My good friend A. and I turn 60 this year. Our spouses, M. and S., rewarded us with an early birthday present – a treeline to tundra walk into the Yukon Territory’s Tombstone Range. Like other back country adventures here too we received advice about what to watch out for. While many people cautioned us about Grizzlies no one mentioned Gravity. The Ogilvie Mountains are a study in applied physics. Apparently, switchbacks have only recently been discovered in this part of the North and most trails tend to go straight up. Those that trend in a downwards direction are frequently (and I mean frequently) punctuated with boulders (small to massive slides that resemble rivers of rock) over which the intrepid hiker must hop (and occasionally leap) to successfully cross. The rare moments when we reach a saddle or levelling in the trail are a perfect salve. Boots off, feet deep in glacial water, pans of just melted ice soaking sweaty heads, hard cheese and hard sausage gobbled down. We repeat this ritual for five blissful bluebird days.The slopes we trek and the summits we reach are deep-fried. Daily temperatures average 25 to 30C. At times, it is like walking on the lid of a slow-cooker. All of the steepest climbs are glorious. Each 100 meters or so the wind increases, the temperature drops – a lovely gift to the blood-pounding beauty of our healthy hearts. Going down, our tootsies compress further and further into the aptly-named toe box of our boots. Deceleration impresses the soft skin of our feet. The knitted architectures of our socks, once removed, show off neatly lined ridges rising up from lithe dermal valleys. Discoloured toe nails predict imminent loss. Specialized blisters forming. Fleshy digits bonded to one another.At the top of mountain passes we are awestruck by this Yukon. Craggy, gnarly peaks – Monolith, Tombstone – recalling medieval ramparts and crenellations thousands of meters tall. Spires pointing to infinitude, caves homesteading wizards, dwarfs, hermits… Your choice. Massive cirques littered with scree and talus. The brittle body of upper earth crushed against a green bottom. And as we look down on this forcefulness, witnessing its brutal beautiful outcome, we step into it. We walk off a cliff. First, tentatively. Feeling gravel and sheets of shale give up their place on the mountain is unnerving. Plotting long angles we temper the suicidal slippage of each step. Then glee. Our requirement for traction and certainty is replaced by the confident joy of momentum. We ski to the bottom. Each of us four begetting her or his own avalanche of expectations.And as we cross over this lost horizon we find a Shangri La. Eternal life bubbling from the coloured, flattened stones of sourceless creeks. Borne into patches of blueberry. Swept along the endless merger of contiguous valleys. Tiny juniper and wind-shaped willows willfully forgetting the weariness of winter dormancy. Fireweed standing together in a common statement of generosity. Prairie crocus singly clinging to the dried solitude of untrodden earth. Cottongrass reminding every living thing how delicate and dominant snow must needs be. Lakes. Cold blue steel lifting hot grey stone. Sirens to our puny human desire for intensity. Four naked bodies driven to draw breaths deeply from this tarn. Wet whispered sun sonnets recovering what was lost on our way here.This North, these days, are bug-free. We see them, they see us, yet they seem pre-occupied with some other mission. Birds too. The odd sparrow here and there, a family of ptarmigan pandering to indecisiveness, a tiny hawk swooping overhead at 1500 metres, two ravens calling forth the sun. The near absence of flight, both entomo- and ornitho-logical, inspires us to flee our itinerary. Though back country campsites are beautifully outfitted (Yukon Parks provides fantastic pads for tents, ropes off camp trails, and shuttles barrels of poop, pee and grey water out by helicopter) this is not where we need to be. We head for ‘the shire,’ a large verdant Yin butted against a rock-ribbed Yang. Here, deep lichen-flecked moss lightens each barefoot taken, inhales our sleep-over impermanence, and saturates our nostrils with sudden prehistoric aromas. As morning breaks we see too how our ground cover sustains the bull Caribou who for the next two hours nibbles, strolls and lopes in the shallow dip below our tents.You will recall “the glee.” The rock skiing. This occurred in Glissade Pass. To glissade means “to slide down a steep slope of snow or ice [or loose rock].” To my knowledge there is no climbing term to describe the ascent of a scree field. While “motherfucker” captures some emotional elements of the act it doesn’t fully describe the technical challenges involved. In any case, upon leaving ‘the shire’ we immediately climb a large talus slope and regard 300 meters of very steep walking. Our approach is simple. We plant firm, purposive footfalls, make deliberate pole placements, rid our consciousness of self-doubt, and don’t look down. As the pitch sharpens, loose-packed stone gives way to broken rock and walking more closely resembles scaling. We scan, we estimate, we grunt. We severely kick footholds into the mountain only to feel them give way when transferring weight from one foot to the other. We learn that hand-holds, although comforting to look at, are liable to break, and thus dangerous. We are a slow-moving, genial hive-mind. We encourage one another, suggest easier, more stable routes, and occasionally curse as one. But at some ill-defined point, our common experience dissolves. Our position on the mountain clarifies one thing: we are on our own. Or are we? After two hours of climbing, ten meters separates our company of adventurers from the top of the Pass. And at this point our good will and some unknowable karma produces the most beautiful avatar. A lad from the Dolomites crosses the ridge like he’s sprinting over a massive piece of crumbling polenta. His happy face shining, his helping hand extended.Physically, this hike was arduous. Mentally, we pushed past all existing comfort zones.Aesthetically, incomparable. Spiritually, affirming. Thank goodness for the Yukon Territory.