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The Summit


There was no one to tell about it. There was, perhaps, nothing to tell. All the world we could see lay motionless in the muted splendor of the sunrise. Nothing stirred, only we lived; even the wind had forgotten us. Had we been able to hear a bird calling from some pine-tree, or sheep bleating in some valley, the summit stillness would have been familiar; now it was different, perfect.

It was as if the world had held its breath for us. Yet we w tired . . . the summit meant first of all a place to rest. We sat down just beneath the top, ate a little of our lunch, and had a few sips of water. Ed had brought a couple of firecrackers all the way up; now he wanted to set one off, but we were afraid it would knock the cornices loose. There was so little to do, noth¬ing we really had the energy for, no gesture appropriate to what we felt we had accomplished: only a numb happiness, almost a languor. We photographed each other and the views, trying even as we took the pictures to impress the sight on our memories more indelibly than the cameras could on the film. ... I thought then, much as I had when Matt and I sat on the glacier just after flying in, that I wanted to know how the others felt and couldn't. Trying to talk about it now would have seemed profane; if there was anything we shared, it was the sudden sense of quiet and rest. For each of us, the high place we had finally reached culmi¬nated ambitions and secret desires we could scarcely have articu¬lated had we wanted to. And the chances are our various dreams were different. If we had been able to know each other's, perhaps we could not have worked so well together. Perhaps we would have recognised, even in our partnership, the vague threats of am¬bition, like boats through a fog: the unrealisable desires that drove us beyond anything we could achieve, that drove us in the face of danger; our unanswerable complaints against the universe — that we die, that we have so little power, that we are locked apart, that we do not know. So perhaps the best things that hap¬pened on the summit were what we could see happening, not any¬thing beneath. Perhaps it was important for Don to watch me walk across the top of the east ridge; for Matt to see Ed stand with a cigarette in his mouth, staring at the sun; for me to notice how Matt sat, eating only half of his candy bar; for Ed to hear Don insist on changing to black-and-white film. No one else could see these things; no one else could even ask "whether or not they were important. Perhaps they were all that happened.
DAVID    ROBERTS

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