Fall down ice covered mountain
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Jim Buckley vividly remembers a fall he had while ice climbing in Wales, almost 30 years ago. He was on Cwm Glas in the Snowdon area. There had been a long hard freeze and the ice was solid. Using crampons and a borrowed ice axe, he started ascending a frozen stream bed, angled between 50 and 70 degrees. He quickly got into a rhythm, swinging his axe so that it bit into the ice. On one swing, however, the axe just bounced off the frozen sheet of water. Buckley lost his balance and fell backward. In the split second before he fell, he remembers an 'extraordinary sense of time arrested clarity'. Then as he tumbled down the mountain, how time stretched.
'First came the thought that I was about to die. The rest was an overwhelmingly clear sense of the multitude of threads that had been leading to this precise moment. Threads such as my head teacher at school when I told her I was going climbing one weekend, saying, 'You take care Jim'. My love for my partner Ronwen and our children. Regret at having depended on a borrowed ice axe. The knowledge that for the past five minutes the ice axe hadn't felt right, it had been shouting a barrage of severe warnings at me. The realisation that I was about to pay the price for having failed so dismally to spot the signals. And curiosity – wondering if I was going to die, and what it would be like.
He wasn't wearing a helmet. Instinctively he covered his head with his arms. He remembers a crashing, bouncing and somersaulting down the rocky section, then hitting a shallower and smoother snow slope.
'I thought, wow I'm doing well. But I knew that there were some cliffs below and that if I went over them I'd be finished off. I thought, Ah I have to execute a self arrest with the ice axe. How does one do that again?'
He rolled onto his belly, brought the axe up to his shoulder, dug the adze into the snow and came to a halt. A few more feet and he's have been over the edge of the cliffs. His fall – during which he considered the advice of a former teacher, his love for his wife and family, the condition of his borrowed ice axe and the details of a self rescue manoeuvre – had lasted only a few seconds.
The source of the experienceOrdinary person
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
From Explorers of the Infinite – Maria Coffey