That One Time: Double Vision

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That One Time Double Vision Kelly Cordes

Illustration: Sarahjane Bernhisel

The old quip goes that an alpinist’s finest asset is a short memory. Without it, you’d never revisit the world of cold, wet, and scared. But I knew I would remember this climb, an icefall that spilled hundreds of feet down a cliff band above Little Rock Creek in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains. That winter, in the mid-90s, two local veterans had spied the line and given it a go. Easier frozen tiers yielded to sustained vertical, where the ice dwindled to chandeliers and verglas, spitting off the leader, injuring his ankle, and forcing a crawl out. Out of respect, I asked if they minded if I tried the line. They gave me their blessing.

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