Wind bites, whips, burns. And I question my motivations. But not in the way you might think. I was once very motivated. And once was not very long ago. No matter how long ago it may feel. And I still feel the pull of that motivation. But I’ve lost track of why.
I once heard a humorist cynically proclaim that “every dead mountain climber was once a highly motivated person”. And rather than laugh I sneered as their shortsighted comment.
But it now seems to me that my motivation caused me to lose sight of the punchline. Much like I’ve lost sight of the trail. Of my path. Of the reason why…
And if I had the energy now, I would offer up the laugh that joke deserves. What a bitter time to find my sense for jocularity. But at least I’ll go into that frosted and warm embrace with a smirk on my face.
I no longer fear the looming dark ghosts and forms of the fallen before me. No more than I am sure they do or do not truly loom there, staring at me with their vacant boney sockets and ragged tattered clothes beating in the blinding wind.
Whatever I’ve known and what I have learned…I give….to the mountain. I offer myself freely. So that it may not take me.
Nickname #1: Very Powerful Asset Nickname #2: Climber of Mountains
Source: Bestiary 1, pg. 300
Bestiary 5 (1e): https://paizo.com/products/btpy9e8c
Pathfinder Lore – 1e & 2e
Not a tremendous amount of lore.
In 1e this creature was referred to as a Saxra.
Skulltakers are basically the collective remains of mountain climbers and hikers who died of starvation and/or agony on the mountain peaks.
Very flavorfully described in 2e as “Swirling down from misty peaks and through howling mountain passes like an evil wind.”
· And as “a terrible manifestation of the delirium and agony experienced by doomed climbers and lost trailblazers just before they met their end.”
Managing cooperation with a Skulltaker makes for a very powerful asset in pure knowledge alone.
· The collective memories of its whirling mass of death are stored within the very bones that allow it to take form.
· And because those who climb mountains come from far and wide, the knowledge this creature holds within is vast and spans many subjects.
Oh, and it’s also over 20 ft. tall and weight about 2 tons..
Mythology & Folklore
I’d say it’s clear this creature is inspired by the incredibly large number of mountain climbing deaths.
I found loads of unsubstantiated and uncredited ghost stories.
· And I don’t mean that in the sense that I personally do not believe in ghosts.
· I found one story about a famous French climber named Elisabeth Revol, who had to make the excruciating decision to leave her climbing partner behind to save her own life.
· She nearly lost her fingers and one of her feet due to frostbite.
· A story I found told the tale of her meeting a wrinkled old woman on the mountain who offered her warm tea in exchange for her shoes, she agreed and woke up with a frozen foot.
· However, I could find no evidence of this story elsewhere. I found nothing of it coming from Elisabeth Revol herself.
· And this was posted in an article as recent as 2022 on magazine website Climbing.com.
· Assuming my search for more credit of this story was enough, it’s exact sort of faked sensationalism I’ve come to despise.
I could not find any actual mythology or folklore that leans toward this creature, but there are of course many stories around death and ghosts.
· Most of which are attributed to the many physical difficulties of climbing such large mountains.
· Low oxygen environments, temperatures far below freezing, lack of sleep, altitude sickness, etc.
But here are a few interesting claims and facts at the very least:
· Famous Sherpa Pemba Dorji from Nepal (who claims to have the fastest summit of Everest in 8 hours and 10 minutes), claims to have seen black shadows wandering the summit and begging for food. Believing them to be the restless spirits of those who died on the mountain that will forever linger until they are given the appropriate funeral rites.
· Bodies, many of which remina unidentified, are all over Everest in particular. In fact as recently as 2017 four bodies were found together in a tent near the Everest Base Camp, but no Climbing agencies had reported anyone missing.
· There is a famous corpse known as Green Boots, who is not officially identified, but is believed to be an Indian Climber named Tsewang Paljor. His body served as a literal landmark along the main northeast ridge. He died in 1996, and the body was moved in 2014.
· A local resident of the Himalayan village of Bemni, one Mohan Singh claimed to be visited by a ghost while he was our chopping wood. A strange man approached him and asked why he was chopping the wood, the sky turned black and the man reach for him but his hand went straight through. He also kept changing size, from 9 ft tall to the size of a chicken. After escaping the strange man….Singh found he had an intense fever….so of course he believed a local Hindu priest was required to perform a special exorcism involving slaughtering a goat in order to be rid of it.
They go, on and on, and you can imagine Yetis get into the mix as well.
Mount Everest is of course the most famous mountain.
· Statistics are all over the place but at least 331 people have died climbing it.
· Definitely more. And 2023 has turned out to be one of the deadliest years, with 17 deaths in the climbing season of April to May.
· (The average death over the previous 30 years from 1993 to 2022 was 6.2/year)
Honestly….despite the erratic reporting…it got kinda depressing o research.
No matter how many successful summits there are compared to deaths, climbing mountains of immense size is brutal, impressive, and quite frankly psychotic.
The only positive stories I can find are barely positive to me. They are…records. New records or broken records or whatever other records.
· Impressive, but I hardly find them comforting.