With the wind whipping around my fragile body at 60mph, I frantically searched for the lone piton I’d packed as an emergency anchor, only this time it would be used as a different kind of anchor. Listening for the soothing ping, ping, ping, ping, pung of my Lost Arrow over the wail of the wind was impossible, but I finally seated the pin into what would be my lifeline for the next hour. Putting on what clothing I could, I lastly girthed myself into the newly pounded pin. As if to mock my finiteness in a sea of rock and ice, Gannett sneered at me from behind. She intended to teach me a lesson.
As I curled into the fetal position, I soon became alone with my thoughts. At first they screamed at me to be anywhere but where I was. A primal, heart-popping fear overcame my body as I began to shake uncontrollably – one recurring thought wormed its way onto my eyelids: this storm will kill you. No cliché; light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel or life flashing before my eyes.
Accepting death is much easier than I ever thought possible. In that moment, the soothing stillness of the abyss was most welcome. But crammed between two rocks was my Being – every thought, memory, experience…
A very wise man once told me that we are simply visitors to that strange land we call the mountains. The ones who survive here are the ones who raise themselves to meet the mountain. There are many old mountaineers, and there are many bold mountaineers, but there are few old, bold mountaineers. The latter part of that advice never quite stuck.
So, pinned to the wall at 13,000 feet, my body continued to strive toward the fleeting glimpse of life. Curled in a ball like a newborn, I felt the life slowly drain from my extremities. My mind raced between thoughts of giving up and the pint of ice cream I left in the freezer at home. I could feel my mind concentrating on nothing but keeping my vital organs alive. I knew, no matter how strong my will, that I couldn’t keep up the charade much longer.
Darkness crept in. I screamed, it laughed. I got angry, it felt no pity. I cried, it drowned me in my own inadequacy.
Just as fast as it all started, the light crept in and the darkness made a fleeting promise to be back soon. The sun ripped from behind the clouds and illuminated the area where I had laid, dying. I sat upright with my arms around my knees, mentally and physically unable to do anything except allow the life to flow back into my body.
Few get a glimpse into the Void. I don’t count myself lucky. A lucky man would have died in a heap of his own patheticness. No, I was taught a powerful lesson by an even more powerful teacher. Gannett taught me respect above all else. She led me down the rabbit hole and revealed to me a special kind of hell, a slow, painful suffering. She allowed me to climb back out and live to fight another day. She’s the one who made a mistake.
“Wondering if the sunshine will ever catch your eye.”
-Skinny Puppy, “Pedafly”