This is the conclusion of the story begun in the January 7th post.
By Cindy Ross
Nancy: I can’t believe what I’m seeing. ‘Dig in ! Dig in!’ I yell, but it’s not working. Cindy starts barreling down the slope. As each second passes, she gains tremendous speed! She is flying down the mountain right towards the rocks! I shriek at the top of my lungs, over and over, ‘Oh, my God!’ The moment seems to last forever. . This must be a bad dream. But it isn’t a dream. Cindy has crashed into some rocks.
She’s so far away, I can’t see what part of her body took the impact, but it looked like her backpack hit first and that she flew in the air and landed on some more rocks. Nothing. Not a sound. I’m standing in the dusk, looking down, and I can barely see her body. Is she dead or unconscious? What in the hell am I going to do?
When I finally come to a stop, I just lie there in a dark void. There is a pain shooting up my limbs. There is a pain in my hand. I take off my snow-caked glasses and move my legs, back and forth, bending them at the joints. Everything seems to be working. Suddenly, I hear this frantic scream above me. Wiping my glasses clean, I turn around to see a steep wall of snow and ice above me. Nancy is so far away, she looks like a tiny speck on the mountainside. As my eyes move up to her, they stop on an outcrop of boulders, where skid marks scar the snow. My God, did I go over that?
Nancy: She’s moving! She’s standing up! This is a miracle! How can she possibly stand up after the fall she just took? This can’t be possible. But it is, she’s alive! ‘Cindy!’ I yell, ‘Are you all right?’ What a stupid question, but I’m in such a state of shock. ‘I’m all right!’ she finally answers. . Then I realize: How am I going to get down? My body starts to shake uncontrollably. I have been through an incredible trauma and have little strength left. No way can I traverse all that distance and with each step relive the horrifying image of Cindy falling. I know that I’ll fall too, but I’ll never get up again, as she has. So I try to keep strong and start taking steps. My entire body shivers like a leaf.
I sit here watching Nancy, listening to the lonely sounds of her boots thrusting into the ice and her ax jamming into the bank. I hear a voice from below. “Are you all right?”
“How is Nancy?”
“Not so good!”
Brian tells me not to move, he’s coming up. I see Nancy continuing, angling up the entire time, overshooting the rock outcrop and getting into a broader expanse of snow. . She’s heading toward the worst part of the bowl! How is she going to get down? I sit down, crying, looking out at the clearing sky and spots of sunshine.
Brian is wheezing as he runs up the snow.I’m content to stay put and let him come to me. He hugs me, demands to know if I’m all right.
Then, trading his tire iron, which he grabbed as a makeshift ice ax, for the real thing, he goes up to get Nancy. Once there, he chops a platform in the slope for her to stand on and takes her pack.
He spends quite some time talking to her, calming her down. Then they descend backward, Brian leading, chopping steps as he goes.
It seems to take forever to bring her down. At least an hour to cover the space it took me seconds to fly over.
They make it over to me, and Nancy, who is usually not so affectionate, throws her arms around me and bursts out, “I’m so glad you’re alive!” Brian gives Nancy’s pack back to her and insists on taking mine. “You’ve taken quite a fall,” he says. “You deserve to walk without a pack for a while.”
Taken quite a fall? I’m not aware of it. Then they tell me what really occurred. They said I flew in the air, flipping over two times! I hit the first set of rocks with my feet, my knees buckled, and the force hurled me into space. I somersaulted over the rocks, landed on my stomach, and flipped again before stopping on the second set of rocks.
“It was the most horrifying thing I ever experienced,” Nancy said. “Here was someone I’d lived with for three months, flying to her death. It was petrifying to watch.”
Brian also thought it was all over for me. I’d been up there earlier, trying to go south to meet you and had to back down. I wasn’t sure it was you, but whoever it was, I knew they’d need help. So I shot up the mountain. At one point, I was in a gully, and just as I rose out of it, I heard Nancy scream and saw you fall. I felt sure I’d have to carry you out on a stretcher.”
Both say that if I could have seen what my fall looked like, I’d realize how fortunate I was to be walking around now. Except for a tremendous knot in my stomach, I feel incredibly good. If my glasses hadn’t caked with snow and my body hadn’t gone as limp as a rag doll, I would probably have struggled and fought and hurt myself. It was as if I was picked up and guided by divine hands. That night I write a passage from Psalm 36 in my journal: “With the Lord shall the steps of a man be directed, and he shall light well his way. When he shall fall, he shall not be bruised, for the Lord putteth His hand under him.”