You know you're old when ... your moments of profundity come after you wake up at dawn, rather than going to bed. Yeah man, that's like, so true.
Some things stay the same, you'll be pleased to note, it's not all oils of castor and Ulay. You still feel like crap, Ed Miliband still looks like Fry out of Futurama and you still don't want to eat anything at that hour, even though it would probably be good for you.
In my aged case, it's bread and cheese being forced into me, by a wiry Frenchman who insists that the best time to climb a mountain is before dawn, for some physics reason. Due to unforeseen circumstances our ascent up Mont Blanc shifted through the tunnel to Italy and became an ascent of Gran Paradiso, but at 4am, it's six of one and ice axes in any case.
Physics, I've come to learn, is not always our friend. Yes to travel through space and time, no to nuclear bombs is, I think, how it goes. Unless you've been laying into the oily fish from an early age, it's like the kid of your parents' friends which was imposed on you at parties - mysterious, willful and something you're powerless in the face of.
But, like being locked into a wardrobe, sometimes it pays to employ a bit of mind over matter. Walking down New York's concrete canyons may make you feel small, but small like a splinter is small - part of a stronger whole, but capable of making your presence felt.
Walking up actual canyons is something different. Apart from the people you're sharing your peanut M&Ms with, you are alone in the land which created itself, which humans have largely left to its own devices since legging it away from the sabre tooth tigers. Out here, people might be able to hear you scream, but it'll bounce off the sheer rock walls and good luck with 3G, it's largely a mirage anyway.
This is the epic landscape which plays all the great games of physics: glaciers, sheer drops, rubble fields, all the classics. But we keep creeping back, us humans, protected by the hunting skills of our ancestors - which have dealt with everything over a foot high bar the mountain goats - and the Gore-Tex skills of our contemporaries.
We come in search of who knows what. Fresh air. The chance to eat 800-calorie Clif bars without guilt. A recharge before the conference season kicks off.
The physics is different to the one we felt when we first defeated the dawn. Then we felt big. Now we feel small above the valleys and the time immemorial, but big, for getting up here. Then small again after failing to leave a flag. It's a conundrum, not unlike the Tardis.
When looking for truth and meaning it is best to check in with the pros, in this case our mountain guide, a man with numerous ascents and a decade of arduous rescue experience under his harness. "I love to climb in June and September," he says as we watch the sun rise over the Alps. "The light is so beautiful. But remember, Kat'hereen, when you are in France you must have the wine and bread, but when you are in Italy you have the coffee and the ice cream".
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