Standing tall on High View Point, 4,122 meters up, sun barely coaxed from its sleepy horizon bed. Wind whipped face cracking frozen smile across chapped lips, weather weakened fingers wrapped round cold metal spoon, struggling to mine sweet deposits of wealth from the precious sticky jar and deliver to a head drunk with exhaustion and exhilaration and altitude. Sweet bite of achievement. Soul filled to the brim on this perfect mountain morning.

It all started very early. Or maybe very late. Pitch black, and ground winking at the starstreaked sky. Everything sparkles in the Himalayas at night: crunchy footfalls of twinkling frost and freezing rocks slicked over with glitter and the Milky Way smiling down on it all. Headlamps highlight shimmering highways, clouds of hot breath steam locomotives up, up, up, slow and steady, rugged pace of icy predawn. Molten cores cool instantly on thin mountain air, muscles scream for reprieve after three days and nearly 13,000 feet climbed.

But sunrise waits for no one. Scramble up the slope now, three points of contact at least on loose rocks and slick grips and uneven strides. Breath delivered in great steady gulps to desperate lungs feeding fresh oxygen to crying red blood cells. When you feel you can no longer go on, you’ll know you’re halfway there.

Two hours up, dark ascents and glassy scrabbles give way to the first sensation of flat: Low High Camp, equipped with roaring fires and cozy tents and tin cups of hot tea. Inviting as the Sirens, impossible as Medusa’s stony gaze: resist, press on, there’s a dawn to catch, after all.

Keep trudging forward, legs robotic, eyes fixed on leading heels. Up and up and up. Minutes masquerade as hours. But then! First sunny starbreak from the East, low line of deep blue and dark orange cut by jagged black blade, slicing the horizon in a brilliant unbreakable streak. Troop of sentries, always watching, even when they can’t be seen.

And now a thin outline of Machapuchre to the North! And now, due West, great gorgeous Annapurna South lighting up her broad eastern face! What a dual vision: Proud Machapuchre’s twin peaks standing tall on a perfect triangular base and gentle, forgiving Annapurna, Goddess of Harvest and Nourishment, with arms spread wide, welcoming all into her bountiful breast. To watch the rising sun color her soft rose and increasingly vivid white is ecstatic. Cold breath caught in awestruck throats, frozen in a moment of majesty.

And every day there is a sunrise. And every day, Annapurna is there to reflect it, whether or not there are eyes there to witness it. And so it was and so it shall be toward infinity, for ever, even after the last man crawls from his muddy bed begging for Nature’s reprieve. Annapurna blushes not for the specks of dust drafting past her eternal view. Drift where you will, little mote, for I Am and always will Be.

And there is nothing else to do in this ethereal gaze than weep. Enveloping acceptance of a mother’s gentle heart, weep for its unquestioning embrace and all the lessons it teaches at once with one flicker of first light.

And when you come to, realize your body must be fed too for the work it so labored through to nourish your soul. And that beautiful taste of peanut butter, first sustenance of a long, cold morning, breaks the fast and reverie of the truly divine with small earthly reminders of the world’s perfect sweetness.