Last weekend my parents and I took a flightseeing tour to one of the tallest peaks in the world, Denali. In the entire history of human civilization, it was just over a hundred years ago that a person finally reached the summit. In 1952 someone measured its altitude at the summit–a measurement that was corrected just last year.
From our tiny plane it was impossible to move our eyes fast enough to see everything. It was difficult to mentally comprehend the scale of the thing. A cliff that looked so close you could reach out and touch it could be a mile away from the plane. The images I captured on my phone were even less adequate to capture the scale of it than my eyes were… It was impossible to frame more than just a tiny fraction of the grandeur of the mountain on my little screen. I thought of Bradford Washburn, who attempted to photograph the mountain in 1936, a time when there simply weren’t any good photos for climbers to use–a scenario almost impossible to imagine when I can call up thousands of images on my phone.
“Rising to such an altitude and in almost complete isolation, it is virtually impossible to find a spot from which a truly undistorted view of its whole mass may be obtained.”
Washburn hung out of a plane tied to a rope to capture his images. Even though I could snap relatively good photos on my little phone seated comfortably inside the plane, it is still impossible to comprehend or even SEE more than a small part of the mountain. My field of vision just isn’t wide enough.
But God knows every side, every cliff, every glacier, nook, and cranny of it. He knows its exact height as the snow falls on it and as the wind erodes it–second by second. He knows every sheep and bear and fly that ventures up into its peaks. He knows what rocks lie under the mile-deep glacier that carves the side of the mountain. He knows what rocks are under those rocks, and how they got there. He knows the forces that pushed the mountain up miles above the hills and plains around it. And I couldn’t even accurately estimate how far our plane was from the face of the cliffs as we flew by.
“Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?”