Himmelsleiter - The Art of Solo Climbing

An exerpt from Himmelsleiter


Nestled at the base of 14,256' Longs Peak in the American Alps of Colorado is a small Catholic church known as Saint Catherine's of Sienna. St. Catherine's is made of rough hewn blocks of native stone lovingly set together by local stone masons and surrounded by the sweeping pine forests and streams that give this area its year round beauty. In contrast to the quiet forests and only a few miles in the background rears one of the greatest Alpine walls in North America. Known simply as the Diamond for its beauty and difficulty; the East face of Longs Peak has been coveted and feared by Alpinists the world over. A vertical to overhanging half mile high cliff of brown granite; the Diamond is over one million square feet of exposed stone. Subjected to sudden storms that rake the face with thunder and lightning; even in high Summer only a few lucky and skilled climbers attain the summit.

Years ago a young Alpinist entered this church to pray. Collapsed with grief over the death of his mother Margaret; who died in his arms of an unexpected heart attack; he struggles with the emotions that sweep through his body. Having only one momento of his mother; a Diamond ring on a cord around his neck, he prays for guidance. Thoughts seem to enter his head..... she worked so hard for the family and made every sacrifice for their benefit. Not a moments pleasure for herself other than seeing her children attaining their own dreams. Would not his mother have enjoyed the glorious feeling he himself experienced high above the ground on the great walls of the mountains. Yes! That is what I will do he thought. I will take my mothers ring and her Spirit that lives within me and make another attempt on the Diamond which has beaten me back down so many times. But this time I will go alone he thinks. My only companion; my mothers spirit!

And so the young man tries the climb he has feared for so long and this time he succeeds! Tired beyond imagining while descending by the easy hiking trail from the summit; he is forced to crawl the last mile to his bivouac spot. As he lays under the stars, looking out into the Universe he remembers some of the words from an old quote....."I had done it myself and know this at least; that not only was it a pearl of great price, but that nothing else in this world was worth doing".

Today the church is locked most of the time because of vandals. The Pope of the Holy Roman Empire has visited St. Catherine's so the authorities have closed it to the throngs of tourists that want entry. But I still drive by and remember that day so long ago; when I sat in that pew and wept and prayed. But now I smile and think..... of how sometimes boldness does have genius; and what you dream you can do; can be done.

Click Here To Read The Entire Text of Himmelsleiter - The Art of Solo Climbing Copyright (c) 1994 by Arthur Vyn Boennighusen