O Holy Night

Years ago three of us skied from Wolverton in Sequoia National Park to a ten thousand foot divide between the Kaweah and Kings River drainages. When a storm moved in, we dug a snow cave in a sheltered location and moved our camp inside. The next night around midnight, when the sky had cleared, we put on our warm clothes, stepped outdoors and  skied to the crest. This was a night and a feeling I will never forget.

Later I described the experience in my church newsletter.


O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear savior’s birth.  – from the song

Yesterday, snow blew horizontally in the roar of the wind while we sat warmly in our snow cave. Now the sky is soft velvet and the moon bathes the landscape with silver light. It is midnight as we ski toward the crest of the ridge near our camp.

The night is absolutely still. Snow-covered firs and pines stand watch as the moon and stars silently turn above us. A foot of new snow muffles the sound of our skis. Crystals of hoarfrost concentrate the light of the moon and stars to repeat their glory.
We move silently, absorbed by the strange beauty surrounding us.

We move silently, absorbed by the strange beauty surrounding us.

On the open crest we stop. Hundreds of square miles of High Sierra spread before us, gleaming with soft, silver light. We identify distant peaks as easily as in daytime: the white cone of Mount Brewer, the mesa-like bulk of Table Mountain.

Under the night sky the world silently waits, as it did one night when Christ was born.


About David McCoard

After earning my MS in geology I've done various things including managing the ski touring program at a small lodge in the Sierra. In 2010 I retired from Contra Costa College in California. I've always been fascinated by the mountains and nature and have spent countless days hiking, backpacking, climbing and skiing in the Sierra. The spiritual insights I've learned there have set the course for my life. Now I have time to share them and strike up a conversation.
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