Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock-Climbing

Battling on to Cyclops Eye
By Royal Robbins
  |  Gorp.com
Page 3 of 4   |  

We all started pushing as fast as safety would allow, for fear of a bivouac on a blank wall in rainstorm. We climbed onward, searching, always searching. Searching for handholds and footholds, for piton cracks and the right piton. And searching ourselves for the necessary human qualities to make this climb possible. Searching for adventure, searching for ourselves, searching for situations that would call forth our total resources. For some it is a search for courage. Perhaps if we can learn to face the dangers of the mountains with equanimity, we can also learn to face with a calm spirit the chilling spectre of the inevitable death.

Rain had begun before we reached the shelter of the Cyclops Eye, well after dark. The Eye is a great hole in the rock, 200 feet high and 30 feet deep. We would be sheltered from the rain as long as the air was still. That evening, we were serenaded through our radio by our good friend Mort Hempel, singing rare and beautiful folk songs. As leaves are wafted by a breeze, so our spirits soared upward on the exquisite melodies of Mort's art.

The rain ceased next morning, but clouds persisted. The forecast was a three-day storm. We had already begun to ration food, so it would be a close contest. Yvon led. He moved with cat-like grace which belied the difficulty of the free climbing up the loose flakes and shattered black rock. Then Tom nailed horizontally forty feet in a lead of exceptional severity. Late in the day Yvon led to the top of the Eye. This was the sort of pitch one never wants to do again, as it involved placing large angle pitons straight up between loose, overhanging blocks. The return to the bivouac ledge after dark was an exhaustingly slow and hazardous process.

Published: 22 Sep 2003 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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