In Due Time

Article Index

The others leave. In the gloom, ROBBINS and PRATT remain. A cool breeze has come up from the north.
ROBBINS. I will say it. You are every climber's conscience.
PRATT. I am nothing.
ROBBINS. I feel so changed ... can we not turn back? Return to a time when there were but a few of us? A true community of climbers? O I long to tremble before virgin walls, fearful once more. Where are the unclimbed walls? What have we done to this Valley? And ourselves?
PRATT. The walls are nothing, climbing everything.
ROBBINS. The climbs, then. Shall we climb them again? Will we climb the Salathe Wall yet once more, just the few of us?
PRATT. I do not believe it is our destiny.
ROBBINS. How will we learn to do without the pursuit of challenge, of yet another climb?
PRATT. By understanding that challenge is of the self and of the mind.
ROBBINS. Shall the younger climbers find inner peace and acceptance, and avoid the emptiness of personal glory?
PRATT. I do not know, but I do not think so.
ROBBINS. Will they continue to multiply and cover the rock?
PRATT. Indeed, we have tasted our own hemlock.
ROBBINS. Shall they continue to sell and be sold?
PRATT. Do not the sons inherit the sins of the father? So it is told. The wind becomes stronger, their voices difficult to hear.
ROBBINS. Then tonight the truth has been revealed?
PRATT. Does your soul not know it has been healed?
ROBBINS. Did anyone else hear Salathe?
PRATT. Each in his own way. The wind rises to gale force.
ROBBINS. Is this the end of climbing? Its glory? Its freshness? Its friendship? Its space and freedom? Its infancy? Its innocence? And yes, its absurd and sometimes inhuman ways? How can it be ending, when I feel all is beginning?
PRATT. In the end, even climbing is nothing ... integrity everything.

He says something more, but his words can no longer be distinguished. The two climbers bend into the wind and grope for the trail. In the darkness, they misjudge directions and come to the very edge of the wall. There, they appear to be talking and coming to an agreement. They laugh hysterically. Suddenly, both stand upright and are swept into space.


Ascent, Sierra Club, 1972