Monday, August 28, 2006

black (death) peak - part II

[continued from the previous post where andrew recounts being marooned on a slippery rock face in the northern cascades]

not yet.

i wasn't ready to risk my life on one crazy superman trick. it was a phantom rock, after all, and i might not spot it until i sailed by. gravity may get me, but there was no need to hasten my fall.

at that point steve suggested that he run up the mountain and see if anyone might have some rope. earlier we'd seen at least two parties making the trek toward black peak. in the sunlight their helmeted heads had glowed the yellow of angel halos. perhaps they'd be ready and equipped for just this kind of thing.

but at first i was oddly opposed to the idea. "try looking from over there," i said. three fingers of one hand were barely wedged in a crack and my other hand was maintaining a tenuous grip on a slippery knob-like rock to my right, but i wanted to do this myself. the thought of seeking help from another group of hikers was embarrassing, humiliating; it was admitting defeat. i had already calculated my chances of survival without a rope - every scenario led to a nasty conclusion, yet hubris somehow stalled my decision to send steve away. i imagined a man with 20 international summits to his credit frowning down at me and saying, "what are you doing, little man, on this class 5.13b cliff-face? where is your gear? hrmmphh."

after several seconds passed, i realized that i could probably bear a condescending smirk, especially if it saved my life. steve sprinted up the mountain after a rope.

after steve left, i quite incredulously realized that i hadn't been praying. "what the crap, God," i began, "why haven't i been praying this whole time?" for some reason, He didn't bother answering my rhetorical question, so i continued with something a bit more conventional, something more like "help me!" and "forgive me for..." and "God, do you hate these emergency, self-centered prayers?"

as i clung to the rock and prayed, my right leg began to shake again. i adjusted myself a bit and then closed my eyes and tried to lay completely still. it was strangely peaceful. i somehow believed that my leg wouldn't shake again and that steve would return with my means of salvation. i thought about sitting, and about what great fun it is to do nothing, to finish a hike and just relax. all this thinking seemed to go straight to my feet: to my horror, they were starting to tingle. "not a great place for my feet to fall asleep," i thought.

occasionally an invisible bug buzzed past my head--perhaps a fly, a bee, or some other insect vulture. like a rogue rescue copter, it seemed to circle my general vicinity, uncertain at this altitude whether i was friend or foe. thankfully, it didn't land. next, my sleepy feet and i heard voices, and then the approach of steve.

"they didn't have rope," he explained.

"uh oh," i thought.

then steve, oh, wonderful steve, concocted a brilliant plan. he tied his two shirts together and knotted them to his pack. as he approached my position, a few rocks tumbled off to my left, frightening the fly and i. then steve carefully lowered the pack down to me. once it was within my reach, i flailed out my arm and caught hold of the shoulder strap. as steve pulled upward, i used my free arm and legs to scramble the remaining 8 feet until i collapsed safely on the top of the ridge.

whoohooo! praise God (and steve), i survived. relieved, i let out a big sigh and a nervous chuckle. then steve and i hugged, took some photos, and made our way to the top of the summit.

beth the s.o. "photos for jessica" moma, nyc.