Let us livejor the beauty of our o\m reality.
—The Chink, from the novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
Late one winter, Bill Johnson, a staff writer for Sporls illustrated, called me long distance. "Would you be willing to do some ice climbing for an article we have in mind?" he asked. An image of a solitary figure high on a frozen waterfall popped into my head. "Sure,"! said, "if 1 can choose the climb." "No problem there," replied Bill.
So we made arrangements to meet at the end of March in the little ski resort town of Telluride, Colorado. Bridalveil Falls is situated above the Idarado Mine at the head of the mountain valley a couple miles east of town.
The appointed day arrived. Bill, his daughter Una, and Willis Wood, a photographer on assignment for the story, sat down to breakfast with me at the Iron Ladle. Outside, the town was snowless under a summer-hot sun. Young women, brown as cherrywood and clad in halter tops, walked the Old West streets or lounged on wooden benches.
Bill speared a bite of omelet with his fork, waggling it in front of his neatly trimmed beard as he voiced the question that was on all of our minds: "Hell, Jeff, is the ice going to be safe to climb today?" "I think so," 1 lied, "but we won't know for sure until we ski in to the base, That is, if there's any snow left to ski on up there." Scratching under his English-style cap, Willis remarked, "Well, we've got good light anyway."
Bridalveil could be seen from the parking lot at the mine, where the three-foot snowpack was shrinking almost visibly. Willis speculated about whether the ice we could see still standing was any good. I held my tongue, certain it was not, though Bridalveil's shaded nook in the cliffs ensured that it would remain in condition longer than any other climb in Colorado. Besides, after all the fuss, I felt obligated to go through the motions.
Bill tossed a bottle of red wine into his pack, along with several oranges and candy bars. "For lunch and a toast to success," he explained. 1 still had no comment. Removing all unnecessary clothing, we began to ski to the base of the icefall. There would be no climbing today, 1 told myself silently. The approach up the scenic valley was thus rendered carefree. I had a couple of hours to relax.
But by the time we arrived in the boulder- and snow-filled catch basin beneath the ice, there had been a change in the tone of the afternoon. We discovered that
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