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Blue Chasm

United States

In the dying last embers of daylight on a frigid December afternoon, with the doomed "Ships Prow" sinking slowly into the ancient waters in the foreground, this classic Colorado view shows the East Face of Longs Peak – crowned by the "Diamond," so named for its diamond shape and near–perfect gray and pink granite – towering a cool half-mile above Chasm Lake. A Rocky Mountain mecca for hikers and climbers both – up on Colorado’s most famous rock wall, you’ll usually hear them before you see them in this classic glacial cirque – there was no other human here by the time I defrosted a finger to snap this photo. This is an unyielding, unforgiving, uncompromising place: over the last one hundred years, nearly sixty souls have been lost on this mountain, their hopes dashed, their dreams put on ice, their karmic remains scattered like leaves in the wind, like blue light in the sky.

Blue. Along with hints of violet and green on either side of its range (for the color blue, wavelengths of approximately 450–495 nanometers, or billionths of a meter), there’s an abundance of short–wavelength, high–frequency, high–energy blue light up here in the thin mountain air. It's easy to forget that Picasso's blue is high in energy, that perhaps the moodiest of colors is one of nature's most energetic. Science shows us how this tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum resonates with air molecules like no other light, why the family of blue is the one glorious color made visible in the sky while all other colors pass through unaffected and unrevealed.

Blue: give it to me all. Teal blue. Cobalt blue. Caribbean blue. Green blue. Indigo blue. Sky blue. True blue. Shivering in the freezing gusts, alone on the hard ice of a dark lake that day, it seemed I could see every wavelength.

"The mountains are calling and I must go."

— John Muir