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Trouble on Cathedral Peak

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Trouble on Cathedral Peak
July 20, 2014 08:27AM
Between a rock and the void: 'no-big-deal' heroism
Published: July 19, 2014 Updated: 9:38 p.m.

YOSEMITE – My climbing team is 700 feet up a granite pinnacle called Cathedral Peak, but above us, just below the peak’s narrow summit, things are falling apart.

A group of three Europeans has climbed far beyond their ability. One climber hollers at her husband that she can’t go any farther and needs to be hauled up – a nearly impossible task.

Her husband yells down that he’s doing all he can, but to be honest, he’s exhausted.

The third member of their party tries to help, but a fall less than an hour earlier broke a rib in two places, and the injury is sending pains shooting like knives through his chest.

I look at the woman directly above. She must make her way through a difficult crack and past an overhang. One slip, and she could knock me off the mountain. The only thing that might save me is the rope into which I am tied.

The minutes stretch into a half-hour and I try to distract myself from a cold wind. I look around, something I’m usually too terrified to do when climbing near-vertical rock.

In the vertical universe, I tend to limit my view to an 8-foot circle, whatever my feet and hands can touch. With snow-covered mountains stretching to the horizon and the green dots of pine trees directly below, the yawning exposure is beautiful and terrifying.

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