Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock-Climbing

Making the Summit
By Royal Robbins
  |  Gorp.com
Page 4 of 4   |  

While Chuck and I had been preparing the bivouac at dusk, menacing clouds, like sharks of various sizes racing after their prey, scudded toward us on a strong south wind. That night, the edge of a great storm moved east over California. Throughout central and northern California southerly gales swept the land, and the dry earth soaked up the downpours. As the storm rose to pass the Sierra, the rain turned to snow at 7,000 feet. There we sat, in the furious, inky night, lashed by wind and rain, tiny mites tied to a great rock. Yet the rock itself was dwarfed by the majestic whirlpool of air moving out of the Pacific, and this same storm was just a small blotch on the earth's surface. The earth in turn would be a mere dot on the sun, and there are suns many thousands of times larger than that fiery orb giving us life. Mankind is truly insignificant. Man's fate, indeed, is to have to swallow these truths and still live on. If one could only find meaning to make these hard truths of insignificance and omnipresent death acceptable. Where to find this meaning? Again the search... and we climb on.

The storm abated in the morning and through the mist we perceived the Sierra had donned its winter coat of white. We were sodden. Tom especially had had a bad night. The previous day's climbing had been tough and Tom, always a big eater, was suffering from the stringent diet. The new forecast was encouraging. The storm, instead of continuing eastward through California, had taken a north-eastern tack and spared us several days of rain or snow. We climbed on through light shower that day, flabbergasted at the continuing challenges. A climb with such unrelenting difficulties was a new experience to us.

Next morning, nature smiled. The eastern sun, with beams of warmth, cut the crisp clean air, while the white panorama of the High Sierra, the gentle wilderness, stretched from north-east to south-east, a deep blue sky arching above. Half Dome, as ever stood sublime, a new cap of white on its bald head. We felt joyous to be greeted by such a magnificent morning. The beauty, the expectation of certain success, and the sun's heat made our blood race. All around us the exquisite splendor of these friendly mountains added to our elation. As John Harlin has said, "such beauty... turns satisfaction to pure joy." Six hours later we had overcome the last problems and shook hands on top, happy as pagans.


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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