Wednesday, 14 September 2011

This Week: John Muir....on the edge of the abyss

John Muir-hard core all action hero in his heyday!

"Falling forward hard, my hands struck the walls of the chasm, my arms were twisted behind me, and instantly both shoulders were dislocated. With my paralyzed arms flopping helplessly above my head, I slid swiftly down the narrow chasm. Instinctively I flattened down on the sliding gravel, digging my chin and toes into it to check my descent; but not until my feet hung out over the edge of the cliff did I feel that I had stopped. Even then I dared not breathe or stir, so precarious was my hold on that treacherous shale. Every moment I seemed to be slipping inch by inch to the point when all would give way and I would go whirling down to the glacier.
After the first wild moment of panic when I felt myself falling, I do not remember any sense of fear. But I know what it is to have a thousand thoughts flash through the brain in a single instant—an anguished thought of my young wife at Wrangell, with her imminent motherhood; an indignant thought of the insurance companies that refused me policies on my life; a thought of wonder as to what would become of my poor flocks of Indians among the islands; recollections of events far and near in time, important and trivial; but each thought printed upon my memory by the instantaneous photography of deadly peril. I had no hope of escape at all. The gravel was rattling past me and piling up against my head. The jar of a little rock, and all would be over. The situation was too desperate for actual fear. Dull wonder as to how long I would be in the air, and the hope that death would be instant— that was all.

Then came the wish that Muir would come before I fell, and take a message to my wife. Suddenly I heard his voice right above me. "My God!" he cried. Then he added, " Grab that rock, man, just by your right hand." I gurgled from my throat, not daring to inflate my lungs, " My arms are out." There was a pause. Then his voice rang again, cheery, confident, unexcited, "Hold fast; I'm going to get you out of this.'

This week...tales of mountaineering heroics from the father of conservation and environmentalism-John Muir. From almost a century ago,Samuel Young recounts being totally incapacitated in a serious mountain fall and the dramatic single handed rescue conducted by John Muir.