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Musings of a Russophile: What a mountain tells you

© Photo : Masha Simonian Frederick Andresen
Frederick Andresen - Sputnik International
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Looking out from the peak of Mount Kinabalu and watching the morning sun chase the storm away from the peaks of Borneo was like some native fairy-tale of the storm-king being chased by the sun-god.

Looking out from the peak of Mount Kinabalu and watching the morning sun chase the storm away from the peaks of Borneo was like some native fairy-tale of the storm-king being chased by the sun-god. Climbing mountains gives one perspective, and a better understanding of self. I have only climbed two mountains but in each case the feat was a memorable highlight in my life – an uplifting one if you will allow the pun.

When it’s just you and the mountain, one’s understanding of his or herself takes on a different value, a new perspective, a realistic view of things. City Russians don’t have much opportunity to climb mountains. But, now, the Alps, the Rockies, the Himalayas are all reachable.  And I highly recommend a look at the mountains as well as the beaches and bistros out there.

I missed a chance to visit Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasian range in Kabardino-Balkaria once and I have regretted it ever since. It is the highest in all of Europe at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft.) What a view that must offer! There is a mountain for the Russians!

I grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and went to university in Colorado so my first big climb was Long’s Peak 14,259 ft (4,346 m),  one of fifty-three peaks in Colorado over 14,000 ft. We began the climb at midnight and reached the boulder field above timber line to witness an incredible Northern Lights (aurora borealis) which covered the northern sky in streaks of gold and fire red. Then to the top. But on the way, on the thousand foot sheer cliff East Face, we watched the morning light of the sun rising over the receding curved shadow of the earth’s horizon of the Great Plains hundreds of miles to the east.

Then, on the other side of the world, there was Mt. Kinabalu, on the northern tip of Borneo, in the Malaysia state of Sabah. It was an unforgettable experience. The mountain, the second highest in Southeast Asia is today 13,435 feet high (4,095 m.)  But when I climbed it, it was a bit shorter as it is a granite pluton that pushes up from the depths of the earth at the rate of 5 mm per year.  This World Heritage mountain and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with over 4,500 species of plant, 326 species of birds, and 100 mammalian species identified. Among this rich collection of wildlife are famous species such as the gigantic Rafflesia plants and the orangutan.

The mountain is covered with this incredible flora and fauna that exist nowhere else, including 800 species of orchids and 600 species of ferns. On the trail up I passed huge trees with big caverns in the trunks filled with huge pitcher-plants. The summit is amazing as it is naked granite, having been once covered with a glacier of ice and snow. The views to the north are of the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea and to the south of the beauty of the island of Borneo with its mystical clouds and jungle. I signed my name in a protected summit guest book. Strange thing is that a few months later, at a dinner table in a Colorado Ski Resort, I met a woman who had signed that book a few weeks later and she remembered my name.

So dear Russians, I implore you. Explore the mountains of the world. Quite a memorable change from Tverskaya or Nevsky Prospect, but you will find more than jewels and fashion. You will find yourselves.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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The column is about the ideas and stories generated from the 20 years the author spent living and doing business in Russia. Often about conflict and resolution, these tales at times reveal the “third side of the Russian coin.” Based on direct involvement and from observations at a safe distance, the author relates his experiences with respect, satire and humor.

Frederick Andresen is an international businessman and writer with a lifetime of intercultural experience in Asia and for the last twenty years in Russia. He now lives in California and is President of the Los Angeles/St. Petersburg Sister City Committee. While still involved in Russian business, he also devotes time to the arts and his writing, being author of “Walking on Ice, An American Businessman in Russia” and historical novellas.

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