travelers within journeys into being human memoir

By Val Jon Farris

At 11,000 feet my ice-crampon pops off my left boot and I careen down the steep glacier towards a deadly crevasse. The climb team forms a human net and catches me just a few feet before I slide into the abyss. “Hold on buddy, we’ve got you!” Stunned, I fidget around trying to stand myself up and respond with, “Thanks guys, I can take it from here.” “Lay still, you’re pushing us back towards the edge!” Hank barks at me. “No, really, I’m okay guys, I’ve got this.” There was no way I was going to be the weakest link in this chain! Then the climbers shout out in unison, “Stop VJ! You’re going to kill us all!”

The reality of them dying because of my need for control is too much for me to bear. The humbling realization shatters my defenses and I relax into their assistance. As they reattach my gear and stand me up, I realize I have been unsupportable most of my life because of the conclusion, “I can do it myself.” Peering into the faces of my fellow climbers, I see superimposed images of my past relationships, those who I’ve pushed away with my rugged independence. How selfish of me to rob them of the opportunity to contribute to my life!

Without further incident, we all ascend to the summit where a crystalline blue sky embraces the curve of the earth. After celebrating our accomplishment, we begin the ritual of reading and signing the register book stowed atop most climbable mountains in the world. The last to see the register, I flip through its yellowed pages and I come upon a passage written by a climber on October 23rd, 1972. I’ll never forget the inscription: “Father, I dedicate this climb to you. I’m standing at the top of Mount Shasta today because of the love, support, and encouragement you gave me as I was growing up. It’s because of your commitment and love that I was able to make it to the summit today. And although you lost your legs in the Korean War and have never been able to stand beside me. Father, I want you to know that today I stand on the top of this mountain for both of us. I love you with all my heart and all my soul, your son John.”

I clutch the register book to my chest, walk to the summit’s edge and weep for the loss of my relationship with my own father and with so many who I could have opened to over the years. For the first time in my life, I know what it means to open my heart and let love and support in. ~

Val Jon Farris is an award-winning author and leadership consultant to Fortune 100 companies around the world. For over thirty years he has championed large-scale workforce transformations as well as delivered keynote addresses and personal growth programs to over forty thousand people globally. Val Jon is well-known for his warm anecdotal style and deep insight into the nature of the human psyche and its higher faculties of self-awareness and consciousness. His second book, Travelers Within; Journeys Into Being Human And Beyond is now available on

He can also be reached at: and by email at 

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