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Thread: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

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    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Quote Posted by rgray222 (here)
    Bill thanks for sharing

    I also read Richard's butterfly lady story and commented on it because he shared a piece of his heart and soul in that story. You now have done the same with this story.

    I personally think if PA is to grow and gain strength, it will be from posts such as this one. When one shows us a bit of their soul and is willing to step from the shadows we all grow exponentially.
    OK - here's another.

    A different kind of story. Think Cliffhanger (with Sylvester Stallone) - with a happier outcome.

    When I was 26, I went to the Alps for the first time with my friend, Dave (a real but suitably anonymous name). We went to the Dolomites in Northern Italy to climb Sassolungo:




    And this is what I looked like then.





    Dave was a year older than me, and had been to the Alps once before. So he was the expert. I deferred to his experience.

    We climbed the mountain, and reached the top at sunset. I think it was the first British ascent of the thing by the route we did. We were traveling very light. Dave had explained to me that saving weight was of utmost importance. So we had almost nothing with us. Between us we had one little rucksack, a couple of bars of chocolate, one water bottle, one compass, one head torch (flashlight), our climbing gear, and that was about all.

    With a mountain like that, the only way down is to rappel (abseil) - over and over again. We had to descend about 1,500 ft (450 m) using two 150 ft (45 m) ropes. To do that, you tie the two ropes together, loop them round a strong anchor point in the rock, slide down the doubled rope, pull one end down, and then repeat the procedure 10 times. To make sure you don't slide off the end of the doubled rope, you always tie a knot in it: just like with a thread when sewing.

    Should be simple in principle. You just have to take care. All rock climbers reading this will understand.



    All was well for two or three rappels. Then it got dark. No problem. Dave put the head torch on and went down first after I had already attached myself to the descent rope. He would call up "OK! I'm safe!" when he'd reached the bottom of the rope, and was on another little ledge where we could repeat the process. I would then feel my way down, although I could not see. It was okay.

    Then the torch bulb blew.

    It was very dark, we were half way down a very steep cliff, and we had no spare bulb. I swore, and started looking around to see how we could spent the night on the ledge in some semblance of survival-comfort until the sun rose in the morning.

    But Dave was fumbling with the ropes. "What are you doing?" I said.

    "I'm going down", he replied. "It's not far."

    Sure enough, our little tent was down there on the glacier below us, just a few ropelengths away. Dave sold me the idea of feeling our way down the rock for a warm night's sleep - even though we could not see.

    "What could go wrong?" he asked.

    Well.

    He went down with no torch, felt around, found a little ledge, secured himself, and called up. "OK! I'm off the rope!" he yelled.

    "OK!" I yelled back, and carefully descended to join him. Clearly this was going to be okay. Dave then re-arranged the doubled rope, and started off down again. We'd be in our tent in maybe 45 minutes.

    Then: "Bill!"

    "Yes! You OK?"

    "Bill! I've slid off the end of the rope!"

    Dave sounded calm. Obviously he'd come to the end of the rope, slid off the end, and was on a nice big ledge waiting for me to come and join him.

    "Good!"

    "Bill! I've slid off the end of the rope! I'm hanging by my fingertips and can't hold on much longer!"

    His voice was no longer calm. I immediately realized what had happened. He'd forgotten to tie the knot in the end of the rope which prevented this from ever happening. He was on a sheer cliff face, had fallen free, and was hanging by his fingertips in the dark.

    The situation had suddenly become critical. It was completely out of control. We had no flashlight. Dave had fallen off the end of the rope. It was pitch black. The doubled rope, attached to the only anchor point, was above him. There was absolutely nothing that could be done.

    "Help me! I can't hang on much longer!"

    His voice was desperate. He was facing death within seconds.

    My mind raced. There was nothing whatsoever I could do. If I stayed on that ledge, I could survive the night on my own. I'd be found the next day. Dave had blown it. He'd paid the price of a bad decision. It happens in climbing. All mountaineers know the risks, and the rules that must not be broken.

    Let him die.


    That thought lasted a fraction of a second. Then I realized:

    He's my friend: I have to help.


    I hauled up the rope, tied the missing knot, threw it down, and rappelled down almost at free-fall speed. I banged against the knot and Dave was down there in the dark below my feet. I could barely see him. He was hanging on with his final strength.

    With one hand I fastened together a 6 foot daisy-chain of nylon slings and karabiners (steel snaplinks), attached one end to my harness, and lowered the other end to him. It was all I had.

    It just reached him. He let go with one hand, attached the karabiner to a thin loop of string on the side of his harness designed only to hold lightweight equipment - just as he fell off.

    It all held.

    The rest of the night was one I prefer to forget. We were now dangling like two spiders on the end of the rope, unable to move, unable to see. It started to rain, and the steep shallow gully we were in turned into a waterfall. At about 4 am, I didn't know if we were going to make it. We'd run out of energy, run out of jokes.

    But then the sun rose. It always does. What had happened was clear. Unable to see a thing the previous night, we'd started off down the wrong part of the wall, where there were no ledges to rest on at all. It could never have worked.

    Suddenly, on the glacier maybe two miles away, I could see a group of tiny figures. It was another mountaineering team. I got to do what no mountaineer ever does unless in extremis: blow my whistle. It's like calling 911.

    The little figures all stopped - and then started moving with urgency. Within an hour they were with us. They were a group of aspirant guides, with a master guide, on a mountain rescue training trip. They were delighted. We were winched up, and then down, like sacks of potatoes.

    We spent the rest of our week's holiday eating pizza and going for walks in the meadows. We were too shocked to discuss what had happened. I never ever told Dave my dreadful, awful secret: that for a split second I was going to save myself and let him die.

    I lived with that secret for ten years, and wrestled with it silently and privately. Was I weak? Was I selfish? Was I a coward? What did it mean?

    Only many years later did I come to understand that this is how the body-mind tries to protect itself, like an animal. The spiritual being that I am made the decision to override. There was nothing to be ashamed of.

    Ten years after, I again found myself climbing with Dave - this time on Ben Nevis, in Scotland. We had a wonderful day that went without a hitch. At the very end, walking down to the road, as happy as horses, I decided to tell him what had really happened.

    He listened with intent. When I finished my confession, he said to me:

    "Bill, forgive yourself. You saved my life."
    Last edited by Bill Ryan; 17th February 2011 at 11:43.

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    Australia Avalon Member bluestflame's Avatar
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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    thanks Bill ~☼~

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Lovely and thrilling story Bill,
    Thanks for opening your heart

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Wow that is an incredible tale. Not being overly found of heights I winced most of the way through it. We all have a very strong survival instinct, a will to live. For some it kicks in and stays kicked in, for the whole life time expressing itself in ways large and small, and then for others, the heart begins to over ride the will....but you found that out for yourself.

    How long was it before you went rock climbing again?

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Bill,
    Thankyou for sharing your story... It seems sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. Our first reaction to things is not always our most honourable but it is simply being 'human'. We often react differently to things than we imagine we will.

    Also, off topic: Thank you for making Avalon available to all! That is thank you for all your time and dedication to make this site/forum work.

    Sorry everyone, so back on topic...... Do you have a story to share similar to Bill's?
    Truth above all, without Truth we are nothing.

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    I feel honoured to be a part of your forum Bill and I humbly thank you for sharing your story. Truly inspirational !

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    So the moral of the story is that Bill is a man like us, flawed, not perfect and struggles with making the right decisions too.
    But, when it counted, he did the right thing.

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    What an opportunity you were given Bill
    No wrong decisions though in my opinion
    Just lessons
    Many thanks for sharing

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    United States Avalon Member Belle's Avatar
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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Bill, Thank you so much for sharing your story. I've been feeling awkward and a bit uncomfortable since I joined. Everyone seems to so awakened and enlightened and I just keep making mistake after mistake. Guess I'm more than a little harsh on myself.

    When I was 3-1/2 years old, I was diagnosed with chronic nephritis...a kidney disease...in the days before dialysis. Was not supposed to live to age 5. Spent more time in hospitals than out until I had my last relapse at 16. Then it was gone, no one understood why, least of all the doctors.

    I share this because being isolated most of my childhood, I did not learn the social skills most people do. I want to reach out but I never know what to say. Oh, I'll try, but it never comes out right. It's very hard to get close to people, and I've been told that I keep them at arms length. It think it's because I always felt like I was a mistake, that there was something wrong with me. I had learned at a very young age to treat every day as though it were my last, because that was a very real possibility...and sometimes I almost wished that would happen because I never felt like I belonged , like I fit in. I was never good enough.

    By sharing your heart and admitting to being human with human thoughts and faults, I don't feel so wrong. I would have felt the same way you did and I'd like to think I would have done the same as you.

    Thank you for sharing your humanity. It has helped this person more than you'll ever know.

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Another beautiful gift. Thank you!



    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    But then the sun rose. It always does.


    "Bill, forgive yourself.


    Indelible Grace - I am humbled
    .... be gentle with your anger. Sixto Rodriguez, Cape Town 20.02.2013

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Quote Posted by Belle (here)
    Bill, Thank you so much for sharing your story. I've been feeling awkward and a bit uncomfortable since I joined. Everyone seems to so awakened and enlightened and I just keep making mistake after mistake. Guess I'm more than a little harsh on myself.

    When I was 3-1/2 years old, I was diagnosed with chronic nephritis...a kidney disease...in the days before dialysis. Was not supposed to live to age 5. Spent more time in hospitals than out until I had my last relapse at 16. Then it was gone, no one understood why, least of all the doctors.

    I share this because being isolated most of my childhood, I did not learn the social skills most people do. I want to reach out but I never know what to say. Oh, I'll try, but it never comes out right. It's very hard to get close to people, and I've been told that I keep them at arms length. It think it's because I always felt like I was a mistake, that there was something wrong with me. I had learned at a very young age to treat every day as though it were my last, because that was a very real possibility...and sometimes I almost wished that would happen because I never felt like I belonged , like I fit in. I was never good enough.

    By sharing your heart and admitting to being human with human thoughts and faults, I don't feel so wrong. I would have felt the same way you did and I'd like to think I would have done the same as you.

    Thank you for sharing your humanity. It has helped this person more than you'll ever know.
    Don't worry about making mistakes, it is an opportunity to learn from them.
    I have been wrong before and I will be wrong again, it isn't a big deal.
    As long as we can extract the lesson from the experience and move on.
    Oh and by the way, there are more misfits here than you may realise now, but you will see.

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Beautiful, Bill !!!
    Thank You for Sharing!
    Personally Experienced 'Higher' Life Lessons and Connections are sooooo Wonderfully Empowering!

    Live Your Lives to the Fullest You are Willing and Able, Folks : )
    We ALL have the Willingness and Abilities...just a Conscious Decision away to put this to full use : )

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    I see you already had that all encompassing gaze.

    Peace

    K

    Few years back took the train out of Calcutta into Darjeeling and then the hill train. Did a fair bit of climbing in the foothills of (K2 iirc might have been the other one)...Quite nice getting lost and having to sleep in villages and captured by the Chinese (not so nice) and held as spies....Stayed in a monastery for a bit it was a bit close getting out as they seemed very keen on me staying.
    Climbing is ace and scary in equal measure. Got rid of the asthma.
    Last edited by K626; 17th February 2011 at 12:35.
    In all ages, in all lands, there have been those who seek truth. This seeking is an individual's search for something more than self, and much more than the confines of this worldly system. It is the seeker, who understands there is more than what meets the eye, who is not afraid and makes the choice to go into the unknown. The process of awaking has begun, the discovery is underway.
    Alan Watt

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    That is most definitely a great tale. Quite speechless but wanted to mention how priceless and exquisite that experience is. No one would want to go though it, but afterwards all the fruits are yours. I am not putting it right. I see how it is a different kind of story to the first, yet related. Thank you.

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Thank You for sharing your story Bill. It shows us all that we are, after all,only human and the choices we make are what counts.

    Belle,

    Thank you for sharing your story this morning. I have been feeling a little down, like I just don't fit here on the forum. Like maybe I just need to take my ball and go play by myself, just like I have had to do all my life, because I'm not "cool enough" to hang out with the other kids. I too am a little "socially disfunctional", I just always have been. I have always felt that I do not belong here on earth, and for the last year all I want to do is quit and go home. I struggle internally to keep on the path.

    I want to thank you for reminding me that there are indeed others like me here.
    God bless you and know that you are loved Belle.

    Charlie
    Last edited by Charlie Pecos; 17th February 2011 at 15:08.

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  28. Link to Post #16
    Netherlands Deactivated
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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    oh my... life is so bitter sweet, yinny and yangy, and grey in between.

    Thanks Bill. You changed a lot of our worlds without knowing it, and maybe we don't stop to thank you enough for helping us let the light in.

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    Great Britain Avalon Member bilko's Avatar
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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Thank you for confiding in us Bill, that was the perfect lesson at the perfect time.
    You made my cheeks glow with a little burst of emotion.

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Thank you for telling us about this Bill. I hope that none of us reading this will ever lose sight of the possibility that we may be obliged to choose between the physical self (all too aware of its' own mortality) and the more durable part of us. Perhaps an apt comparison would be a blacksmith - for some strikes there is only a tiny window of time when the temperature of the work will be right for the blow, and the blow has to be directed exactly if the work is not to be marred.

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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Thanks for sharing, Bill!

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    Canada Avalon Member Nenuphar's Avatar
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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Thank you for sharing your story, Bill. I found it quite moving - made me tear up!

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