12:38 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Pretty amazing...

Thanks Marcsoltan .. I really appeciate your terrific comment. Much appreciated.


Marcsoltan - Jul 27, 2009 11:50 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Pretty amazing...


Where is my nice story? I picked it up during traveling last weekend. And I was going to print it when I got home. But, now I see that it's gone!

I remember you talking about Ray Jardin. I am an old timer, so it's natural that I know of Ray Jardin and his invention of the spring loaded camming device, and his first ascent of Phoenix, in addition to all his daring Yosemite wall climbs. What I didn't know was his "light go" style in mountaineering. As it turns out, I have always done all I could to reduce the weight on my back. I have pushed the limits of human endurance more than once by spending nights on top of mountains without a sleeping bag. I always regretted this practice, only to forget the amount of suffering a year later and repeat the insanity.
Nowadays, I carry, a sleeping bag even for low altitudes, a stove and a pot. My backpack has always been lighter than my climbing partners, and in many cases I have taken on some of their load. So, I understand where Ray Jardin is coming from.

I was also very much interested in the story of the lady in her 70's and her accomplishments. I wanted to share the story with my wife. Anyway, it was so nice of you to take so much time to write. I can see why you wanted to delete that part of your reply to my message.

Please feel free to write again. You can always use the PM option.
All the best, and happy climbing,


scotta - Jul 30, 2009 12:17 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Pretty amazing...

Hi Marcsoltan!
This is what I had included on "Gramdma" Gatewood. I found it very amusing, enlightening and inspiring. It puts things in perspective (There are many High Maintenance individuals out there, If you get my drift). Her story is a breath of fresh air.

Please allow me to relay something I read years ago in one of Ray's books. Here's an excerpt. It's about Emma "Grandma" Gatewood (1888-1975). Her secret? "I had always lived on a farm and was used to hard work," she told a reporter. "I was in good physical condition, so I decided to hike the trail, and I just started out." And in her spunky style she quipped, "Most people are pantywaists. Exercise is good for you." "On the 100th anniversary of the Oregon Trail she walked its entire 2,000 mile length in fifteen days. During her second AT thru-hike she took no rest days, and completed the rugged journey in only 4.5 months, finishing just a few days before her 70th birthday." And the kudos, just go on and on and on. ...

What set Grandma apart was her disdain of the latest and most robust equipment. Backpackers wore sturdy boots to protect their feet; Grandma wore Keds sneakers. They used expensive parkas and lightweight, bug-proof tents. She used a rain cape and a plastic shower curtain. They carried expensive frame packs that distributed their heavy loads evenly. Grandma didn't carry a heavy load. Her items of extra clothing and gear were few, and she carried them, along with her food, in a home-made bag simply draped over on shoulder.


Marcsoltan - Jul 30, 2009 3:31 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Pretty amazing...

Thank you, Scott. I will print this out for my wife tonight.

Happy climbing,

Senad Rizvanovic

Senad Rizvanovic - Jan 15, 2012 10:35 pm - Voted 10/10



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