Rucksack Magazine

Journal

The Journal brings together a collection of visual and written stories about adventure, discovery and travel.

Returning to the Mountains

Returning to the Mountains rucksack magazine

A short story documenting a writer's journey back to the mountains.

The heavy cloud cover began to clear from around the base of the mountain and the jagged tip slowly revealed itself. Iconic, beautiful and intimidating, the Matterhorn is instantly recognisable. Its pointed peak stands above all, jutting out proudly despite being surrounded by the obvious beauty of the Alps. The Matterhorn does not need the company of other mountains. It stands alone in contended solitude. The very tip of the mountain remained concealed, despite the cloud clearing to reveal blue sky hidden beneath. I later realised that it was not cloud obscuring the ominous summit, but drifts of snow. High winds meant that the snow covering the entirety of the mountain was continuously being blown across it, ensuring its real peak remained hidden from view at all times. In the days which followed I was constantly aware of the mountain’s presence. I skied in its shadow, and it followed me no matter which slope I chose to descend on. It shortened the days by obscuring the late afternoon sun, greedily absorbing its rays before the day had ended. It glowed, as if on fire, and as the sun set the snow flamed as it danced across the peak. I have developed an uneasy relationship with the mountains, largely due to an accident I had in Chamonix three winters ago. I have always been in complete awe of the power they held; a constant reminder that nature will always triumph, but since then it has taken me a while to return to them. Yet this was a journey it was important I made; it was essential I travelled back to the mountains and did not let them  overpower me. Eventually, I could not resist the pull; their raw, unforgiving and slightly sinister beauty. Being back amongst the mountains frightened me at first, and I was constantly aware of their suffocating presence. The Matterhorn, a perfect example of a mountain with a huge amount of presence, looms over the small towns surrounding it, keeping them in constant shadow and blocking the sunlight from reaching the small corners of the towns scattered around its base. Walking through Zermatt in the bitter cold later that evening, I remained aware of the mountain, despite the fact I couldn’t see it. Its vast shape had blocked the stars from shining and obscured the dim glow from the moon. Even under the cover of darkness it was preventing light from reaching this small town. Yet I had begun to feel a change in the way I interpreted its presence. I did not feel threatened, intimidated, or scared by this incredible example of nature. Instead I felt safe and protected. The Matterhorn is an unchanging constant, shaped by and shaping the environment surrounding it, and there is great comfort to be found in that. It was this comfort, this understanding, which made me realise the true importance of returning back to be within the mountains once more.

Words by Laura Pendlebury
Photography by Mirko Nicholson

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