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Lonely alps: How I almost died in the mountains – Part 2

Standing on the ledge above the abyss and contemplating the frightening jump over to a path that is quite possibly a dead-end, I realize that I am losing control over my limbs. The sudden rain, the cold and the deepening darkness immerse my adventurous ego in nonbelief. My rational mind protests – claiming to be worthy of adventure – while my emotions embark to a place of panic. I feel lost and pathetically alone. Yet I can not tell whether my impending death has destroyed my happiness or simply a pretense over a sentiment I had been carrying for a long while.

Grandiosity, far from accepting the limitations of my body and psyche, pushes me to jump. Not the belief that it is the right path stands behind it. In fact, the only thinkable benefit of the jump is the option for a path that will not obligate me to go back up. What does a hero care for his life? Grandiosity demands me to jump simply as a protest against my panic. For my grandiosity has gone mad.

So the last resort of my body to protect itself from the unbearably terrifying rule of a madman is to shut its limbs down and refuse to work at all.

I give up and into guilt. There is no way here.

Fatigue confronts my panic for I have descended a thousand feet. I have no provisions and have not eaten properly for weeks. My stylish denim jacket is an inept opponent to the chill, dampening air. There is no overwhelming drive that keeps me on my feet while I initiate the return. No testosterone to keep me going, no energy. Only my vanity, my carefully upheld image as a rational hero, gives me support. And some quiet unacknowledged automatism is moving my feet, powered by the fear of actually enduring the inevitable suffering leading to my death. It is not to suffer or thrive; it is to suffer or suffer worse.

Hundreds of feet up along a path that had been a one-way-street from it’s very beginning. Elevation after elevation I slowly climb up. I slip all the time. Pressure behind my eyes, as if I am going to cry. I cannot, my mind sucks it up and sends it down into my stomach. Occasionally, I sob from frustration of hardly being able to climb up the simplest structures. The sob isn’t real; it’s a bad imitation, as if I wanted to prove that I am in touch with feelings of pain. With most absent curiosity I experience the emotional world of an infant. Detached pain, can’t walk.

After a felt hour I start expecting to arrive at the great stony slope that will lead me back up the one-way path I came down. My expectation is not fulfilled. Should I stop? But to do what instead – I can’t look around to orient myself for my surroundings have evolved into a dark blue mass of grain.

I reach a stone formation roughly resembling a group of growing pillars. To my left I can dimly see the stony slope now. A hundred feet straight down the cliff. Another jump I am not taking. Go back to find the right way? No, this one will work. Remember that the stony slope was not exactly a safe bet anyway – it had been a one-way street; the hope to get back up is almost a rationalization, not convincing enough to beat even an unknown alternative.

It is brittle rock that I have to scale now, a big disintegrating hulk composed of thousands of splinters marbled with soil and herbage. To my left it goes straight down to the slope. To my right, there’s a small valley, possibly fifty feet deep.

An adventurer can do anything. You can do anything you want. In movies, the hero always finds a way. I notice that this is magical thinking now. The explorer can only explore what is accessible. And there is no guarantee of accessibility. The romantic notion of spending time in raw wilderness – so often have I imagined its bliss and despised the safe paths most people resort to. Yet now, as wilderness claims me, I am not prepared. For wilderness is not the peace-of-mind way out of hectic civilization.

There is a way or there is not.

The top of the next pillar is 2 feet above my head. Automatically, I search for grip. I get up one feet, two feet. Next I need to pull myself up. I feel the stone under my right foot slowly giving away. What I can grasp with my hands turns out to be loose. I manage to uphold status quo by not moving for a few seconds and look down to the stony slope a hundred feet below.

No use waiting. I push myself up with my toes and the loose splinter breaks away. For the first time today, I relax my mind and prepare for the inevitable.

I fall.

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