Life in the balance

It’s the unexpected that kills you in the field. Jim and I were hiking up a mountain stream when we came to an impassable water fall. We decided to climb up one side. About twenty feet up the cliff I stuck my rock pick in the cliff face to get a better hold. The pick dislodged a boulder about two feet in diameter above my head. I struggled to hold the boulder in place. I envisioned myself falling off the cliff with the boulder following me. If the fall didn’t kill me the boulder would bash my head in. Or bash in my head. Whatever.

You don’t follow directly behind your partner when you’re climbing. If a rock is kicked lose it can change your life. That’s why climbers wear helmets.

Jim had picked a different path up the cliff and it turned out to be a better path. When he saw that I was in trouble he managed to scurry across the rock face and wedge his foot against the boulder. He had a much better position of leverage that I did. Jim showed me where the footholds were and I was able to move out from under the boulder. Jim’s simple selfless act saved my life.

I suppose the lessons learned here are obvious: pick your battles, don’t work alone, etc. You don’t have to always go straight ahead to make progress. The safest way is often the fastest way. I would learn that over and over.

You can’t be prepared for the unexpected. In a split second life turns from ordinary to life in the balance. Sometimes you get lucky.


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