My true story about: The day I faced death & why NOT reaching the top of a mountain makes a man.
I was frightened to death. My breathing was short, shallow and not allowing me to think clearly. My heartbeat rapid and my eyes wide open. I was standing on near top of one of the highest mountains in Finland, Saana, and I had just unleashed a massive snow avalanche.
The mountain doesn’t wait. That’s the adventure I was looking for.
The sun was shining so brightly that I needed to narrow my eyes to see anything. It was only about -5 degrees of Celsius and yet I was freezing. And I felt utterly stupid. I had travelled without purpose to the tiny village of Kilpisjärvi at the very tip of Northern Finland, about 300km north of Polar Circle. Then I saw the mountain. One of the highest peaks in Finland. And what the boy of age 19 is to do when his eyes are set to this magnificent rock, covered by meters of snow? Conquer it! That was my first and most customary thought. The ambition was set and it was urgent. The mountain doesn’t wait. That’s the adventure I was looking for.
There is no sensible way to the top of Saana. Especially when it is winter and avalanche time. I didn’t know this. There was maybe a path somewhere, but my eyes were set to the near vertical south face of the mountain. In my foolish bravado, I went in search to find place to rent skis to get to the plateau over the forest level. I was feeling excitement, happiness and joy at the same time. I ate good lunch made of potatoes and reindeer meet at the small local Sami restaurant. Packing food didn’t appear in my mind, as informing anyone about my plans didn’t either.
The white snow bathing in sun was so beautiful and when the avalanche started I was magnified by the white sea moving downwards. And after one or two seconds, I realized that I had made it happen. The small flake I had released had gained power to crush the tall pine trees below. The tall trees cracked and broke. My first clear thought was that this couldn’t be good. I was alone. There were no people near by. I hadn’t told anyone about my conquest. Heck, no-one even knew that I was away from Helsinki. I had just taken the train and followed the sun.
Luckily I had my large mobile phone with me. Good old Nokia. I took it up from my pocket, carefully, while trying not to cause another avalanche. I cleaned the screen from moist and looked at the empty indicators. No connection. I had no experience from mountain climbing or avalanches. I came from hilly, but not mountainous region of Finland. What should I do?
I was a boy and then the thought came through me. I will die.
I could see a couple of people skiing on the icy lake. I decided to yell to see if they or anyone could hear me. No response. I yelled like I was in a dire danger. Which I only then realized I was. The top was only maybe 20 meters upwards, but covered in thick layer of snow, bathing in sun, making it softer and moister every minute. Ready to release another avalanche, following the first one if I climbed upwards. When I looked downwards again I realized that if I descended towards the tree level I had to face the same destiny of releasing flakes of snow and causing an avalanche.
I yelled yet again. This time in despair. I was starting to feel unable to think straight. My brain signaled extreme alarm, and yet I couldn’t do anything. I was frozen on a cliff, literally and physically. I couldn’t ascend or descent without risking my life.
I started to think that how long would it take that someone realized that I was gone. Probably by next late morning, by the check-out time. It was cold and I didn’t have clothes to stay immobile. In fact my clothes were made for casual walk in a park or forest. Not to have them on on bare mountain. Yet if I made a move, it was certain that I would release an avalanche.
I stopped for a while and thought of my life so far. My father, a solid self-made man. My loving mother. He would be worried to death to know where I was now. What a stupid thing to do. I can really die. I will most likely die if an avalanche catches me. Yet, I couldn’t stay. I collected my thoughts. The only way to survive, is to take the risk of going downwards, releasing avalanches and hoping that I didn’t roll along to the trees below.
I was a boy and then the thought came through me. I will die. Yet, I couldn’t remain passive. I took the first move downwards. That move, the decision to move, was shaking a shaking, poor, little move and I cannot remember anymore if I cried, because my fear of death. Most likely. But I moved. I was in a movie that was going to end badly.
I started to think that the violence of avalanches is just part of life. We live and then we die.
I took another step. And third. Fourth. The sun was shining. The skiing couple in the vast distance looked like they had it all. They had life and nothing to fear. I envied them so bad. I took the fifth step and snowflake took off. When avalanche starts off, it looks so harmless. A child’s play. Then the glittering white piece, grows to an awe-inspiring sea, forcing its tsunami violently towards ancient trees. I felt like I died. I was thinking my mother again. I was thinking of all the love and care she and my home village had given to me. And all for this!? To die alone on near top of a mountain. Not even had reached the top!
I was frozen to inaction. Then I shook my head and told myself, that this was not the day to die. I moved on. Yet another paralyzing avalanche. I started to think that the violence of avalanches is just part of life. We live and then we die.
Moving on. Soldiering on. Somehow I felt more certain about me by every avalanche. There was maybe four or five. I reached the tree level.
I felt next to a broken tree out of exhaustion. I was weak and yet joyous. I couldn’t believe that I was alive. Yet, while sitting there, looking the gorgeous sunset, I knew something was dead in me. The first descending move away the mountaintop made me a man. I took the risk of death and moved on. And left the boy behind. I had taken the first steps towards manhood.
The boy in me had set me to conquer the mountain. The man in me had saved me. I was set to live man’s life.
My name is Max Noble. I am an Adventurer, Connoisseur and Connector, and I commit acts of nobleness around the world. This was my story about the day a became a man.