My lower back wasn’t hurting anymore. I was confused as to why — squatting awkwardly on the cropping of granite didn’t seem like a better posture — but grateful for the respite, sitting in the grey air cooled by sixty-eight hundred feet of elevation, four hundred feet below the top of Horsetail Falls. Smoke from the Mariposa fires at the gate of Yosemite painted the glacier-cut valley in a whiter shade of pale, everything felt further away, both visually and metaphysically. Five percent contained.
Greg told Cody to stay while he scouted for a different route back down. Cody couldn’t go any further up, he said, and it seemed questionable if our canine companion would be able to make it back down the crevice slope we had just scrambled up. It seemed like the only route up, certainly, as much as any other way would be, but with each time I had to reach for the natural grip holds, it sure seemed like it would be a problem coming back down. I ate my lunch, admired the view, but my mind was back on the crevice.
He shook his head from down the field outcropping. Nothing good. When he sat back down next to me he pulled workers gloves from his pack.
“Give Cody a bit of space at first.”
“Here,” he’d say as he patted his hand at each plotted point, climbing backward, as they unscrambled together back down the chute.
“Stay.” He would stay.
“Here.” He would go right there.
Okay, I thought, if they can do this together, I can do this on my own. I tried to breathe and move one step at a time.
“If you lose your grip, slide down, don’t roll,” is I think what he told me. I took a few steps, found my footing.
Then lost it.
“No, turn around the other way. Don’t look at the falls. Face the rock. Lean toward it if you have to lean anywhere.
Which meant looking in exactly the opposite direction I was moving.
“Try not to cross your feet over.”
Back on the trail, Cody found his second wind after swimming in the blue-green pool.
The back pain found me again, once the adrenaline had served its purpose. That was why I felt fine. Occasionally, the fear helped the focus.