Swaramandal

Article Index

Above all, Swaramandal, like the Indian musical instrument after which it is named, speaks in a sound beyond hearing. Poetic fragments stir our senses and leave us with traces of meaning. Pictures catch personalities off-hand, scrapbook fashion, yielding brief impressions. Here we find the essence of climbing is in fleeting joy and glory, fast moving like cloud shadows on granite, or youthful days in the mountains, forever irretrievable. Listen to the moments, simply hewn and passing like the exhilaration of climbing itself:

- "Our ride from Boulder to the Black Canyon a one-way affair, we have to figure a way back. ... A switchman opens a caboose for us. 'Warm up. Go to sleep if you want. They'll wake you later.' Briggs resembles a corpse as he dozes. ... A switch-engine slams us. We run out, a train humming, and jump on as it goes. . . . We wake up in blackness, suffocating in Diesel smoke, close to home. We wonder if it is night or day. The train's horns blast. We hit East Portal and meet morning, blue skies, and mountain valleys where a foot of snow has fallen. . . ."
- "Our ropes are ice ... and lock into cracks above us. Larry saves my life, as I claw at a crumbling ledge. A hundred and fifty feet above the ground, shivering, exhausted, our minds going wild, we decide to sit. . . . Stories we have read. European climbers found under heaps of verglas. We have a flashlight with us and shine it at the road. ... A rescue team appears . . . two shadows in the dark cut their way up a rotten, snow-encrusted chimney, traverse a ledge, rappel to us, and get us down. On the ground, waiting, climbers grapple with the scree, radioing back and forth amongst themselves like a British fleet. . . ."
- "Royal asks a cow for directions in a lost valley south of Castleton Tower; the windshield wipers break in a rain storm; we are skidding and sliding above sheer drops . . . coasting on a twenty-mile hill on the reserve tank, cheering as we go over the last bump into Moab."