Page 28

MY EPIC ADVENTURE

by COLE NELSON

serrated ice had just been pressing hard through my puffy. When I checked my ribs, I gasped and then exhaled slowly. Nothing to do for broken ribs anyway. Though my ribs would turn out only to be bruised, at the time I simply accepted, in a tide of adrenaline, that my chest might be in pieces. The blood on my face evidenced at least one laceration. I would later be diagnosed with a bruised back as well as ribs, a herniated disc in my cervical spine, and a broken tailbone. The pain increased from dull to sharp as the surprise wore off, the change bringing the need to act. My thoughts became simple: Identify the problem, find a solution, implement, repeat. The large goal of survival became a checklist of small actions. Step one was to open my eyes. I peered fearfully out through y friend Tom Moore and I were 400 vertical feet from slits. Shit. I was covered in the summit of Mount Rainier—and then I was falling, coffee-table-sized plates of ice. Alpenglow danced on the lip suspended in an aerial cascade. I felt myself accelerate, then of the crevasse; the orange halfplummeted into a crevasse. rope ran up from my harness and over the edge. I counted two, We were on the Winthrop Route, five hours into our climb. I had three, four of the five butterfly been ahead, almost across a 25-foot-wide ice shelf that spanned the knots I had tied into the rope bergschrund, when the entire bridge failed, collapsing from a shear between Tom and me to bite into line just a step ahead of me. I pendulumed backward on the rope snow should I fall. That meant between Tom and me, flipped face first into the downhill wall of the only five feet of rope remained ’schrund, ricocheted and decked from 30 feet. It was pitch dark. No, my eyes were just pinched shut. My head spun. between Tom and the lip of the crevasse. Shit. But I was alive, for the moment. “Cole, are you Systems check: I gave myself a Head to Toe patient OK?” Tom’s voice assessment, as I had been taught to do as an EMT. What Got an epic? Rock and Ice accepts gripping arced through the ice was hurt? I was still disoriented, and took stock mentally by first-person stories from crystals suspended in moving my focus slowly from head to toe. I felt pain in my climbers like you. Articles may be up to 1,200 the air. neck. My back hurt. Had I impaled myself on my ice axe? words. Send to: aosius@ “Yeah,” I said too Uh, no. There it was behind my back, not inside me. The

UNDER ICE

CREVASSE FALL ON RAINIER

M

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ROCKANDICE.COM | January 2014

illustration by DUSHAN MILIC

quietly. That was not my voice. Louder, “Yeah!” “Holy shit!” called Tom. “Keep the rope tight, I’m going to check this out!” I yelled as I shifted my leg, pushed at one block, then another, and contorted into a crouch. Pain. I slowly stood up, looking around apprehensively. The frozen debris settled with a lurching crack, and I closed my eyes, waiting for the fall, arms out, my body poised as if supported by eggshells. What was next? Ascend the rope? There were 30 feet of line and four knots to pass on a dynamic 8.4mm. Pain prevented me from even bending over—I could not imagine the repeated abdominal crunch motion of prussiking. Could I walk out? A hundred yards in one direction the overhanging bergschrund gaped open, revealing a deep scar in the glacier’s icy skin. Thirty yards in the other direction, the floor abruptly met icefall. Then I spotted the weakness. A column of ice plugged the gap between the bergschrund walls and the rising sun. “I’m going to try and climb out,” I shouted to Tom. “Give me slack so I can move, but watch me!” I retrieved the extra technical tool from my pack, noticing that the pick had bent during the plunge. Tom belayed from above, moving with me and bumping the rope along the edge of the crevasse as I walked gingerly among the rubble to the base of the pillar. “OK!” I yelled. “Walk downhill as I climb up! Keep me tight!” I sank my tools into the glacial ice and began to climb. The precarious column held. I told my body to stop shaking and forced myself to breathe deeply. “This will work,” I whispered, because it had to; I did not know if I could handle another fall or ice barrage.

Rock and Ice #215  

Rock and Ice #215, January 2014

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