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Unto The Hills
Rendezvous with Beauty

CAIRN GORM, May 1941

IT seemed that we had been climbing for ever-through rolling forest where the pine-needles crunched beneath our tramping feet; across grim wastes of barren marshland ; over heather-covered boulders; and, at last, into the silence of the great snowfields guarding the summit. The brilliant sunlight of early afternoon was fading into a soft blue haze as we urged our aching limbs over the last mile. Our breath was coming in hard gasps, and every nerve and sinew was crying "halt!" long before the summit-cairn was in sight; but the spell of the mountain was upon us, and we went on.

We were driven by -- who knows? The eternal hunger of youth for high adventure? Or some enchantment about the hills themselves -- something which takes hold of even the most worldly of God's creatures, transforming him for a hour into a mountaineer, and urging him onward and upward, to victory or death...

"Behold!" says the climber, joyously, "I go forth into the high places; and I will either conquer this mountain, or die in the attempt. If I conquer, I will have, for my pains, a seat among the clouds, and a fierce hunger beating in my blood for the rest of my days, so that I may never again look upon a mountain without feeling my heart leap for pure happiness and my feet ache to climb.

"And if I die? Why, how much sweeter to lie forever on the breast of this great white hill, under a blanket of snow, than cooped in a black box at the end of some dark city street. Surely, I shall sleep soundly here; and, if there is any hearing after death, there will be the wind to sing to me, and the owls and shy creatures of the wild, afraid of me no longer, holding their nightly revels over my place of rest, until my bones are dust unto dust, and the starry mountain flowers take new life from the cold clay of my flesh.

"Come with me, then, you to whom life has become as dead ashes; and let the hills give you what you have never yet found in all the world -- peace, and the knowledge that Beauty still waits for those who seek her...."

Cairn Lochan (3985 feet) North-Eastern Cliffs (Granite).
Cairngorm Range, North-Western side facing Strathspey

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