Mountains don't leave you. They don't pull disappearing acts, change their minds, spin you around like a washing machine. Well, sure, they crumble, infinitesimally, one little pebble at a time. Someday the mountains I see outside my window will be gone. I know this. But when I am in the mountains I know the meaning of forever. I can count on these sturdy blocks of basalt and limestone and granite to stick around. I like that permanence.
You can't be disappointed in a mountain. They don't pretend to be anything other than what they are--alder-choked, steep, rocky, with snow chutes spilling down their flanks. You know you can die in them, by avalanche, by stumbling on a slimy patch of deer cabbage, by not bringing the right stuff. They don't promise gentleness though, no soft sweet belly that is easy to climb. A mountain tests you. But you know that already as you load up your pack. What you see is usually what you get with mountains. Sometimes you can let yourself be fooled, following a gentle line that turns brutal, desperate hand-holds on decaying rock. But you know this can happen. You expect it. You prepare for it, this betrayal. You learn to like it, pushing yourself to go farther than you have before.
You can love the mountains, love the way an alpenglow kisses the summit, love the cliff face stretching down in a clean, joyful arc to the valley floor. And this is enough. You don't need the mountains to be any different than this. You can lie back on sun-warmed rock, your feet bare, sun washing your face. You can breathe. You can be who you are, someone with a past, slow to understand the way the world works, but the mountain doesn't care. It accepts everyone: the slow, the fat, the desperate, the lonely. The mountain doesn't judge.
Don't get me wrong. Men have their place. They are good to come back to after a day in the mountains, a safe haven to recover by the fire while you plot your next adventure. They will sometimes come with you, but often they will talk too much and hike too fast. They will make it a destination not a journey. They will bring their dogs. They will make promises they can't keep. It's better sometimes to go it alone, you and the mountain.