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M  I  K  E     G  O  R  D  O  N

Denali

     The first rope line to head down was Henrik, me and Wayne, in that order. Henrik Jones, a brainy kid in the MBA program at Harvard Business School, went over the edge as I eased my way closer to it, waited for him to go lower, keeping the line taut lest he fall. I waited; and waited.  The second line was impatient for us to move over the ridge. Gordy walked up to me and shouted over the gale, "Mike, what's going on?"

     "I don't know. I'm waiting for Henrik to move lower," I said.

     Gordy walked over to the edge and there stood Henrik on the rim of the abyss. He was waiting for me–afraid of pulling me over if he continued lower.

     Gordy bellowed, "Henrik, get your ass moving!" and down we went.

     Fine snow swirled around me and larger chunks of ice and snow fell on my head from above, down the vertical wind tunnel of an avalanche chute, where I dangled in space on the multi-colored rope. We were enshrouded in cloud; couldn't see anything beyond the rock and ice face, that pinkish pastel rope and each other–not a bad thing.

     I had not cut sufficiently large air holes in the bottom of the bandage covering my frostbitten nose.  I felt like I was suffocating, and Wayne, despite of my hollering up at him, continually allowed too much slack in the line causing it to get dangerously entangled in my crampons.

     Arriving back at Camp III, Scott Wollems, another Denali guide said, "If I had been your guide, you would never have summited."

     "What do you mean?" I asked.

     "I don't do nighttime summits," he said.

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