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One Thousand Feet

Ever have moments where you look around, completely flabbergasted at the situation you now confront?

That was Saturday afternoon. And in this case, my existence rather tenuously depended on a few straps of nylon girth-hitched to a small, scraggly pine tree. Winds whipped against my face, winter-chilled and chapping, as I fed another two hundred feet of braided nylon through a small block of machined aluminum. Nearly one hundred and fifty feet below, my friend began the treacherous ascent to join me at the top of an exposed ridge line.

There's something about cheating death on a regular basis - when you're twenty five feet from the next bolt, when only the tiniest bits of rock flake mean the difference between you and a head-over-heels tumble down the side of a very steep mountain, when you are praying that the aforementioned tree doesn't decide to uproot and take you down gravity's path - those are the times when you realize how alive you are. Every gingerly-placed footstep, every grasping scrabble for a handhold, every breath and every twitch are microseconds and millimeters from danger. With each synapse focusing on surviving mortal peril, time stops, thoughts clear, and the world fades to nothing.

And then, upon reaching the last anchor and clipping in, stopping, and viewing the majesty of late Eastern autumn, you understand why people do this.

Unfortunately, on the hike back down, laden with fifty pounds of climbing gear, I somehow manage to roll my ankle severely enough that I'm probably not climbing this week. At least if I messed up the ligaments DURING a climb, I'd have a good story to tell. No, it had to be a leaf-covered stone in the middle of the trail back to the parking lot.



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