Eichorn Pinnacle -- West Pillar III 5.10
4:30 pm 20 June 1992
The after-image of the most recent, deadly million-volt electrical
discharge rips across my vision leaving a jagged path of green-black
blindness as I peer through the wind-driven sleets of hell. The sheer
volume of the crackling explosion of thunder, shaking my bowels
simultaneously with the flash, tells me the lightning scored a direct
hit on the summit, where Jane was anchored by steel and aluminum to the
wet granite lightning rod we have climbed.
The air hums, buzzes and crackles against the hissing and howling of the
tempest, rising in volume and pitch, then sudden eerie silence, a vivid
warning of the next strike.
Rope, no longer taken as I move up, wind-stretched horizontally into the
sky to my right in a desolate, enlarging loop of Saint Elmo's Fire,
entangling my feet, hobbles me, gasping me in panicked
nightmare-slow-motion, the sky a witch's cauldron of cloud, ice, and
sleet plastering the rock in rime-like mushrooms, my medusa wet hair
dancing like things alive. Keep moving. Demons and chittering dark risks
slash at my neck, raking my flesh with their icy sleet-claws.
My mind's eye behind eyelids clenched against the fury of ice-blasted
blinding maelstrom beholds Jane, still anchored to the summit, a
smoking, charred husk, black ash cheeks sunken against bone, her skull
teeth flashing a final, shockingly sickening grin in the context of
cooked flesh of the carbonized corpse, ironically still wearing a green
helmet half-melted to singed hair, stench of burning flesh palpable in
spite of the vortex of wind, me looking into Jane's dead eyes framed by
ash-skin forever in one final look of surprise at this conclusion to our
Up through the drenching violence of the storm to where Jane was last
Summit: The scene is like that of some electrical horror film gone awry:
in the contrast of dark, sleet-curtained gloom and and stark brilliant
strobe of lightning, snow pellets freezing to the granite in a
frictionless verglas, As I summit I see a surge of crackling energy
plasma leap from the highest rock, through Jane's helmet and over to a
secondary high point as another deafening direct hit assaults the top of
the spire.I find my climbing partner hypothermic, shocked and dazed but
alive. She's survived her roll of the dice, and its my turn.
With panicked mumbling hands not working I anchor and lower her from the
summit, cowering, suffering searing shocks as more strikes
burningly electrify the wet rock against my skin, I twitching like a
newly-pinned insect in a sadist-entomologist's bug collection, like a
gibbet-strung corpse whose body does not yet know it is dead. The rope
knots on the summit blocks. Between strikes I fumble the tangles of
rope-slush, listening, *feeling* the growing energy imbalance, cowering
down between the summit blocks as the hornet-buzz like a thousand angry
hives suddenly stops....
Upright again into the lull immediately following the explosion, hoping
the monster will take time to reload, knowing that in two more strikes
like that last one my body will cease to respond to commands, my will
like trying to shout with a mouth stuffed with rags at my limbs' mute
ears... rope finally free, Jane is down, the electrical corona crawls
over my flesh and dances demon-like across the sky, buzzing stops,
Summit carabiners touched with a welder's arc. rope finally set for the
retreat through the sleet, Jane below hunkering in her shorts and
T-shirt frozen dazed Come on we've got to get out of here.
Above, The needle-like spire is suspended in a net of blinding, burning
threads of death as we stumble, drenched, frosted, and nearly destroyed,
down the slabs and through the brush to the shelter of an overhanging
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