Thursday, April 2, 2015


Meditation on the PASSOVER LAMB+  ~ ~ ~  Our PASCHA

Part 2 

Adapted and condensed from James Ramsey Ullman's 
"TOP MAN"  short story, 1953
under the Fair Use Act
Not for profit... except as it may profit the soul. 

( Story continued from yesterday... )

Camp 7 was only 200 feet ... yes, 200 treacherous feet with death in every step... from the top of K3, a peak never before conquered by man.

Then, suddenly what we dreaded happened: a snow-storm hit camp 7 and the peak of K3, only 200 feet above us! Vicious wind, stinging snow, and deep drifts hanging out at angles, deceptive, off the rocky ledges... and all this to endure in a thin-oxygenated atmosphere.

The vicious snow storm finally ceased and then a worse condition hit: the sun shone brightly in a clear blue sky.  

For three days it shone, melting down the top layer of snow, the deep temperatures forming a thin crust... a deceptive crust... on top of the snow. 

We three men waited out the storm and sunshine in camp 7. One day... two days... three days we waited more. Waiting and waiting for the snow to harden deeply or blow away, grown men used to laborious climbing daily, our nerves were on edge. 

During that time, we were barely able to talk due to the thin oxygen at that high altitude of 26,500 feet. We had to use our emergency oxygen canisters after a few sentences. Much movement was out of the question. After the third day, Martin realized the snow cover was receiving 12 hours of sun daily...  and still unsafe.   
Slowly, evenly, Martin said, "Men, we will have to return to camp 6 tomorrow. Our supplies are running low. The snow crust is still too unstable, with all this sun shine. We cannot wait any longer."

" NO !" Paul snarled, glaring at Martin, then gasping for air. “We are only 200 feet from the top and after all this time... return to camp 6... 200 feet from the top? Out of the question!  I am not returning now !"

"Paul, I am the senior mountaineer in charge. You have no choice. I have weighed the conditions --- I've seen them before --- and it is too dangerous to proceed," Martin said, before collapsing on his cot, heaving deeply for oxygen before finding his canister.

"Who said you knew all about this mountain? Are you infallible? What right do you have to tell me what to do?" Paul griped, hoarsely.

"The truth is, you are too old to do this climb. You do not have what it takes to be top man.

“So, if you are too afraid to climb it, you refuse to allow anyone else to do it, that's what!" Coughing and collapsing onto his cot, Paul was forced to stop throwing angry barbs at Martin.

The men ceased talking, beaten by a lack of oxygen and despair, and buttoned up for the night, the last night at camp 7.

Shortly after midnight, I awoke. Something was wrong. I flashed my light about. Martin was putting on his outer boots. "What is happening?" I cried.

"Paul's gone; I'm going after him," Martin said. "Wait.  I'm coming with you," I told Martin, as I removed myself from my cot and reached for my outer boots.

We roped ourselves together, and after about a hour of slow, laborious climbing, we saw Paul as he was starting up the peak. He did not see us, however, but in about 30 minutes more we had come close enough to hail him.

Suddenly, Martin tensed and pointed. I looked. 

On K3's peak, there were two ways to climb to the top. One was a laborious chimney-type climb up an ice-covered rocky face. The other way was around the rocky face, on treacherous, narrow cornices of crusty snow from the last storm.

Paul, unroped, had chosen to ascend by the snow-covered ledges. We watched him carefully put down his pole, test each step, and then move his body forward cautiously.

Careful as he was, however, Paul did not see what we saw from our vantage point: underneath his snowy ledge there was no rock.

He was only held up by the crusted snow which had melted then frozen during the night.  Underneath that deceitful crust was 10,000 feet of blue air.

Martin, weak from the climb in the thin air, called, "Paul, Paul, come back!"

 Paul turned, stopped, looked confused.  I hollered, " Danger! Come back." 

Paul lifted his pole for his next step, then ...  The snow where he was about to plunge his pole simply vanished. Blue sky was all that was left for his next step.

Martin found strength to holler, " Paul, don't move! Don't move an inch! "

Intense concentration wrote itself over Paul's face.

Meanwhile, Martin had edged forward finding toe-holds on narrow rocky ledges... some 5 inches wide or less.  He inched within 6 feet of Paul on one of those slim ledges.

"Paul, I'll hold out my ax. When I say 'JUMP,' grab the ax head and jump to my ledge," Martin said, gasping for air. “I will pull you. There is enough room for both of us.”

Paul nodded, tensing for the jump.

Focusing intensely, Martin steadied his ax horizontally and immediately called

"JUMP !" 

... and Paul landed onto the narrow ledge, crouching down, hugging the rock with his toes and gripping the ax in his hands. 

The snow crust on which he had been standing had disappeared without a whisper.

( Final part of the story to be continued tomorrow... )

+  +  +

WHO+ taketh away
the sin of the world, 
have mercy upon me. 

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