Drew slowly panned his face upward toward the graying sky that was peering over the edge of El Capitan. The wind had started to pick up not long ago and Drew was smart enough to know that over that edge a front was moving in fast. Yosemite was known for its brilliant electrical storms, often acres and acres of forest would be engulfed in flame from one good hit. The tall peaks of the mountains surrounding the valley were like a beacon as well, and right now Drew and his companion below him were sitting ducks. Drew looked up at the more than two thirds left in the three thousand foot climb before them. His friend Todd had suggested they take “the nose,” the once thought impossible south route that sat between the southwest and southeast face. No turning back was the best option. Drew swayed a bit and looked down at Todd, dangling fifty or so feet below him.
“Hey! I’m reckoning there’s a wicked front coming in from over the mount, I don’t see us finishing this today!” Drew hollered out as a roll of thunder bellowed over off the mountain.
Todd looked up towards his friend nervously as the thunder boomed, “Yeah, I think your right. Let me adjust the carabineer and I’ll start descending.”
Todd fingers fumbled at the clip as Drew moved his rope out of Todd’s way. Suddenly a flash cut the sky. A brilliant flash blinded the world as a bolt as hot as the surface of the sun seared through Drew’s rope. Scrambling as fast as he could Drew got a foot hold and clung to rock face for dear life. Todd hardly had time to look up before the ear bleeding crack of the thunder’s sonic boom hit him. With a fast jerk, Todd’s hand pulled fast, snapping the carbineer. Holding on tight to rope, Todd nervously looked up at his friend clinging on tight.
“Drew!” Todd screamed. “Are you alright?”
Drew held on to the wall his legs and arms strained in pain as they held him upright against El Capt. He could barely make out Todd’s words over the paingful ringing in his ears.
“Yeah, I’m good…stuck… but good. How you doing?”
Todd wrapped his legs around the rope to help hold him. “I’m ok, stuck too, though. The carabineer snapped in two.”
“Well that’s fucking good equipment you got there, ain’t it?” Drew laughed nervously. “Move so I can grab the rope, this is exhausting.’’
Todd looked up at Drew then back down to the ground before looking back at his friend.
“Why don’t you throw me the Carabineer? I can go down, then I’ll move the rope for you.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Drew balked. “Your gonna move a rope attached a thousand feet above you and just hope that I catch it before I plummet to my death?”
“Well if not I can at least go get help” Todd retorted loudly. “I’ll go down and get help and you down in no time.”
“You’re fucking high!” Drew grunted as he used his upper arms to give him more leverage. “You’re not sliding down like a happy kindergartener and leaving me on this rock to die.”
Another flash of white lighting shot pass them into the canyon as another loud crash throbbed the air around them.
“Then what are we going to do, Drew?” Todd bellowed. “If we don’t do something we are both going to die here!”
Drew moved his leg slowly, getting a better footing and strained a bit to push his torso up for a better grasp.
“Ok, listen. I have an idea.” Drew heaved his body more through his heavy breathing. “I am going to climb over to your rope, and then I’m going to make my way down and we are going to share my carabineer to get us both down.”
“You don’t even know if it’s weighted for that kind of weight, Drew!”
“Do you have a better idea that doesn’t leave one of us stranded up here? Anyway, the carabineer is weight tested… it will hold us.”
Drew didn’t wait for an answer as he slowly crossed the walls face. Each movement burned his muscles; each grip was a moment towards death or a moment towards success. Grunting and straining slowly he moved over the fifteen feet to Todd’s rope. With the wind starting to howl, he pushed his frame flat against the rock face. The rain which first started as soft drops soon pelted them both with hard drops and small hail. Looking down he saw Todd being swung like a clock pendulum. Finally after what seemed an eternity Drew’s now cut and sore hand grasped the rope.
“I’m here!” Drew yelled in victory looking down at his friend still clinging to the life line of the rock.
Inch by inch Drew slide down the rope, the hard fibers cut into his wounds. Gritting his teeth he took the pain as he inched down, finally resting just above Todd. Carefully Drew moved his body to again grip the rock wall and started to move down ward till he was equal with Todd.
“Todd I want you to slip my carabineer between both out harness loops.
Drew moved again now in front of Todd as Todd carefully reached out and attached the carabineer. With the click Drew and Todd slowly let their full body weight pull on the rope. The rope and carabineer held fast.
“Ha! I told you!” Drew snipped in pleasure. “This will hold us just fine.”
Todd glared at Drew, “Let’s just get off this damn rock, OK?.”
Drew nodded in agreement as both men moved down the rope and to safety.