There are rare moments when the drudgery of normal life spills from your thoughts, like water tumbling from a high fall. It’s in these moments, these fleeting glimpses we so infrequently see, that a life lusted after becomes reality. When our inner core screams out to the stars and beyond: ‘I’m here, I’m alive, I’m free!’
Now is one of those moments. I’m awake, truly awake, my senses heightened beyond fear, beyond reason. Fear left me this morning when I stepped onto the snow at the water’s edge and commenced my climb. Fear has no place on the mountainside. Respect, yes – but fear has to be cast away as an unwanted layer of conventional thought. Fear leads to errors, and the consequences of an error in this harsh environment can be severe.
As for rational reasoning, the justification of putting myself in danger, the time for questioning myself – these passed long ago. Why visit the far north and struggle all day though pristine snow for an off-piste descent, when I could have chosen to simply step off a chairlift in the Alps? That decision was made on a hot day back in England last summer, when, beer in hand, sheltering from an unforgiving sun beneath a laden plum tree alive with wasps, the phone had rung. The idea was proposed and accepted within the first moments of a long-forgotten conversation that shifted to the subjects of family, friends, work…
Now, I’m simply here. It’s as if I’ve not been anywhere, and I’m not going anywhere. I’m simply here, now – here on this ridge in Iceland, with white horses dancing upon a wild sea and the sun skimming the horizon on its long search for a mountain to set behind.
My history and experience keep me calm, yet the specifics of my life are blanked from thought, forcefully barred from clouding my concentration. The hug of my daughter as I left for the airport, the face of my wife as she held up my son to the window to wave goodbye – these are life’s true joys. But they’re not for now; not for here.
As for the future? The far future is currently irrelevant, yet the prospect of the immediate future elates me: the thrill of the decent, the face full of powder as I slash a heelside turn, the numbing of my skin in an Atlantic breeze, the adrenalin stimulating my senses beyond the capability of any drug I’ve known. These may well be the reasons, the justifications – and while shared by friends and fellow adventurers, these are my reasons alone, my very own selfish personal reasons. They have brought me here to this very point in time, but even they aren’t for the now.