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ONE MAN'S REMARKABLE SEARCH FOR
THE ULTIMATE TRUTHS OF OUR WORLD
For Professor Roger Hart, life truly began after he almost lost his -- in a horrific fall off the slopes of Mount Everest that he miraculously survived. This near-death experience sparked a desire in him to devote his studies to the very nature of human consciousness, in order to unlock the code of reality that binds our world.
On an adventure of discovery that would take him around the world, Hart would experience life-altering transcendental events in Tibet, Morocco, and Tierra del Fuego -- opening the door to a true understanding of the nature of man. In this groundbreaking volume, he explores the participation of consciousness in the creation of reality, challenging the traditional scientific view of time, space, and objectivity -- and describing in detail his own metaphysical journey, which has involved synchronicity, precognition, and telekinesis. It is an exploration of the very things that make us human -- and a quest that touches upon the meaning of life itself.
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Roger Hart is a former research professor at the College of Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, and was a member of the first American expedition to Mount Everest. He has worked as an exploration geophysicist in the rain forests of Ecuador and Brazil, had a glacier named after him in Antarctica, lived and traveled in more than forty countries, and appeared on numerous radio talk shows and television programs. He has written articles for such periodicals as National Geographic, Audubon, Sunset Magazine, and Oregon Coast Magazine. Hart currently lives on the Oregon coast.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: The Route Tracker
At last the meaning of these events is clear. I set out eager -- yes, brash -- in youth to explore polar ice caps, tangled jungles, and snow-clad mountains. I had visited every continent save one by the age of nineteen; I had a glacier in Antarctica named after me by the age of twenty. Then strange events in Tibet, Tierra del Fuego, Morocco, India, turned my course from explorer to scientist. I sought after the ultimate understanding of how our consciousness participates in the creation of reality. This is the adventure I share with you now -- an adventure that changed my view of the world.
My story begins, when I was twenty-one, on an expedition to Mount Everest. Tibetan legend says Buddhist monks from the Rongbuk Monastery take the form of ravens and fly among the snowcapped Himalayas. If this is true, then they must have seen us on May 29, 1962, four black specks perched precariously in the glare of horrendous ice cliffs on the North Face.
We climbed without bottled oxygen, without porters, too exhausted to think straight. Woody Sayre, first on the rope, laboriously kicked footholds; Norman Hansen, twenty feet below, struggled under the weight of his pack; lower still, Hans Peter Duttle gasped for breath. I brought up the rear, bent over my ice ax, heaving long breaths, eight of them for each step.
I heard a sharp report on the North Peak. I twisted my body to the right and focused on massive edifices of ice that had broken free, toppled, and now were careening down the slopes below the rocky peak. They shattered into pieces on a ledge, leapt free, and floated silently in thin air. The roar arrived after the vision of impact, like thunder after lightning. The chunks of ice splashed down, picked up speed, cascaded through a network of cracks, and trickled out onto white fans at the base of the rock face.
The hood of my parka reverberated steadily in the incessant wind. Slowly, one foot after the other, I kicked into the soft snow. Kick, step, then eight breaths leaning on my ice ax. Kick, step, eight breaths. The rhythm became a monotonous dirge. Norman and Hans Peter advanced even more slowly than I, and the rope in front hung limp over the sticky snow.
Above and to my left, clouds streaming north from Nepal slipped past the colossal prow of Everest's main peak. When I leaned back to study the clouds, they seemed to stop moving and the black hull of Everest plunged away from me, throwing me off balance. I threw up my arms, plunged my ice ax up to its hilt, and grabbed hold.
Don't look up, focus on the steps, I told myself. With only ice slopes and white clouds above us, it seemed as though the North Col, the ridge between the two peaks of Everest, was just over the next rise. To my oxygen-starved brain, it seemed as if we would never get there.
As we struggled upward, the slope became steeper with a two-hundred-foot drop straight to crevasses, yawning gashes in the ice, ready to swallow whatever fell from above. Seven Tibetans of the mountain Sherpa tribe, acting as porters for the British, had died here in an avalanche in 1922. The snow is firm, unlikely to give way, I thought to myself. It was wishful thinking, since there is no way to reckon the dangers of Everest.
I lost sight of Woody over the rise of the slope. Now impatient, I unroped and, after twenty minutes of climbing, passed Hans Peter hunched sluglike in his down parka, heaving for breath, too tired to look up. A half hour later I came up behind Norman, who turned slowly to me, peered out from behind his dark goggles, caught a breath as if to speak, shook his head, and turned back to the snow slope. When I reached the front end of the rope, I found Woody was gone. My brain, functioning at the level of a reptile's, failed to understand the danger. For the three weeks since we had left base camp in Nepal, we had worked as a team. Now, in anticipation of arriving at the North Col, two of us had unroped. If one of us slipped, there was no rope anchor, no belay, to brake the plunge to the ice cliffs below.
A star burst of aluminum pitons, the spikes used for anchoring the rope, lay sprawled carelessly on the snow. Woody should have told Norman and Hans Peter that they were off belay. I continued upward.
When I stepped onto the ice saddle of the North Col, Woody greeted me with a bear hug, "We made it, Roger -- the North Col!" His smile cracked through old sunburn scabs and layers of glacier cream, and the reflection of the blazing sun slid toward the black shadow of the North Peak in his goggles.
"Goddamn, we can see all the way back to Nepal. The North Col! Twenty-three thousand one hundred and thirty feet on Mount Everest!" He spun around, dancing, arms in the air like Zorba the Greek.
Wordless, I dropped my pack to the snow and flopped down on it, gasping for breath. I squirmed out of the shoulder straps and looked up at the summit of Everest, six thousand feet above us. It seemed close enough to reach out and touch -- an easy day's hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. By tomorrow we could be at the band of yellow rock where the English mountaineer George Leigh Mallory had disappeared in 1924. On the other hand, no one had ever made it to the top from here, and the slopes above were haunted with the ghosts of dead climbers.
I had never expected to make it to the North Col. I had never shared Woody's dream of being the first to climb the North Face of Everest without artificial oxygen. I was along for the adventure of trekking in the Himalayas and to serve as a porter to set up a few high-altitude camps. But as soon as one camp had been set up, there had been another, and then another. Woody needed my help, not only as a packer, but he had come to rely on me as a route finder, so I'd kept climbing. I had told my father I would stay at base camp, which was twenty miles of glaciers and rock ridges away as the raven flies.
I stood up, stretched, and rubbed my aching shoulders. Below to the north I could see the East Rongbuk Glacier, the route the classic British expeditions and the Chinese in 1960 had used to approach Everest from Tibet. Below to the south, I could see the West Rongbuk Glacier, the route over which we had donkeyed hundreds of pounds of supplies from base camp in Nepal. Gray clouds reached through the mountain passes like the claws of an immense beast climbing the glaciers from the south. If the monsoon snows broke over the range before we returned to base camp, our route would be covered with wet snow hiding the crevasse mouths. We would have to wallow back to base camp in hip-deep snow with little chance of finding our food caches.
Yes, I felt good, but it was not in my nature to dance and spin like Woody. We were in a perilous place, with no chance of rescue. Neither our families nor the authorities knew we were on Everest. I pulled off my down-filled mitts, fished my camera out of the pack, and took Woody's picture against the summit. I ate some chocolate and tried to regain energy.
Shadows crept down the West Rongbuk Glacier and joined those advancing up the East Rongbuk. The tide of night surged into the lower valleys and drew down the warmth from the sunlit slopes around us. In an instant, the gathering shadows tipped the scales of heat and mass; the wind picked up and funneled with supernatural determination through the icy gap of the North Col. A raven flying frantically sidewise, rose up, and was gone before I realized it was there. Strange, a raven at this altitude. I reviewed the scene in my mind's eye. The raven was still there.
"Rog, are you all right?" Woody waved his ice ax in front of my eyes.
"Woody, we've got another load." I spoke for the first time, choking on the cold air.
"What? You can't be serious. Why?"
"The second tent is down there. The wind is picking up. We can't survive the night without it." I stood up and emptied my pack.
"That's no problem. Let's go get it." Woody smiled broadly and dumped the contents of his pack on the snow. He bounded down the slope and vaulted over his ice ax.
I've skied down slopes steeper than this, I told myself, and bounded off after him. As I passed above Norman, my feet slipped out from under me. I slid several meters before piling into Norman, who grunted, checked his ice ax, and squared his stance against my impact.
Dazed, I pushed myself up, faced into the slope, and kicked into the footholds with renewed caution. The snow was freezing fast. Chunks of frozen snow clinked beneath my boots, skidded down the slope, picked up speed, and bounced off the ice cliffs below. Through my legs, I saw the purple shadows creeping through hummocks on the glacier two thousand feet below. Although the snow around me was sunlit, the warmth was draining away like a thick mist. A crust of ice armored the slope and turned back the last rays of the sun.
I heard Woody yodeling wildly out of tune and pitch.
Growing anxious, I yelled after him, "Woody, stop! I need a belay!"
There was no reply, only the sound of the wind in the hood of my parka and on the ice. As I waited for an answer, the summit turned pale red and faded like a candle going out. Now that shadows shrouded the cliffs, my mind was left to its own constructions. The slope seemed steeper, more exposed, and more precarious. All my premonitions and dreams of free-falling through the night knotted in my chest. I wasn't afraid of hitting the ice below. It was the downward acceleration, that could tear me apart.
I started inching along on the two points of the crampons, the steel spikes lashed to my boots. I felt tiny in the limitless bowl of darkness, insignificant before the immensity of cold that was draining the last of my energy from me. Without food or oxygen, my metabolism could not fight off the cold. I craved the shelter of the tent, the warmth of a purring cookstove. Falling boulders, pried loose from high ridges around us, screamed like incoming artillery.
"Woody," I yelled into the night.
"What?" he replied, surprisingly close. "What's the matter?"
"The slope is slippery. We need to rope up."
"I'm at the cache. Hurry up!"
"Hold on. I'm coming." I inched down the last twenty meters to the cache and rummaged through the duffel bag. I handed the tent to Woody, stuffed food bags into my pack, heaved it onto my back, and uncoiled a length of gold nylon rope.
"Do you really think we need this?" he grumbled. "We've already been over the slope twice without it."
Unbelievable, I thought. He had taught me to use the rope that made mountain climbing a skill instead of a game of chance or the expression of a death wish, and now he didn't want to rope up. He begrudgingly tied one end of the rope around his waist.
I tied the other end around my waist. The wind on the summit had kicked up a plume of spindrift snow that glowed in the twilight like a comet.
As we started up, the rope in front of me draped in loops on the ice; Woody was out of sight over the rise of the night-bound cliff. I could barely see our old footsteps on the ice wall. I moved slowly, cautiously, kicking into each foothold. I stopped often to rest, studied the slope ahead, and watched the planet Venus bob in and out of the watery sky lapping against the mountain ranges. "You have me on belay?" I yelled.
"Yeah, sure; stop worrying," Woody replied gruffly.
We climbed in tandem for a half hour with the rope loose between us. The black mass of Everest slid below the tail of Scorpio, balanced like a supine question mark; Antares blazed above the summit like a bonfire. I thought that by now Woody would be at the belay station. He'd have his ice ax shoved into snow up to the handle, the rope around it. He'd be taking up the slack as I climbed toward him.
Instead, the rope disappeared into the darkness below me.
"Woody," I yelled again. The darkness intensified the depth of the abyss below me. My legs trembled with the fatigue of standing on the steel points.
"What is it?" His voice was carried off by the wind.
"Belay!" I was on the section where I had slid on the way down. It seemed impossible to catch my breath. I was losing energy fast.
"Okay!" His voice seemed louder. "We're almost there."
I saw his dark silhouette hunched against the ice. I stepped out sideways onto an ice rib, dug in my crampon, and started to shift my weight. The crampon gave way, and I careened down the ice slope with terrifying speed.
I grabbed at the loop of rope accelerating past me. I rolled over and over, trying to push my ice ax into the hard ice. I scraped, kicked, and flayed with my crampons. Nothing held. The rope snapped around me and squashed my ribs. For an instant I thought that Woody had caught me.
Then everything gave way. Reflections of stars rushed by like tracer bullets. Shadows swept over me in a rage. A cry began in the base of my spine. Even though there was no sense to it, no help coming, nothing to stop the fall, I yelled and screamed. I would die when I hit the ice below. As soon as I had that thought, my guts and heart pushed upward like the floor of a falling elevator. With excruciating anxiety, like that of a child torn from its mother's womb, my soul ripped free.
Then the strangest thing happened. I shot off into starless space, floated free in zero gravity, and watched my body, as if in slow motion, tumble over the ice cliffs below. I perched on the cusp of time, where, like a water drop between watersheds, I could choose between worlds. I could see in all directions at once, not with the seeing of eyes but the seeing of dreams. I felt no fear and no cold; space seemed to shrink around me, or perhaps I expanded to it. At any rate, I was no longer afraid of the emptiness below me. A great warmth and euphoria overtook me, as if I were immersed in a tropical sea the same temperature and mood as the rest of my being. I thought, Here you are about to die and you feel wonderful -- you are so weird! As soon as I had that thought, I dropped onto a snowbank, and with furious kicking and falling ice blocks, Woody landed beside me.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
I later learned that Woody thought that my question showed I had lost my mind, that I had hit my head, suffered a concussion. What I'd really meant to say was, Why the hell didn't you have me on belay?
The historians of Mount Everest, who refer to our exploit as the Sayre Expedition, claim that it is impossible to survive a night in the sub-zero temperatures without a tent on the slopes of Everest. Not only did Woody and I survive the hundred-and-eighty-foot fall, but we survived the night huddled together, wrapped in the nylon tent shell. The ledge where we had landed was not wide enough to pitch a tent. The historians believe we were incredibly lucky. They don't know the half of it.
At the time, I was merely amazed and grateful that we had survived. The next day we climbed back up to camp on the North Col and rested. Hans Peter, who was more eager to turn back than I, refused to climb any higher, but helped Woody and Norman establish a high camp on the North Face. The following day I started up to the high camp with a load of supplies. I was trying to cover two days' worth of climbing in one, and it was getting late, I had to cache my load and start back. I had descended only a few feet when I heard a mysterious voice cry out. It might have actually been Woody's shout distorted by the wind, but it seemed like a voice from a dream. I turned and climbed back toward their camp.
The snow outside the tent was stained with blood. I yodeled and st...
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