What is a mountain?

Mountain (OED): A large natural elevation of the earth’s surface, esp. one high and steep in form (larger and higher than a hill) and with a summit of relatively small area.

“so much irreducible mystery remains—even in what many of us think of as the known.” Katie Ives, Imaginary Peaks

What is a mountain? A hoax, like Reisenstein’s hoax, a 1960s joke trip report that had people wondering for years where this BC mountain was that Harvey Manning had written about. What is a mountain? A daydreamed home away from home. What is a mountain? A landscape of snow and rock. A promise – of more to come beyond the horizon. What is a mountain? A colossal thing, sending its roots deep into the earth and its top high into the clouds. What is a mountain? A series of synclines and anticlines. Sedimentary layers thrust upward and sat on end. The earth’s crust crumpled, like a quilt on a bed, with some mountains like Everest rising at 4 mm per year. What is a mountain? A mirage that rises out of the landscape suddenly as in southern Alberta, or that is gradually revealed farther north in the foothills. What is a mountain? A story. Of climbers and success, of peak bagging and trip reports. What is a mountain? A place of pikas and mountain goats, marmots and wolverines. A place of glaciers and snow. A mountain is winter, at least at the peak. The biggest, like Mt. Logan, are wintery year-round. What is a mountain? A peak on the horizon, alpenglow lighting its face before dusk sets in and all you see is a silhouette against the deep blue darkening sky. What is a mountain? Community, of others as fascinated by them as you are. Though I may not climb them, I count myself as part of the community of mountain lovers. What is a mountain? A memory, of the day we hiked into the Hilda Glacier cirque with our families, encircled by peaks and containing a small glacier up against its back wall. The day we held hands and said ‘yes’ as the sun came out and banished the stray snow flurries. The day we hiked up into Boundary cirque glacier, also encircled by peaks, the dog hiking determinedly with us. What is a mountain? The future. A future mountain run. An exploration. A knowledge in the back of your mind that some day you’ll get close to that peak and see what it’s made of. What you’re made of. What is a mountain? A living thing, according to Nan Shepherd. It throws boulders down gullies and shakes avalanches off its slopes. Lets entire cliffs loose in landslides. Covers its peak in cloud, keeping its upper most parts private. What is a mountain? A wish. Of one day climbing it. Of one day living somewhere where you can see it out the window and from the front yard. What is a mountain? Joy, at seeing them on the horizon. Sustenance, from walking around their roots. Gladness, at being in their embrace. What is a mountain? A fantasy, a Shangri-La, a pocket of undiscovered peaks just ripe for climbing. What is a mountain? Home.

Please follow and like us:

1 thought on “What is a mountain?”

Leave a comment

Like what you're reading? Sign up and share!