May 18, 2000
8:49pm. I have defecated in many spectacular locations. This is one of the best. Now at a cliff leading to the summit of the Mountain of Death, I stand on a boulder wearing only bracelets and
necklaces. A fresh breeze tickles. No rules for miles.
"Yop, yop, yop!" calls a bird from a mountain top. A pair of parrots just flew by, squawking like
they had something important to say. I wonder what it was? "Tweedle-dee... tweedle-dee" sings a song bird
with glee. A bird of prey glides with easy over a green grove of trees. I am in a bird watchers wet
dream. I am animal. I am free.
An uninvited guest is visiting me for dinner. I know it wonít eat much, but it can be a real pain. Time to
go my friend. You tick me off-- gotta pick you off, Mr. Tick.
I just lost my balance and fell off this rock, close to a tangled mess of thorny, prickly
barb-wire-like-bushes and jagged rocks. Iīm not hurt.
The boulder on which I stand is on the crest of a ridge in the saddle of a mountain pass. To my right,
the east, patches of silver salt water on a green quilt of mangrove-- the estuary labyrinth I navigated
to get here. To my left, mountains and valleys uncarved by man, then flat plains disappear behind a
vale of mist. Over head, a blue hole is filling with gray clouds. Heaven is here-- not out there. The
Garden of Eden is real-- in a state of mind.
Adam and eve, many believe, were perfect before they wore clothes. I agree. I got goose bumps and no more ticks. Rising over the mountain, the sun warms my shoulders. I must climb this beast before the heat
of mid-day. Clothes are a good thing, too, for protection.
Back and forth an eagle soars near to check me out; like a kite without a strings, it hangs in the air
without flapping its wings. Does it question its existence-- the purpose of life? Why do I live-- to
conquer this "Mountain of Death?"
10:23pm. I'm thinking about how I always wanted to be like Indiana Jones, and how a person becomes what they think about.
The Grateful Dead is in my head-- "There is a road... no simple highway, between the dark and the dark of night. And if you go, no one may follow. That path is for your steps alone."
Bill Mason, a famous Canadian canoeist, said something like, "The only people who have told me `it is dangerous to go alone into the wilderness' - are those who have never done so."
Get a close look at the mountain of fear, now take another step closer... you'll seeÖ it disappears.
11:12am. Iīm half way up a 100ft cliff, a 70 degree slab. Tevas worked swell up to here, but the next
section has no hand holds, so the rock shoes are on. I want to film moments like these. Writing in a note pad
while holding on for my life is getting to be a bit much.
12:01pm. My arms are peppered with dirt and parts of leaves and trees-- glued on with sweat. I just
stopped to capture an image of a wasp nest and rattle snake skins-- a couple of the dangers this mountain
harbors. Iīm not far from the top.
Imagine this: a cliff smashed with Thorīs hammer-- lots of lose rocks. Dump on sand, add dry grass, thorn
bushes, a thousand rotten trees and a hundred green ones. That is what I am climbing.
The sun is peaking though the clouds again. Iím soaked with sweat. These rock shoes are killing my
feet-- cuz they are tight like theyíre supposed to be, and twigs and ticks add a little extra-- making me
want to split for the summit, so I can take them off.
12:36pm. Cows paddys abound on a plateau. Gotta be an easier way down.
12:51pm. Salty sweat stings my eyes and drips into the corners of my mouth. Sun glasses are fogged. Iīm fifty feet from the top. I was closer, but the crack of a dry branch snapping-- like the sound of a large animal, sent me running back. Pepper spray is ready in my right hip pocket. The machete between my chest and bi-cep comforts. What is the summit worth? Iíll scream.
1:02pm. No reaction. Iíll go... I got protection. Imagine this on televisionóthatís my show.
1:10pm. On the summit, I sit at the lip of a deep hole, straight down into solid rock, 1X2 meters; It
doesnít look man-made. I have not gone down yet. The red apple in my mouth is heavenly. Small bamboo trees with charred bases poke up though rocky soil cover by straw and leaves. Lighting strikes must catch this spot on fire a lot.
So, down the hole I must go. Where it leads I do not know. I am Alice in Wonderland.
2:03pm. I have discovered a leek in the bottom of my water bag. Only two or three cups left.
The hole is deeper than I imagined. I dropped a few logs down to use as a ladder, but the first couple
disappeared. I just found a bunch of fishing line rapped around a corn cob. It could be useful. This is
dangerous-- not many hand holes. The sun popped out from behind clouds and my world got hot.
2:11pm. Hand holes crumbled as I started down the vertical cave. "It is a trap!" I thought. "I can
always come back." Down the mountain I must go. My body needs water.
3:26pm. "Less haste-- more speed." My grand fatherís advice calmed me as I pulled hooks out of my arm and backed up slowly to release the vines from my backpack and clothing. My body is raw and itching
with bites and scratches. It seems every plant and animalís purpose is to tear and eat
my flesh. Life feeds on life. Nature is not always nice.
How glorious I must look on this pile of rocks, huddled under a small tree for shade on a nightmare
mountain-side laberynth of steep cliffs, vines like barbed wire and other plants with tiny
spines that sting. A near by tree has berries that are edible-- and Iím ready for a sample.
3:55pm. They are hard as marbles.
"Sqwack... Sqwack...!" calls out a pair of parrots as they fly by my perch. Wow-- beautiful--- so many
bright colors-- red, blue, green, and yellow.
My water is a few drinks from gone and I have several miles of bush to whack to get back. Iíll chew on gum to get saliva flowín. Fear is hell.
The scenery around me at this moment is awesome. Canít feel this way watching TV or on the net. Many folks might think thatís a good thing.
I got to get down and I donít know how. Iím sure it will involve pain, thirst, heat, dust, danger and patience.
4:44pm. I have made a big mistake-- following a trail down the back side instead of dropping straight down
the cliff from the last place I stopped.
Energy is low. I am what I eat-- granola at 6am and only an apple and orange since. This carrot I am
munching on tastes yummy... and provides a bit of fluid for the pasty cocco Vita-Bar. A little bag of
raisins is all I got besides that. Got to go. Sun is dropping. Getting to the top was only half way.
5:21pm. Thoughts of not making it back to camp and death by dehydration and getting eaten by a tiger or
mountain lion fill my mind. I am short of breath, soaked with sweat, cooled with a breeze. I have dreams
of flying. Just getting through the 200ft of thorns and brush ahead of me to the ridge looks deadly. Iím
falling, almost crawling, on a path-- but itís hard to call it that. When I took a piss, my mouth was dry and
I wanted to drink it. Iíd give all my possessions for a single slurp of something that wonít kill me. I now
know why few folks climb this mountain. I will make it-- poco-poco.
6:14pm. I am in hell-- fighting for my life. Hardly got energy to write. "Oh my God," I just whispered
under my breath. I donít know where that came from.
Crawling, like the desperate creature I am, I prayed, "Bugs-- use my blood as fuel to carry me to safety."
Iím laying on my back, looking at the cliff I just fell down. The food must have kicked in-- I was able
to lower myself hand over hand down a fallen tree. I hurt my foot, but it is not bad. I will turn to dust if I donít get up and help myself.
Iím on a path leading back. I believe I will make it. This day of purgatory will forever be burned into my memory.