By Bruce Farrow on June 25, 2015
In a land faraway there were two friends, Rama and Narai, who sat at the bottom of the mountain that was their ambition to climb.
As they sat in the sun they looked up at the mountain. The sky was blue and cloudless, embracing the massive mountain that rose from the landscape. The peak of the mountain was covered in snow and it looked beautiful. The two friends spoke of their adventure with excitement. This was something they had dreamed about and planned for several years and tomorrow was the day when they started their trek which would culminate in them conquering the peak. Others had said that the mountain was too difficult to climb, was too dangerous, but the two friends believed they could do it and focussed on how fulfilled they would be when they reached the summit.
They checked their equipment and it seemed they had prepared well and they noticed that nothing was missing from their vast array of tackle. They went to bed early that night, eagerly anticipating the dawn when their adventure would begin.
The following morning, as the sun rose over the mountain, the two friends set off and began the trek. At first the going was good. The walking was easy and the incline was slight and the path was well marked. Their spirits were high. They would achieve this.
As the morning progressed the pathway began to get steeper and the pathway began to be less easy to walk on. Some large stones had found their way onto the path causing the climbers to have to tread carefully.
They stopped for lunch, a little tired from their morning trek, but were still in high spirits. Narai mentioned his heel was a little sore but made no big deal of it and, after they had finished their lunch, they set off again.
In the middle of the afternoon the pathway disappeared and the two climbers were forced to find their own way up the mountain. Occasionally they would pick a route that didn’t work out and ended in large boulders that they could not go around. So they would retrace their steps and look for an alternative route. The incline got steeper and, at around 6pm, they decided to stop for the night. They set their tents and cooked their dinner. Both were tired and Narai led the conversation about how much harder it had been than he thought it would be and how much his heel was hurting. Rama listened but did not say a lot. Yes he had had a tough day but he was still excited about completing the adventure.
When they set off in the morning up the slope, the going became tough. The incline was steep, there was no path and progress was slow. As they gained height, the temperature plummeted and the two climbers put on warmer clothing. Narai moaned about the cold and his sore heel and the fact that the climb was now tougher than he thought it would be. Rama was thinking the same thing but he tried to keep focussed on the peak and how it would feel when he got there.
Evening came and the two climbers collapsed exhausted from their day long climb. They had just reached the snow line and it was cold. They set their tents and Narai got straight into his sleeping bag and went to sleep. Rama wanted to do the same. He had no energy left but he knew he had to eat. He cooked his meal, devoured it swiftly and then fell into his sleeping bag and slept deeply.
When they awoke in the morning, they awoke to a blizzard. The winds whistled around their tents and the two friends cooked their breakfast inside whilst listening to the chaos outside. Narai was weak from the previous day and spoke about his aching limbs and his sore heel and how cold it was. For the first time, he mentioned that he was not sure that they could do it. Rama switched off from his friend’s complaining. His thoughts were on the peak and the more he thought about it, the more his aches went away.
Finally the wind died down and they set off again. The slope was so steep that they had to crawl for much of the way, digging into the snow with their crampons and poles to force themselves inch by inch upwards. The air was thin and talking was difficult. Narai had to keep stopping for rests, he was coming to the end of his tether.
When they camped that night, Narai went straight to bed while Rama cooked his meal and tried to recover some energy.
In the morning Narai announced to Rama that he couldn’t go on. His heel was hurting, he was exhausted, it was freezing, the mountain now was dangerous and it wasn’t worth it. Rama attempted to encourage Narai to change his mind and talked about what it would be like when they got to the summit. He spoke about the two years of preparation for the journey and how incredible it would be to complete the adventure together. Narai wasn’t listening. He had had enough. He had given up and was intent on returning down the mountain.
Narai was surprised when Rama said that he was going on without him and tried to convince Rama to come with him back down the mountain. Rama refused to listen and switched off from Narai’s pleadings. He wanted to get to the summit badly. He wanted to achieve that. He had set that as almost his purpose in life and he was going to do it and, if he had to, he would do it alone.
Rama set off up the mountain as Narai started his long journey down the mountain back to civilisation.
As he inched himself upwards, panting for breath, Rama knew what he was doing was breaking all the rules of mountaineering but he had to do it. He was not going to have his ambitions tainted by someone else’s weakness.
The wind blew and the snow returned. He was crawling now, ever inching towards the summit. He had lost the feeling in his hands and his feet and his whole body was numb and still he climbed.
In the afternoon he heard a rumble above him. He knew that sound and dived behind an enormous boulder as the avalanche crashed past him with the sound of thunder. It seemed an age until stillness returned. An eerie stillness.
He picked himself up, gathering the remains of his equipment and looked upwards towards the summit. The route had just become more difficult with massive ice boulders perched precariously above him, threatening at any moment to crash down the slope on top of him.
He moved upwards. One step at a time. One painful step. One breathless step.
He stared downwards at his feet and focussed on the next step, and then the next, and then the next. He was oblivious to the wind howling around him, the swirling blizzard. All he could see were his feet, moving forwards, step by step. He entered a trance like state. The only picture he had in his mind was the summit. Nothing else mattered.
Then, many hours later, the wind stopped, the blizzard disappeared and he was bathed in radiant sunlight. For the first time in days he noticed that the ground he was walking on was flat.
He looked up and his heart leapt. He was at the summit. There was no higher part of the mountain and he was standing on top of the world. He looked around him at the incredible scenery. Nothing blocked his view and the world stretched out at his feet. The colours were amazing. Blues and greens and browns of every shade. The world looked perfect. He had done it. He had achieved what he set out to do and the exhaustion left him in a flash.
He camped that night on the summit and in the morning was greeted by the most spectacular sunrise ever. He was sorry he could not have shared it with Narai, it would have made it even more special, but Narai had not wanted it enough.