Stephen Fahey – Day Three

Clarence is gone. He’s just gone. We were turned back by a storm after passing the Step. We were on top of the abyss when an icy wall of wind smashed into us like a tsunami. We were so close to the top. It was me and then Murray, with Clarence last. He just missed his footing, by two inches, right as he unclipped from the fixed rope. Only, he over the abyss. The weight of his gear tipped him off his centre of gravity. And he shouted to us. And Murray grabbed at him. But he was out of reach. Again by only by a few inches. As soon as he fell he pierced the clouds and they snapped shut– around where his broad frame had gone through them – just like dropping a pebble into a glass of milk. All that remained were his huge footprints next to our feet.

Murray and I just stood there, numb in our minds and our hearts as much as in our bodies. We all accept the risks and we have all lost friends before, but were so sure this time. Clarence was so experienced – more experienced than either of us. As we stood there beside the edge, staring into the misty blank we couldn’t feel the storm battering our faces until Murray finally heard Bishal scream into the radio for us to get back to our tents. We might make an attempt again in the morning. Bishal has already radioed down the mountain to arrange for Clarence’s body to be recovered, if it can be. Oftentimes bodies can’t. And I’ll have to call back to Susan tonight. Oh God.

On top of everything, we still haven’t reached the summit. We have to. Now it’s for Clarence and his family even more so than for us. He was right there. Right fucking there! Murray will never forgive himself, nor will I. Even as I write this now it still isn’t real. He can’t be gone. Even though we saw him die he can’t be gone. Not Clarence.

Bishal has brought me the satellite phone. Climbers from Camp II agreed to search from the body at first light once the storm passes. Right now I don’t want to summit. I don’t want this. I want to be with Maria and the kids.

Until tomorrow…

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