There I was, high above the ground, clinging to a smooth, blue wall of ice with nothing, but a couple of ice axes and foot spikes. The thrilling, but queasy feeling of such exposure was quickly setting into my state of mind and my body. And yet, I had a challenge to overcome and a goal to reach. I set my mind to the task at hand and swung my right axe and then my left into the sheer, blue wall. The ice shattered as I drove my picks home and rained down on my helmet. I raised my right axe again and swung it higher into the ice above me. I did the same with my left. As I started moving upwards, my ice axes suddenly broke loose and a feeling of weightless filled me as I started to fall. As my adrenaline kicked in, I quickly and frantically swung an axe hard back into the ice, arresting my fall, which would have only amounted to a foot or two from the slack of the rope to which I was securely attached.
Although hardly a death defying experience, for someone who is not the biggest fan of heights, I did experience the thrill of breaching my comfort zone and I was for a moment able to truly appreciate the chilling feeling of utter precariousness and exposure that Krakauer had to endure on his several thousand foot climb up the sheer, ice covered walls of the Devil’s Thumb. And even though on my adventure I was securely attached to a rope, this experience gave me a window into the lives of mountaineers, such as Krakauer, of what it is like to be terrifyingly exposed and what it takes to be able to mentally and physically overcome one’s fear in order to complete the climb and achieve that overwhelming sense of success that only comes from accomplishing thrilling and dangerous adventures.