Banner Peak in the Sierra Nevada mountains was to be my first “real” mountain climb. With ice axes and boots my fellow labmates and I were off to conquer its glacier and altitude challenges. The ride from the San Francisco Bay area terminated at the trailhead above 7000 ft. Without acclimation to the altitude we struggled for many hours for 7 miles to our base camp at 10,200 ft. Exhausted from that experience, only Bob and I decided to go on the next morning. As we navigated the perimeter of the lake, we came to the area of ascent, only to see a bronze plaque dedicated to a climber who lost his life climbing Banner Peak. Undaunted we climbed over rock and then onto the glacier. We ascended to the saddle between Banner and Ritter Peaks. Bob went on to the top but I remained on the saddle, too tired to go further. When Bob returned, we proceeded to ski on our boots down the mountain. It was great fun! Then suddenly a voice within me commanded me, indeed commanded every cell in my body to “STOP!” My body froze instantly. And then I saw it, previously invisible due to the angle of descent, a deep and deadly crevasse not more than three feet in front of me. We had descended too far, below the place at which we had entered. The following year I read in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about three climbers who all died from falling in this same crevasse.
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