My hands gripped the rock. My right climbing shoe barely rested on the hold while my left struggled to find some purchase. To my right, I could see a spot for my hand, but when I tried to reach it, the strain was too much. I withdrew my hand back, my feet pushing against the rock in an attempt to relieve some of the weight of my body from my hands.
“You have to move over the arete. Hang off the hold with your hands. Put your foot on the hold on the right. There’s a hold for your hand. Move your weight to the right.” Cliff showered me with directions from above.
“Shut up,” I hollered, “I’m already trying it.”
I concentrated on the rock before me, moved my right leg and foot back to the holds, and, spread-eagled, pushed off with my left foot, and suddenly I was there, on the other side, safe and sound, both my legs stable.
“Did you see me?” I screamed. “I totally did it. Did you see me? Did you see?” I scrambled up the remaining rock to Cliff’s anchor.
Now was the time for the climb to yield some of its difficulty, become easier, more enjoyable. But no. The Matterhorn was not done with us yet. We continued up a chimney, a corner, up sheer faces, over rocks that seemed placed there especially in order to block our way, until finally, I just knew: one more pitch and we’re there. The summit plateau.
“I don’t need to go to the summit,” I told Cliff. “I just want to get down.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Cliff answered, “but I think we have to get over the summit in order to go down.”
|The summit plateau was not flat|
The summit plateau looked like a badly-built dry wall of single-placed mismatched boulders. Cliff waited behind as I slid down one boulder into a hole created by rocks on the other side. Then he, watching his step, joined me. We repeated this pattern, moving one after the other, tied with the rope, till finally, above us, we could see the summit.
Inside a crack on the summit sits a metal box, and inside the box lies a book, the summit journal. Inside the book, in my handwriting, are written a few words: “Long day. Harder than we expected. Glad to be done. Sigal T and Cliff A. June 13th 2012.”
|View from below the summit|
We had finished most of our water. It had taken us three hours to get to the base of the climb and nearly six to climb the mountain. The time was 4pm, Dar was expecting us back at 5, and we still had the fearsome descent to face: the nearly vertical scree leading down to the base of the Matterhorn and the steep glacier. We sat down below the summit and finally had our lunch while trying to identify our favorite Yosemite landmarks: the Unicorn, Cathedral Peak, Mount Conness, Hetch Hetchy, maybe even Clouds Rest in the distance.
At last, back in hiking shoes, we headed down the slope. “Slowly and carefully,” I reminded myself. Cliff is experienced and safe. I was in good hands.
Later, as the sun set behind the mountains, painting them red, Dar and I sat on the rocks by Tarn Lake. Mosquitos buzzed everywhere around us, and Dar leaned toward me and gave me a kiss. “Happy year-and-a-half winkaversary, honey,” he said.
|Safe and sound|
I had made it. I had climbed the Matterhorn and came back alive, just in time to celebrate the eighteen-months anniversary of sending that wink on match.com to the man I love.