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The Climb of a Lifetime


by Carrie Adams

August 12, 2002

The trees rustled in the warm, steady breeze. I had finally reached the top of the steep cliff. All this climbing without a rope and not falling, I had just finished the first part of my long free ascent. I was exploring a newly found mountain in Bolivia and I was the first Westerner ever to set foot on it. I was not yet out of danger, so my reflexes were still sharp and ready to react.

It was getting dark. I saw the perfect cave to sleep in and took a step inside the dark dent in the mountain but stopped dead in my tracks. Oh no! I turned around to run but I was cornered. The mother snow lioness, the one I had read so much about, was furious. She pounced, but my reflexes took over. I ducked and she landed a couple of feet behind me.

My only chance was the cliff. Without a second thought, I ran towards it and jumped. What had taken me four hours to climb up took ten seconds to fall down. Slap!!! I hit the snow pack with so much impact that it knocked me unconscious.

Suddenly, I woke to find that I had slid from the snow pile into a glacial lake and was twelve feet under water. The pressure and cold water revived me. There was no time to be afraid. I felt nothing but the will to survive. Without hesitation, I slipped off my pack and swam to shore. I crawled onto the coarse rocks and sand and collapsed, completely vulnerable.

The next thing I remember was waking sometime in the middle of the next day. Some strange creatures with big eyes that had been investigating me scurried away hurriedly at my movement. Every muscle in my body ached. I thought about going back to base camp, but decided that the humiliation of returning without reaching the summit would be too great. Despite my aches, I stood up and headed for the cliff to start climbing once again.

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