Storm at the Summit
Jeremy Stone dug into the steep slope with his pickaxe. With a pair of them, he alternated, striking higher each time.
For this mountain, it was no big deal to Jeremy. He has climbed numerous mountains before. As a display of his confidence, he decided to do this alone.
Well, not entirely alone. His expedition group was waiting back at the base camp.
Jeremy reached the top of the slope. In just another 100 feet, he would be at the summit.
“Almost done with this one,” Jeremy said to himself. “There is no mountain I can’t climb.”
Jeremy took another rope out of his bag from his backpack and anchored it on the icy rock. It was time to climb the summit. He fastened his harness and set everything up. He then used his pickaxe and began digging into the slope.
Finally, he reached the summit. Jeremy held his hands up and raised them in victory.
“I am master of the mountains,” he proudly said. “Who has ever reached the top alone?”
As Jeremy began to plan his descent, it happened. A strong, icy wind blew, bringing a light snow. The light snow intensified, and the visibility lessened by the second.
“I’ll make it. ” Jeremy said with confidence. I’ve experienced blizzards worse than this.”
The blizzard worsened and the wind grew stronger. It was now impossible for Jeremy to see what was in front of him.
As Jeremy began to rappel, the rope above him snapped. Jeremy began to plummet down the mountain. In a desperate attempt to break his fall, Jeremy searched for the nearest slope that he could cling to. A small ledge was just below him. He reached for the ledge, but missed. He then swung his hands forward, trying to reach the rock face that was near him.
As he neared the rock face, he clawed against it, but he found his hands slipping. He could not grip it. It was no use. The cliff was frozen and covered in snow and ice.
Jeremy slipped downward against the cliff, his hands brushing against it. With the rapid change in altitude, Jeremy became short of breath. Barely conscious, Jeremy landed on a lower ledge, in a new pile of snow.
Jeremy could suddenly make out the figure of a man on a higher ledge just above him. He looked like another mountain climber. With the blizzard, Jeremy couldn’t see him very well. It could be one of his friends from the base camp or someone else. Jeremy couldn’t tell.
The man looked like he was holding something. Jeremy guessed that it was a coil of rope. “Do you need any help?” The man asked.
Jeremy breathed heavily, shaking his head. “No! I’m fine!”
The man grabbed one end of the rope and threw the coil toward Jeremy. The coil unraveled and the rope landed next to Jeremy. “I’m going to help you, okay?”
Jeremy backed away from the rope. “I….don’t need your help!”
The man began anchoring the other end of the rope. “Just grab the rope!”
The blizzard intensified, with the winds blowing stronger. Jeremy refused once more. “No! This is a solo expedition! I’m returning to the base camp, so leave me alone!”
The man began climbing down the ledge toward Jeremy. He backed away, and then began readying his rope to rappel down the mountain to the base camp. As he was getting ready to anchor the rope, the very end of the ledge that he was standing on began to give away. It began to crumble beneath his feet, dissolving into a powdery mix of snow and ice.
At this time, the man reached the ledge that Jeremy was on, and he threw the rope over the edge of the cliff.
As Jeremy began to fall, he saw the rope falling just below him. Immediately, Jeremy firmly grabbed the rope. He could see the man, staring over the edge of the cliff.
Jeremy tightened his grip on the rope and watched the man as he stepped slightly closer to the edge of the cliff. “Do you need any help?” he asked again.
Clinging to the rope with all his might, Jeremy coughed. Then he burst into tears. “Yes!” he cried. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Please help me now!”
The man pulled up the rope and helped Jeremy back onto the ledge.
Jeremy wiped off his tears and embraced the man. “You saved my life. I really appreciate that.”
The man then pointed upward. “You fell below your base camp. Keep heading upward and you will reach it.”
Jeremy stared at the man with a puzzled look on his face. “I did?”
“Use that rope that I anchored to get back up.” The man told him. “You can keep it once you get there.”
Jeremy prepared the rope and began walking toward the slope above him. “Hey, thanks!”
Jeremy turned around. The man was gone.
This puzzled Jeremy even more. Where did he go? How am I going to thank him? I didn’t even get his name….
The blizzard began to lessen and was now a steady snow. Jeremy began walking toward the cliff and shouted. “Hey man! Where did you go? I want to thank you!”
But Jeremy never found the man. But then it hit him. The man didn’t sound like any of his friends at the base camp….
Jeremy climbed upward and eventually reached the base camp. He told his friends about the man but they didn’t know anything. The man never visited the base camp or any of his friends.
Filled with wonder, Jeremy just quietly sighed and smiled. He didn’t know where the man was, but he knew that he helped him. What he found to be the most mysterious was the way that he was rescued. It was as if the man knew that the ledge was going to give away and that he was going to fall.
Whoever the man was, Jeremy was grateful, and would never look at mountain climbing the same way again.
©2012 K. L. Walker