Via Alan Arnette comes Daniel Dunn’s account of a SAR operation on Quandary Peak is an excellent read. I don’t know how he managed to capture the essence of climbing in such a short piece but he did:

This particular edge is all funky, rocks going everywhere, it’s off-angle and not clean at all. There is no jumping off involved, it’s more of a belly slide/crawl maneuver, but then I feel my weight being totally on the rope, and I’m hanging. And from here, for me at least, I’m almost on auto pilot. I’m so focused, so involved in the moment, that nothing else matters. I don’t think about the elevation, the drizzle that has started back up, the work that I didn’t do today, the lack of a girlfriend, or any of the other crap in my life. I think about the rock in front of me, keeping my left hand up, and my feet out straight. There is nothing else right now. Ultimate focus.

Colin Dinsmore (red jacket) and Shawn Gorea, set up anchor to lower the missing hikers off a ledge. They are on a pinnacle where the exposure on three sides ranges from 100 to 200 feet, which would most likely result in death should they fall. And then I’m on flat ground, that’s it. About 60 seconds and 200 feet straight down. I call up on the radio, “Off belay”, look up and give the thumbs up. I’m good. Wow! that was incredible, and exactly why I love being high in the mountains. It’s this whole Zen Buddhism thing, being totally committed to the moment, being right here, right now. It’s awesome.

Climbing is, or can be, what a Zen Master friend of mine once referred to as “single minded practice”. Which reminds me of the koan she gave me before one of my climbs:

Who Walks? Never give up until you get the answer….then follow that.

That’s a valid question at any elevation but altitude, physical effort, and a little exposure can sure bring it into focus quickly.

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