I went to bed last night thinking about the three climbers (two Texans and a New Yorker) who have been stranded on Mt. Hood for a week. One of the three was injured at 11,000 feet, and the other two dug him a snow cave, called for help on a cell phone, and started down the mountain to guide rescuers. None have been heard from since, and seventy mile per hour winds and whiteout conditions have made the mountain unsafe for searchers.
I have read almost every book the Eugene library has about mountaineering accidents. Just last night, while the local news was focused on the Hood climbers, I finished a story about a man who spent two nights alone on Denali with compound fractures to both ankles. Despite being cold, he was forced to stuff his legs into a snow-filled backpack to stop the bleeding. He sat on an eighteen-inch ledge, not knowing if help would reach him before he died. The dense cloud cover finally cleared enough for a helicopter to lower a rescuer by a 200-foot rope.
Many climbers have lost all their fingers and toes to frostbite, if not their hands and feet as well. Yet, many of these people go back and re-climb the very mountain that nearly killed them. Climbing is a strange passion, and one which I might have known nothing had Peggy not caught the bug.
She is now reading a book (Angels in the Wilderness by Amy Racina) by a woman who broke both legs while hiking alone in a remote region of the High Sierras. Even as Amy lay on the granite looking at her bones protruding from her flesh, one of the thoughts that crossed her mind was how sad she would be if she never got to make another such trip.
Posted by Snowbrush