There, on the sheer southwest rock face of the widow maker, the concept of “mountain” is too large to grasp. His full attention is concentrated on the red granite six inches in front of his eyes, on the pressure of his body against the rock, on the tiny cracks and concavities that his restless fingers seek and cling to. His consciousness is not one of thought. His mental processes are too tenuous for the subvocalisation of everyday thinking. He is living in the NOW.
To an observer at the foot of the mountain he would be difficult to see, even with powerful glasses; just a speck on a featureless wall of grey-pink rock in its own perpetual shadow. But there is no observer. He is alone as he inches his way up.
He cannot see the top. A vast overhang bellies out above him. He frees a hand to feel the bulging rock and encounters a foreign object, a piton; someone has been here before. It feels firm enough, but he taps it with his axe. The metal pin raps his helmet and streaks silently by on its two hundred metre fall.
His fingers find a neigbouring crack, and he hammers one of his precious stainless steel pitons until it is immovable. Snapping a link to his harness, he gradually lets it take his weight. So far, so good. He spins slowly like a spider on its thread. He reaches out and steadies himself, seeking the next anchor point. Slowly he continues upwards.
At last the summit, or at least the summit of the cliff like rock face; the mountain itself still looms high, its upper peaks shrouded in misty cloud. It seems utterly indifferent o him so he turns his back on the glowering heights.
He makes careful preparations, stowing his climbing gear in a haversack. He checks his parachute. Unreliable things, parachutes; but surely more reliable than pitons.
He leaps off the mountain.
H.St.V.Beechey 1993