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it was told there in the shade. Even the act of packing a platform to stand on was not sufficient to warm us. Sweaters and parkas appeared from packs and were gratefully donned. Furthermore, there was no sound of running water. Though the ice was thin under some of the bulges, and the dark, underlying rock showed through, it was not melting.

While the others stood around oohing and aahing at the ice, I prepared to climb, commenting, "I'll probably just go up a pitch or so—to that thin spot beneath the overhang—then rappel down." So besides strapping crampons to boots and removing my ice axe and North Wail hammer from the pack, my pre-climb activities included uncoiling a rope to trail behind me—not for safety, as it would simply dangle from my waist, but for use on the rappel. I also included a few ice screws to use in anchoring the rappel. In spite of these precautions, there was even then a little voice in the back of my head whispering, "It will go." But for the moment I succeeded in suppressing that sound.

As I began to climb, my mind was in neutral. No hopes. No expectations. I was just exploring to see what the ice was like. The rope that dangled from my waist was my umbilical to earth, "As soon as the ice gets bad," ! thought, "or the climbing too difficult for comfort, all that is necessary is to place an ice screw and rappel in a way, the security this knowledge provided was comforting—but comfort and concentration don't mix very well. To climb unprotected on Bridalveil, and do it safely, would require total focus. The rope began to tug at the back of my mind, asking for attention t could ill afford to give it.

The first sixty-foot apron inclined at an angle of about 75°. Fluge cauliflowerlike formations characterized this section of relatively easy climbing. It was a simple matter of maintaining balance over my crampons while sliding up through the slots and bulges, using ice clumps for handholds and occasionally planting the pick of the axe. Working my body into position this way was a pleasure. There was a further delights here, at least, the ice was good—firm as a solid old oak and only slightly brittle.

Too quickly, the apron lay below and the ice reared up vertically for fifty feet, capped by the first crux of the climb, a three-foot overhang. Was that gentle downward pull on the rope real or imagined? No matter. Mind Control said, "Go up. The ice is good."

In the steep section below the overhang were two pillars, spaced about two feet apart. In the shallow trough between them the ice was thin enough for the green moss growing on the rock beneath to be visible in places. By stemming between the pillars, one loot on either side of the trough, 1 could maintain balance, weight over my feet to save my arms for when they might really be needed. I placed the picks of my hand tools at the back of the trough primarily as a precaution against falling over backward. The rope trailed down, its final coils still among the feet of my small audience, who, I supposed, were watching intently, though

61 T Mind Marathon

61 T Mind Marathon

Mgh M Bridalveil Falls, an nharriwl rhythm develops.

IPinto: Willis Wood)

Mgh M Bridalveil Falls, an nharriwl rhythm develops.

IPinto: Willis Wood)

they were of no concern to me. This was a private affair, regardless of how many people observed it.

It took a long time to find a way past the overhang. The problem was bold, but the solution intricate, and 1 lost myself in an effort to find the combination that would unlock the passage. The underside of the ledge was a cathedral apse. At its apex 1 had to scrunch up as high as possible and perform an ablution: ice hammer dangling by the wrist-loop on my right hand, left axe placed diagonally around the edge of the roof, 1 reached into a slippery hole at a point where the ice began to jut out to form the ceiling. 1 found a small indentation that was just enough, but my fingers were washed in waves of cold that seeped through my wool gloves. They would soon be numb and useless. Mind instructed body: "Stay calm." Vision became acute, and time slowed until there was plenty

A crampon-shod left boot came floating into view, headed for purchase on a boulder-sized bump at the lip of the overhang. Contact was made and points bit into the ice, small flakes fracturing off and drifting down out of sight. Then the right foot flowed from underneath the edge, coming to rest near its mate. The right hand abandoned its frigid hold on the tee and regrasped the ice hammer. The silver blade arced through the air, then ice shards slowly burst above the overhang as the hammer thunked solidly. I straightened once again into a position of balance, and time resumed its normal pace. Beads of perspiration dripped from my forehead onto my glasses. My mind relaxed, but only slightly.

A few moves higher there was a good ledge for standing. At the moment I stepped onto it, the rope at my waist gave a hard jerk. This time there was no question: it was stuck somewhere below, tangled in icicles. As if stubbornly refusing to allow me to go on, the cord resisted all my attempts to free it from above. It seemed the penance of the overhang would grant me no heaven. Feeling quite defeated, I placed two ice screws as an anchor and rappclled to the source of the problem, which was easily remedied by a simple flick. Once cleared, the rope swooped invitingly earthward, tempting me to follow it.

My body wasn't tired, but my mind wanted to rest. In spite of that desire, the little voice that earlier had whispered of an unlikely possibility now sounded a bit louder, and it had worked its way into the realm of conscious consideration. As I

Iktetbered fro* ll»« rape, mind and body feel lighter.

reclimbed the overhang, well protected by the rope from above, I decided to continue. But some nagging doubts about the remainder of the route still lingered. What about the rotten-looking section at the halfway mark? Was there a way around the huge overhang at 300 feet? More urgent doubts crowded in regarding how long 1 could maintain such intense concentration without a lapse. I would continue the climb, yes, yet I hadn't the confidence to abandon the rope.

The second hundred feet of climbing contained no unusual problems, and a controlled but enjoyable rhythm began to direct my moves. The ice that had appeared from below to be rotten was not, there was just a subtle change in hue, perhaps due to the millions of tiny air bubbles trapped within it.

'The climb will go," the inner voice shouted. And softer, but with conviction: "Get rid of the rope. It's only distracting you." I was happy with these commands but couldn't bear to watch the rope—and my attachment to it—fall summarily away. 1 left it tethered to an ice screw and continued.

Unleashed, my body and mind felt much lighter. No thoughts of failure. My entire entity became aligned with gravity, but only as a reference point for balance. Real difficulties seemed to disappear under the energy of a unified approach. Body obeyed mind, seeming to understand its purpose. In turn, mind appreciated the way body supplied stimuli. Smooth, cold, blue monochrome. A brittle clatter. Swing, breathe, Connect, connection, Almost , . . almost . . . almost, . . .

Unexpectedly I felt a change in orientation, as if the ice was falling forward in front of me. I realized after a moment that my vertigo was the result of a reduction in the angle of the ice. Adrenaline spurted through my system when I looked up to see that an easy slope was all that separated me from the top of the climb. But the adrenaline had to be overruled. To rush now would be folly. To climb all that way with concentration and then scramble sloppily up the last bit would negatively color my whole experience. Every step—to the end—must be made as carefully as every other,

The deep, water-worn gorge at the top of Bridalveil Falls was the exit tunnel from the immediate experience of the climb to the conceptualized world 1 now returned to. Relief came in jerks and spasms. First, a welling of tears,- then a restraining. Next, a more enjoyable satisfaction and relaxation of control. Once again the world formed itself for familiar, joyful examination. Crags and sky, wispy cirrus clouds, pine trees and snow, wool, steel, flat, forest.

The whistle down at the mine blew, indicating a change of shift or closing time. The sound echoed through the hills. The sun began to set down-valley above the Lilliputian town of Telluride, and I began the slog through knee-deep snow that would take me around the edge of the cliff and down to the newly remembered people at the base of the falls.

A beer and companionship would suit my fancy just now. Y

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