With the support of my ice-axe I had been cautiously descending a zig-zag trail of boot marks already kicked into the face. But snow blown by the rising wind was rapidly covering these shallow steps, vanishing my trail. The danger level contrasted sharply with any reality I’d ever known, and took my breath away. Or perhaps it was the jaw-dropping view. And that was without glancing at the giant seracs, or ice blocks, teetering far above my head.
Why do mountaineers leave the safety of the valleys, for the rarefied heights above? Partly for the views, of course. And partly for the timeless sense of serenity this rarefied, pristine world can bring, with its mind-altering perspective on the problems and pressures of the world below, and of the true value of loved ones and home.
But most of all, such heights can be reached only by plumbing rarely-tapped reserves of stamina, determination, and sometimes even courage.