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

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

    Thanks Bill. What a great story. We are, after all, only human. Sometimes we are super human.
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone when we are uncool." From the movie "Almost Famous""l "Let yourself stand cool and composed before a million universes." Walt Whitman

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    Moderator (on Sabbatical) Joe from the Carolinas's Avatar
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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Bill thank you so much for sharing this experience. It can be difficult for outdoors folks to talk about the inner struggle when things turn south, and it is reassuring to see you discuss it. It's a struggle that introductory level training glances over. The moment during a remote adventure when 'everything's great' changes to 'everything has completely taken a nose dive' can be jarring.

    The thing needed the most at that point (TIME to process, to think) is exactly the thing that is missing. You guys must have been incredibly tired and drained, hanging there in the rain after such an experience. Thank goodness you had such familiarity and experience with the mechanics of climbing to fully express your instinct to save him, and then later process with him what was happening on your end

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



    The mods have just been talking between themselves about the balance between fear and action. For those who've not read this story, it's about a powerful and dramatic formative experience I had when I was still quite young, and lived to tell the tale.

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

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    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."

    A perfect example of letting life live to the full, in good choices first and foremost for others!

    We do not have to wonder what choices we should make but we must now choose what to ask for ourselves:
    What if you allowed yourself to let go of your fears? How would your life become different?

    Escalating life we ​​practice the continuity of the will.

    A mountain of fear can become a mountain of responsibility for any spiritual being.
    The responsibility begins with experiencing joy, a life full of meaning and to validate individual freedom we build with moral courage, the value of the unique work of paradigmatic art in equilibrium, in which our only participatory and conscious role is:

    Emancipation of the awakening force of the spirit and soul, the great epochal awakening, the transformation of a cultural vision of consciousness, the exaltation of the spiritual revelation in this critical moment of evolution, the preservation of the sovereignty of our free will and the implication of our existence of all and only together in the magnificent life cycle and love in the gigantic and sensational steps of an entire cosmos and beyond.

    Climb every day a mountain, fight for the joy of those around you, because, between the determinism of facing the "shadow" and the tension of the contradictions in society, there is the well-documented exception of our free spirit!

    Listen to the song of your soul and stay in every second lovers of people and beautiful!

    LIFE begins where fear ends! -Osho
    Every human is a question asked to the Spirit of the Universe,again and again,because every human is an endless row of humans and in all humans together dwelling the Great Human Spirit.

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  9. Link to Post #85
    United States Avalon Member Mike's Avatar
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    Default Re: A day in the mountains: a tale of forgiveness

    Excellent story. I've read it many times now, and it never ceases to enthrall me.

    Maybe a dumb question for you Bill. It's to do with rappelling down a mountain:

    After your partner has descended the rope, and after you descend, how on earth do you remove the anchor from the rock when it's so high above you now?

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