by Steve House
An excerpt from Beyond the Mountain
June 24, 2000 - “You’re on belay Steve,” Scott says before I have time to look up from organizing the ice screws and nuts and pitons. I climb up 10 feet, place a good stopper in a crack, and lower 15 feet down to my left to gain a ramp. The topo shows this to be ice, but the ice is gone now. The protection is very sparse and the exposure – 1,000 feet of overhanging rock below – is absolute. I belay again, and when Mark arrives before Scott he takes over belaying Scott. I pull off my gloves and breathe on my numb fingers. Vaguely I register the sunrise on Mount Hunter. Wordlessly Mark takes what gear he has and puts it on my harness.
The next pitch starts with steep climbing right above the belay; I know it will be the final piece of this crux section. With butterflies in my stomach, I reach up, twist my picks into a crack, and swing my right heel up high and out to the side. Needing the sensitivity of bare skin, I pull off my gloves with my teeth and stab them into my jacket for safekeeping. I get myself up onto a one-inch edge. My fingers are completely numb. I press them against the hot flesh of my neck to bring back sensation. I place a cam in the rock, replace my gloves, and resume climbing.