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High in the Himalayas, a lone figure, David Simms, stumbles down a snow-packed mountain and collapses outside a small Tibetan village. The local natives carry Dave, an American, into a temple, where he revives and, looking upon the altar, recalls his long journey there: At the end of World War II, Dave, an Army captain, pilots an Operation Hump airlift flight, transporting food and materials from China to India along the outskirts of Tibet. Dave anticipates returning stateside upon completion of his seventy-fifth mission and confides in fellow pilot and roommate Bill March that he stole an ancient Buddhist mask from a nearby temple for a souvenir. Dismayed, Bill tries to talk Dave out of taking the mask, and when the two men struggle over the antique, Dave severely cuts his hand on a shattered picture frame. Dave takes his belongings and the mask and reports for his flight, but his co-pilot reports Dave's bleeding hand and Dave is replaced by Bill. Later Dave visits the flight tower to send a message to Bill to return his belongings and hears Bill report the breakdown of his compass. When Dave plots Bill's position, he discovers the plane is flying directly into the Himalayan mountains of Amne Mandu at a low altitude. Despite frantic warnings, Dave and the others hear Bill's plane crash. Troubled, Dave visits the temple from which he stole the mask and offers to make reparations, but the temple priest refuses, indicating that repayment has already been made. With increasing guilt over Bill's death, Dave completes his final mission and returns home. Over the next few years, Dave continues feeling that he is living a borrowed life and is finally driven to visit Bill's widow Elaine. Elaine is grateful for the visit and after several friendly calls, the two begin dating. Although fearful of Elaine's rejection, Dave tells her about Bill being a last minute replacement for him, but Elaine reassures him that Bill's death was accidental. Dave and Elaine fall in love, marry and settle into a happy life. One day they receive a mysterious package, which contains the Tibetan mask. Dave and Elaine wonder if Bill somehow survived the crash, and for a long period the mask haunts them. Dave then decides he must return the mask to Tibet, and Elaine insists on accompanying him. With difficulty the couple persuades UNESCO to give them permits to travel with a Himalayan expedition. Selling all their belongings, Dave and Elaine travel to India, where UN representative Philip Malloy introduces them to Prof. Faber and his wife Jarmila, heads of the expedition. As the expedition proceeds into the snow and biting winds of Tibet, Elaine has difficulty with the increasing altitude. The group eventually rests at a Tibetan monastery, and during a religious ceremony, Dave experiences a vision of an avalanche and the death of several people. Elaine pleads with Dave not to continue on the final part of the expedition but remain with her and Jarmila at the monastery. Dave is granted an audience with the High Lama, who cautions him that the god Sindja is against the expedition and wonders about Dave's real motives for making the journey. When Dave returns to Elaine, he insists on continuing. The men and several porters depart the following day and begin the arduous scaling of the steep mountain face. Without warning a rock slide hits the group, but fortunately no one is injured. The next morning, however, the porters refuse to go on, believing that the slide was a sign from Sindja. Farber promises to increase the men's salaries and order is restored. Unknown to Farber and the others, one native empties the supply of kerosene, replacing it with water. When he is spotted by a porter, the native beats the porter, who flees, terrified. The expedition proceeds, and only while setting up camp at the top of another perilous ridge, do the men discover the loss of the kerosene. Back at the base camp near the monastery, Elaine consults the High Lama, who advises her that Dave must find personal release through his journey. Meanwhile, the beaten porter returns to inform Jarmila of the sabotaged kerosene and she immediately forms a rescue party, but refuses to allow Elaine to come along due to her trouble with high altitude. In two days Jarmila and her men reach Faber and Dave's group, but she and several men remain behind when the final climb resumes. Midway up the last mountain, the men are stopped by a gale, preventing Jarmila from sending supplies for two days. When the weather lifts, the sabotage native attempts to stop Jarmila from departing with the supplies, but he is attacked by the other porters and falls to his death from a cliff. Jarmila and the porters reach Faber's group and all continue the climb. At the base of Amne Mandu, with the Fabers' blessings, Dave, Philip and Mike Aylen continue to the top, where they believe the plane's wreckage lies. At the top a sudden storm blows Philip and Mike off a precipice and their rope breaks, dropping them to their deaths. Stunned, Dave calls to Sindja to acknowledge him and an avalanche ensues, covering the entire top of the mountain. Dazed, Dave stumbles down the mountain and is carried into the temple. In the present, Elaine finds Dave in the temple, freed of his guilt over Bill's death and convinced that he was meant to live. The High Lama reveals that he sent Dave the mask, hoping to provide him with the peace that Dave and Elaine have at last found.