Thursday, May 29, 2008

Direct Ascent

My feet were large and clumsy in my sandals as I ran towards Lembert Dome. Moisture laden clouds hung over the meadows and angst had built in my body for the past week. The Talking Heads blasted into my ears as I scrambled over the last of the stones and sat on a granite boulder at the base.
La Sportiva, an Italian company, produces the best dancing shoes. Beginning at the toe of my Miuras, I tugged the laces working up the tongue, and then cinched a tight knot across the top of my ankle. The Direct Norwest Face follows a smooth arc up the slabs, coming to a gentle ledge before striking upward on a small headwall to the summit. A black streak of water flowed just to the right of the crack but the route appeared dry. I coated my fingers with white gymnastic chalk, and began to ascend.
Sweeping granite domes and high Sierra skies filled me with serenity. The rock wisped below. I climbed below the ledge and frowned. Water leaked into the crack, making it difficult and impossible to reverse. I cranked up my mini-disc player and started to dance.
The sound of gunfire, off in the distance, I'm getting used to it now. David Byrne’s melodic voice whispered in my ears as I sunk my hands into the wet crack and pulled through, hefting myself onto the ledge. A droplet of water fell onto my forehead from the crack above, Chinese water torture. My heart groaned. Suddenly, Toulumne had the serenity of a graveyard.
This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around. My options were meager. The crux was wet as was the descent; neither were secure. The weight of the situation sank in. No time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain’t got time for that now. I prayed for an alternative. The the left was a barely discernible line of cracked knobs, a path for the desperate, that might snake to the summit.
Two-hundred fifty feet of granite lay beneath my feet, and my mind sharpened to surgical precision. Forty-five of the most harrowing and best minutes in my life passed. Every foot placement decided the future; sixty more years or sixty more seconds.
A sublime realization of what was relevant came to me and I stopped gripping so tightly. I can’t articulate the slow process of levitating to the summit but I sacrificied a piece of my soul. I’ve been searching for it ever since. Transmit the message, to the reciever, hope for an answer some day.

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