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Spencer Anderson: The mountains we climb


4:29 am – I beat the alarm by one minute again. The silent streets once again look caught off guard as I roar silently by. Early morning seminary. Between each period I see the same people say the same things to me, the same punk asks me for a pen, the same girl offers me a mint. I begin to answer before they even breath in to talk. The same people ask me for a ride home. Why even ask at this point? Just get in the car! People rush to wait at the next red light. Piano lessons, I know what they will play wrong before they even put their fingers on the keys. Check the fridge. The pantry. The fridge. The pantry. The fridge. The pantry. Same homework, different problems.

At this point, the monotony finally stopped.

I went onto Google Earth to find an adventure that would give me an escape. I was flying over the Sierra Nevadas, and I saw hundreds upon thousands of mountains. Nearly all had names, but a select few smaller, inaccessible peaks were blank slates. My mind raced. There was a relatively minuscule, unchanging number of mountains on this our tiny earth, and I, Spencer D. Anderson could be one of the most select humans ever to live to actually be the first on one. To give it an eternal name. To call it Mine. It seemed as if such a feat in this post-exploration age was a celestial taboo. However, once the logistics seemed feasible, the idea escaped my lips. At the very moment my closest family and friends heard my plan and doubted me, there was absolutely, positively, categorically NO going back. I was going to accomplish it, or end my short dull life trying. I talked to many mountaineers, they all thought I had a death wish. They said there had been too much snow that year, the mountain would be a freezing grave. I planned off-trail routes for months. Eventually, two of my brothers and my dad agreed to go with me. We left.

Allow me to paint a verbal picture of where we found ourselves. Twenty miles away, a lonely road slumbers. Complete isolation. Trees do not dare grow this high. It is Gaia’s ocean. The endless sea of sharp, murderous granite is paused in time: hundreds of mile high waves curl unmoving with glaciers for sea foam. The blue skies rain razor snow, which pierces through all five layers and makes the heart race in vain. The beauty is so unfit for human eyes, black and red blotches overtake vision constantly. We were not meant to be here. The gargantuan fish jump into our pans out of curiosity, the bear asks if we’ll share. Every time lightning strikes, each peak takes his turn mimicking the thunder, trying to outdo the last and telling us to back off. We are unwelcome. How silly I was to think that that eternal giant, greater than any puny human or human creation will ever be, could be “conquered” by me, an insignificant blip in the universe.

Once we had settled at the base of the mountain, it was time to attempt the summit.

We climbed for hours, more vertical gain than horizontal. Eventually, we hit the crest of the ridge, the top of the divide. We could see in both directions for an unprecedented number of miles. However, not everybody was doing well. I looked down at my blue-lipped brother Dallin. He was the same shade as the icy, unnamed lakes thousands of rocky feet below. He knew how much getting to the very top meant to me, I saw his eyes arguing with his stiff body, trying unsuccessfully to get back on his wet, blistered feet. I knew what had to be done. But how could I stop now?! How could I make my brother keep going?! How could I get so close then stop because of another person’s ailment? How could I value the top of some rocks over my own brother’s life?

“Well, guys,” I said between gasps for useless air,

“We’ve almost made it to the high point of this ridge. There is no record of anybody being here. If we go on top of that boulder over there, we will have technically summit-ed an unclaimed peak.” My father was joyfully dumbfounded, my brain was proud, my brother was saved, and my heart was broken and betrayed. Suddenly, my heart pulled together all my senses at once to change my mind. The wind booed at me and tried to make me fall off the ledge. The sun mocked me by burning my eyes and freezing my bones. The mosses scoffed at me, even they had been so much more successful than me. I hastily scrambled to the top boulder, leaving family in the dust. I free climbed to the top, then surveyed the landscape. Oh Man. From such a height, the world is seen through a new lens. I saw glaciers melting, streams, rivers, lakes. That water so far below fed the furry green sprawling of bacteria-like, oh-so-majestic redwoods. These microorganisms were releasing steam, which I saw float back over to the mountains releasing rain and snow. I cried. For the beauty of it all. For my chance to witness this God-given vision. I staggered back, unable to bear it. My feet ran out of rock,

And I fell.

Every foot seemed like an eternity. I laughed. I had been humbled many times that day, and thought that was how I was going to finish things. Just then, I was humbled even more. Somewhere far below the ledge, inches from where I would have gone a thousand feet more, My brother Tyler caught me! We sat on the ledge for a second, shaking, hugging, nervously laughing. We made a quick retreat back to base camp.

I woke up in the middle of the night, although I never really fell asleep. I left the warm tent and sat down facing my mountain. I meditated for a very long time.

The mountain finally started talking to me, for the first time. He spoke with all the thunder of the storms he had echoed, yet it was so soft I could barely make out the words.

He asked why I was so upset, and I explained with all feasible humility. He waited and let me talk, having nothing better to do. Once I fell silent, he showed me even more than what he showed me while on the ridge. In the countless stars, I saw my family. I saw my children, their children, their children, and so on for millennia. He showed me going to the very top of the mountain, alone. While I was walking around on it, the ground under me crumbled, and I fell to my death. Suddenly, all of those children vanished. He explained how he was no feat compared to such a royal posterity. My brothers were not hindering me, they were saving me and all that I will ever hold dear! I thanked the mountain, but He did not reply. After all, a mountain is just a mountain.

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