The Gambit




The fierce sun blades that had seared through the rich cobalt of the morning sky to singe the exposed parts of my face, were now trapped behind a frosty sheet of ice blue gloom. The day had augured well for a successful climb. But trust the whim of the fickle mountain weather for the sudden turn. Mount Frey rose like a colossus of snow beyond Rathong glacier, the beauty of its verglas cragged might commanding my genuflection - literally.  How could they abandon me?!  I reacted with bitterness when I realized that the light snowfall had covered up their tracks. The team leader of the expedition and six others of our group were nowhere within my sight. The trek up from base camp had been exhausting. The sudden mistiness and snowfall had made me straggle. I was now off course with a full-blown blizzard brewing.  It had taken only a split second of unguarded impercipience before taking my next step over the soft snow. I found my right limb sinking swiftly into a crevasse which could well be over forty meters deep.  Stay! Commanded a primordial instinct, alerting every cell and nerve.  The ice-axe swung in reflex to crack a grapnel hold on the edge at arm’s length. Blood rushed to my face. I felt the centre of my body curl up and beat wildly against the ribcage. A draught of tiny icicles whooshed out with my heavy breath. My left knee bent and braced at the edge, forcing a break in the fall. Half my body hung between the ice walls of the fissure. My arms were daubed on the freezing surface of the slippery glacier.  You have to keep moving on the climb even if you’re tired. A pause could freeze you to death. I remembered the warning but never imagined being detained so precariously on ground zero. Not a soul was in sight. It was just the elements and my gambit for survival.  I tried pulling myself up agitatedly but slipped further down. Panic struck with a mad buzzing between the ears. The snowstorm was then nigh overhead. My crampon-clamped boots kicked into the ice for a foothold so I could leverage my weight on the ice axe.  Believe you can do this I made my brain consume the thought and pushed myself up only to be slapped with a volley of snow. I saw no option but to hang in there till the elements settled. I had a Zen realization that nothing but my breath was under my control then.  I heard myself say: Now breathe in. You are not your body. Breathe out. You are not even your mind. Everything will be better if we accept the inevitable.  Okay. That kind of helps.  I smiled.  An eternity elapsed before it grew quiet. The blizzard had passed. As I finally clawed out of the crevasse, I was glad for the fall. Else nothing would’ve sheltered me from perishing on the open mountainside in the storm.    Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!