[Editors note – this short piece is best read whilst listening to the track in this link].

Standing alone, it’s upper flanks shielded by a series of steep ridges, one mountain ruled over all. Swathes of dense woodland roll down it’s lower slopes and blanket the coastline, millions upon millions of trees. Untold riches lie in the fertile and blackened earth beneath. The Guardian’s stalk this land, their hulking brown frame ravenous after a winter of hibernation.

For hundreds of miles, I had gazed upon the lowlands. Now it was clear to see I was in an altogether different kingdom. Ridge upon ridge cut deep scars into the land. At first gentle, but then rising up, steeply, before forming a severe blade of earth and snow. These lands I was told rarely see the footprint of man, as supposedly greater prizes draw explorers to the further reaches of this once vast union.

Burning sunlight and vivid blue gave way to a vast swathe of white and grey, blown forth by a powerful westerly wind. Every ray of light led to the Giant, it’s indomitable mass filling the horizon. Each detail of its intricate slopes was still in view, but the summit remained shrouded. The Giant stood tall. Rock buttresses became blacker, snow slopes steeper. The wave of cotton overhead blew with anger. The ice beneath me shook.

Baikal 2018 -13

Beating its chest the Giant roared “For all of time I have stood as a gatekeeper to the unknown lands beyond. Let my might stand as a warning. Go with haste and care, for whilst I am the Giant, even I know not to dare awaken Old Man Baikal. Be on with you boy”.

Scampering past I bade farewell to my new found friend and continued on my journey across this vast lake – a waterscape formed from the tears of the grief-stricken old man of Baikal. With haste and care, I went forth and crossed this barren land safely, never to awaken the old man.

Baikal 2018 -12

Respect the mountains. For like the Giant, they hold many treasures and are wise beyond our realm.



About the Author Ash Routen

I’m a postdoctoral exercise scientist by day, and cold expedition adventurer (for want of a better term) and outdoors and health writer by night. I’m based in Leicester in the UK, but I also spend considerable time in Cambridge where my partner lives. To find out more about me, visit my about page or take a look at my published writing.

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