Once again, his literal ascension is followed by a fall: the sublimity of the scenery, speaking "of a power mighty as Omnipotence," the sight of the "mighty Alps," the "supreme and magnificent Mont Blanc, rais[ing] itself from the surrounding aiguilles, and its tremendous dome overlook[ing] the valley" Shelley only pave the way for a deeper disenchantment.
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Frankenstein roams through the valley, surrounded by mountains, the wall of the glacier overhanging him, and decides to ascend the summit of Montanvert. Yet he cannot experience again, as in the past, "the sublime ecstacy that gave wings to the soul and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy" Shelley Ironically, just as he calls up the "Wandering spirits," he beholds the figure of his creature bounding over the crevices in the ice "with superhuman speed" Shelley The climax of the novel, as the creature tells his story at the summit of the glacier, becomes a literal cliffhanger.
Because they are associated with the murderous creature, the high mountain slopes cannot figure as a significant landmark separating the physical from the spiritual. Terror is not holy; horror is man-made. As Simon Schama argues, in the eighteenth century, the Swiss Alps were "not just temples of sublimity The picturesque mountainous scenery must be fled.
- The Precipice;
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So Frankenstein leaves Geneva and commences his "destructive and almost endless journey across the mountainous ices of the ocean" Shelley , exchanging the Alps for the mountains of ice of the North Pole. The change is highly symbolical. As ice replaces rock, the narrative revamps the Gothic mysteries of mountainous scenery.
Snow covers Gothic traces, freezing the flame of passion of the scientist who handles icy blades, offering horror wrapped up in a pure white coat. Awesome crests melt away, revealing the fathomless depths of the human mind under the coat of ice. Indeed, as Mariaconcetta Costantini argues, though Shelley prefers open spaces to the prototypical Gothic sites of persecution, the characters are "constrained within their tortured consciousness," their "mental enclosure [being] most effective in the description of frozen landscapes, whose cold expanses become all-encompassing metaphors of loss and captivity" Costantini Increasingly, the Gothic quest becomes a psychological exploration—horror is located in the self.
The cliffs, chasms and abysses stand for the obscure depths of the mind. Blinded by his passion, he proposes to the socially-inferior Margaret Sherwin, and agrees to postpone the consummation of his marriage for a year. Through the partition wall, Basil hears Mannion seducing Margaret. Out of anger, Basil then waits for Mannion and hurls him on the newly "macadamised" road, leaving him monstrously disfigured—a counterpart of Dr. Monomaniacally obsessed with taking revenge on Basil, Mannion follows Basil to Cornwall. But as they meet on the cliffs, Mannion threateningly raises his hand in the air, loses his balance and falls down a precipice, disappearing into the mouth of a chasm.
On the Precipice of Obscurity!
Unable to "repress [his] desire" Collins 33 , Basil follows her and soon proposes to her. In fact, Basil is "blinded" Collins , by the surface appearance of things, and refuses to acknowledge the depths of his own desire. Revealingly, Basil very quickly projects his feelings of guilt onto natural scenery. In one of his dreams, he sees a woman, dressed in pure white, descending from the bright summits of the hills, and a dark woman coming out of the woods.
Following the dark woman and turning his back on the fair hills, Basil enters the "secret recesses that lay amid the unfathomable depths of trees" Collins 46 —mapping out his desire through the trope of the forest. He starts raving, and in his delirium, heights and domes illustrate his soaring passion.
Light gives way to shadow, sound to silence, heat to cold. Then Basil sees Mannion and Margaret lifting a veil made up of a network of twining worms. Giant phantoms mustered by millions, flashing white as lightning in the ruddy air. They rushed on me with hurricane speed; their wings fanned me with fiery breezes; and the echo of their thunder-music was like the groaning and rending of an earthquake, as they tore me away with them on their whirlwind course.
At the very far right is Coxcomb Peak — we would hike to the saddle between the two, then head up the ridge to the summit of Redcliff not as crazy as it looks from this perspective. Hiking up and out of the West Fork basin. We followed the Wetterhorn Basin trail until just after the first switchbacks in the open basin, then left the trail and followed the creek drainage up to the saddle between Redcliff and Coxcomb.
Pretty obvious route finding. Here she is on the 13, ft. With no thunder danger whatsoever, we lounged up there for a couple hours before heading back down.
on the precipice of obscurity Manual
Hiking down with Coxcomb Peak looming overhead. At 13, ft. Hiking back to our camp, looking at Precipice Peak, our goal for the following morning. Back at camp that evening, we were pleasantly surprised when our friends Parker and Aimee showed up out of the blue! Precipice Peak is an obscure and relatively seldom climbed peak. As seen from the east, in the Middle Fork of the Cimarrons, Precipice is a jagged forbidding peak, with hundreds of enormous hoodoo formations and a past-vertical sheer summit block.
The west side of the peak, from the West Fork valley, is clearly the standard way to climb this peak. Above is a Google Earth snapshot of the west side of Precipice Peak, with the route we took roughly marked. This was one of those hikes where a Google Earth printout was much more useful than the topo map. I believe this was more or less the standard route, and was not as difficult as I imagined it could be. We parked at the Wetterhorn Basin trailhead, and headed straight up the gully towards Precipice.
Dancing on a Precipice
Once the gully became too tight to proceed, we bushwhacked up through the steep forest until gaining the ridge. That steep forest bushwhack was the hardest part of the climb, and once we reached the forest ridge the going got easy. Perhaps it would be easier to enter the forest earlier to gain that ridge earlier??? Anyhow, once we reached treeline, we traversed over to the little middle ridgeline, and from there the route is straightforward — just right up the gut and then up the broad tundra slope to the saddle.
It was built over a thousand years ago by the followers of the Sword Maiden and her servants. You need it. It can span the distance between your corner of the world and the corner where one of your greatest foes marshals his armies. More importantly you will need to set out across it one day to bring another great conflict to a halt. Beware though, you do not yet have the means to take a battle to this enemy.
You will need the bridge. As you read this Precipice is inaccessible to any mortal.
In the terms you will best understand: only a Paladin attuned to and beloved of the Sword Maiden may open the way to Precipice.