A spiritual homeland. That’s what I’d once called this formidable landscape of light and shade, of snow and sun, where brightness undercuts glowering cloud and turns green into Green and lakes into glimmering indigo portals.
Insignificant yet Everything in this immensity, I am anchored in the ancient.
And here we were again – three partners in adventure, separated by oceans and long years, standing on the brink of eternity in perfect, snow-capped silence. In a land where fear and love are one, we talk to God in our own ways.
What we are about to do is dangerous, and we know it. We’ve packed ice picks, a first aid kit, and a thermos of tea. We’ve tested the wind and tightened our laces. We’ve raised a glass to Arthur’s legions, at rest in Llyn Glaslyn.
There is nothing left but to follow the urge to the edge where mankind’s rise and fall meet – to stand yet higher, further, more exposed than those who dot the landscape below us. To survey a hostile heaven, in two parts awe to every one part hubris. To stare fear in the face, and to prove ourselves its equal.
A knife’s edge, they call it. I prefer to think of it as a dragon’s back, the bones of petrified ancients. They slumber on as we teeter, single-file, along their rugged spines. At first my steps are stumbling, punctuated by pauses as the drop below me takes deeper hold with every inward breath. Then my hands reach out in front of me, finding to their surprise a smooth and steady handhold, placed instinctively.
This is the greatest legacy of those that went before. Greater than the photographs of summit-smiles-and-sandwiches. Greater than record breakers, first ascents, fell running and fearlessness. Greater even than the carefully placed cairns that marked our ascent.
For in grasping this year-worn, palm-smoothed stone, I place my trust in those who chose, like me, to face the elements. I stand in the footsteps of adventurers across the eons, each facing this trail alone yet bound by the gentle marks left on the landscape – and those that are left in return.
And with renewed reverence, I let those dauntless few bear me across the breach.