The anchor was bombproof, his self-belay was feeding smoothly, and his hand jam truck, so he took a moment to look around. As he leaned out to the full extension of his reach, the crack system above looked like it would take him to the waterfall pitches he’d seen from so far below. The debilitating effects of the night were slowly starting to wear off. He might just make it off this face today after all. The easy pitches like this hand crack required no thought at all. Muscle memory and Zen carried him up on the magic carpet of ascendance and transcendence.

The hard pitches like the first one of the day – an iced-up wide crack – start with dread and doubt, with fear as palpable as the stone and ice he was trying to negotiate. The first twenty feet are at least as much a moral and spiritual struggle, as they are a physical one. Then slowly he finds his way back to the moment-to the climbing. The ramifications of both success and failure begin to fade until all there is the movement, the mountain, the man. Finally there is no thought, no separation, between the man, the movement, the mountain. The rope comes tight, the ledge is reached and the pitch is done. He is back in the Great Ranges, to the place where it is easy to be a holy-man.

The sun’s rays hurdle the ridge and strike him with loving warmth. He can feel it start to warm his frozen core almost immediately. The matte gray granite monolith is transformed into a golden and rose hued Citadel. Yesterday’s doubts and angst are at least for the moment gone. Looking down from his new perch he sees the majesty of the Himalayas surrounding him. The glacier was now so far below that the huge crevasses are pencil thin letters in the alphabet of a language he cannot understand. He starts up the next rope length with a total novelty: warm hands.

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