Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Great EXCHANGE --- Passover LAMB+ Meditation

Meditation on the PASSOVER LAMB+  ~ ~ ~  Our PASCHA 

Adapted and condensed from James Ramsey Ullman's 
"TOP MAN"  short story, 1953
under the Fair Use Act
Not for profit... except as it may profit the soul. 

There it was!  K3 --- a high peak, in mountaineering terms --- stood in massive defiance of its conquerors as we, its potential climbers, rounded the bend of the valley floor.

The huge, icy peak... the Ultimate Challenge to mountaineers,  dressed in glistening, glassy  white ... lured mankind towards it with a mystical pull like the ancient sea sirens of old mythology, pulling, ever pulling mankind towards itself... and certain death for the un-wary.

Two climbers, seasoned, hardy, and determined, Martin and Paul, looked at K3 and sized up the challenge as our expedition grew silent in homage, an homage to the challenge for man, an homage to the glassy white giant looming before us without heart, without feeling.

The older man, Martin, knew its grim history well. For years, it had defeated many a climber, whose broken bodies had long been buried under ice and snow.  And among them, John... Martin's best friend and climbing companion... met his untimely death on the backbone of K3, falling 10,000 feet into nothingness.

 Martin had a vested interest is besting the behemoth, the dreadnaught.

In his unhurried, methodical, yet intense way that he brought to every endeavor, Martin kept a running tab of wind, temperature, snow amount and kinds, as well as a map of K3's back-breaking features, in his head. This seasoned and determined mountaineer was single of eye: he ate, drank, and slept focused on K3... and what it would take to conquer it. I was pleased to be along on this expedition with a man of such a caliber of character. 

We mountaineers and our native Himalayan guides and porters had been climbing the foot of the peak for about a month.  It had been a month of enduring unbelievable snow, wind that sand-peppered our faces, cold temperatures that iced our resolve. But now, there it was! The insurmountable peak, standing undefeated, unrelenting before our faces.

Martin, as superior of a mountaineer as he was, was well-matched in skill by one other climber in our group. Paul, a young college graduate, was as exuberant and impulsive as Martin was steady. Yet, despite his exuberance to conquer the peak, Paul was able to control his skills, to corral his innate sense of what it takes to make it to the top against inhuman odds.

Paul was superbly fitted for this challenge, having trained during smaller expeditions on many difficult peaks in the Alps and Rockies. He had never been in the Himalayas before and for Paul, it was love at first sight.

His senses were honed keen by excitement, and it was contagious. Myself, the guides and porters, and all the other men of our expedition could feel the intensity of Paul's drive to conquer K3. He was electrifying. 

Because Martin was the senior mountaineer, the climbing expedition unanimously followed his advice; his superior experience and intense focus were well-matched to fight the defiant giant, K3, the peak that would not be conquered.   

But Paul, flexing his own set of well-skilled mountaineering muscles, grew impatient with the meticulous judgment Martin exhibited in his always-careful decisions: to steer clear of the ridge, to wait out current weather conditions, to meticulously pick out the best path over the treacherous glacier, to put men's safety ahead of ambition.

" Wait ? Time is moving on, isn't it?" Paul remarked, pointedly, as he always did when Martin’s carefulness irritated him. "Well, why aren't we? "

Martin did not answer, but looked quietly at the old climber’s ax he carried, inscribed, "to Martin from John" on its head.

One unforgettable day, Martin showed his mettle as six of us were scouting out new camp sites on the rugged glacier ridge. Always roped together, we climbers and porters were hacking toe holds into the  ice when a cry shot out of one of the porters as he plummeted down into an icy ravine in the glacier.

The second porter roped next to him cried out as he too slid helplessly towards the ravine, frantic, trying to grasp something to break the fall.  Then, a third porter slid.
I felt the tug of the rope and tried to dig into the ice with my ax, but it was useless to try to brake the momentum of the porters' descent into the glacier’s ravine. 

In a flash, Martin had seized the situation, and knowing that a ridge, a spine of solid ice,  was between the falling porters and the rest of us, Martin hollered to us, "JUMP! "  and we did.  We jumped off our ledge with the rope braced over the spine of solid ice, perfectly balancing the dangling porters by our weight.

After dangling breathlessly a few minutes in mid-air, Martin called, "Okay chaps, slowly ease to the wall and climb up. "  We did, they did, and Martin hauled us all back to camp for a cup of tea!  It was good that he did; we had drops of frozen perspiration on our faces, from fear or weather, I do not know.  
On this expedition, the normal procedure was to carry the packs and supplies forward for a couple of miles and set up camp. Then, a few would scout ahead, climbing the ice and snow of the glacier, and set up a smaller camp. 

They would return and the rest of the expedition would move forward to the new camp site, bearing the supply bundles. It was a slow, tedious, back-breaking procedure, and monotony was beginning to drain our resolves more than the below zero temperatures.

In due course of time, the climbing expedition had laboriously set up six camps, each higher, closer to the peak. At each camp, the group left a couple of climbers and porters, so by the time the expedition reached the  7th camp site, there were only three men in camp who would attempt to scale the ice-covered peak: Martin, Paul, and myself.

Camp 7 was only 200 feet ... yes, 200 treacherous feet with death in every step... from the top of K3, a peak never before conquered by man. 

( Story to be continued tomorrow ...  )

Who+ taketh away the sin of the world
have mercy upon me. 

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