Ups and Downs

Want to have some fun?

Try running up a mountain, like this:

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That’s the Canigou, a 2,700 metre (9000 foot) monster in the south of France.

Here I am, standing at the peak:

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I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking I look old and tired.

DARNED RIGHT I LOOK OLD AND TIRED!  I JUST RAN UP A 9000 FOOT MOUNTAIN!

It took me five hours to scratch my way to the summit.  Hurricane force winds were pounding the peak, and I nearly got blown off.  Also, my brain felt like tapioca since (oops!) I forgot to eat enough food on the way up.  Luckily I’d brought along a loaf of bread in my Dora the Explorer knapsack, and also a bar of nougat, which is this delicious candy made out of pistachio nuts and marshmallows.  I hoovered the whole bar (which was at least a foot long), and the entire baguette, and suddenly I felt massively:

POWERFUL!

INVINCIBLE!

INVULNERABLE!

Climbing up a mountain is optional.  But once you’re up there in the sky, with those hurricane-force winds bashing in your brains, and the occasional blizzard in July, well coming back down is MANDATORY.

I heard this statistic once: ninety percent of all mountain-climbing accidents happen when the climbers are on their way down.  That’s because the climbers are totally spent from climbing up, and they get more careless on the descent.

Did this worry me?

Naaaaaaah!  Why?  Because I was:

POWERFUL!

INVINCIBLE!

INVULNERABLE!

I pointed myself down that vertical trail and I SPRINTED!

Trees flashed past.  Mountain streams evaporated in my wake.  I ricocheted down those switchbacks.

Did I say that my favourite thing in the world is running up mountains?  Scratch that.  Running DOWN mountains is my favourite thing.

What took five hours to go up, took ninety minutes to come down.  I was reminded of Japhy Ryder, the crazy protagonist in Jack Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums, who tap-danced down a mountain in California-

“…in huge twenty foot leaps.  Running, leaping, landing with a great drive of his booted heels, bouncing five feet or so, running, then taking another long crazy yelling yodelling sail down the sides of the world.” 

And in that flash I realized that it is impossible to fall off mountains, just as the main character in that book realized, and I soared down the mountain with those same fantastic and fearless and foolish runs and jumps.

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In what seemed like ten minutes, I was back at the foot of the mountain.  My feet were blistered, not only on the bottom but the sides as well.  I had to stop running for four days.  But it was worth it.

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