Man on rock, Part 2: Must come down

by Wolf Pascoe on October 29, 2012


The brave old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

— Nursery Rhyme


Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, sometimes you’re in the middle. I could hang out on the suspension bridge at Multnomah falls all day. Being suspended on Vasquez rock was a less comfortable  proposition altogether.

I was both reassured and unnerved by the piton I found hammered into the rock next to me. Someone had thought it kindly to secure a permanent anchor for a rope. I had no rope.


George Mallory—the “because it’s there” guy—disappeared on the shoulder of Mt. Everest in 1924. He came to mind while I rested on Vazquez’s shoulder.

Mallory stayed disappeared for 75 years. His fate—What happened to him? Where? Had he got all  the way up?—constitutes the essential mystery among Himalayan mountaineers.

When Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit in 1953, the first thing he did was to look (in vain) for Mallory’s body.




I decided that it would be no harder getting down from the apex of Vazquez than from my perch. I continued upward on all fours. At the top I found two teenage girls comfortably stretched out, their feet dangling over the side.

“You made it,” one of them said.

“Have you thought about getting down?” I said.

“Piece of cake.”

“I’m a lot older than you,” I said.


I leaned over the side and looked down. It was only 100 feet or so to the road below, but 100 feet was enough to do the job. I considered taking a picture, but was afraid I’d drop the new iPhone.




In 1999, an Everest expedition sponsored in part by the BBC and Nova returned to the spot on the north face where Mallory and his companion, Andrew Irvine, had been last seen. 800 feet from the top they found a frozen body displaying signs of a fall. In the diamond purity of the jet-stream it was preserved intact.

I saw the documentary on television. The men who found the body were filmed as they inspected it. At first they  thought it was Irvine. Then one man looked at the name tags on the clothes.

“Wait, this is George Mallory,” he said.

“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” said his partner.

The question of whether Irvine and Mallory fell before or after visiting the summit has never been resolved. Mallory’s son, John Mallory, said this: “To me the only way you achieve a summit is to come back alive. The job is only half done if you don’t get down again.”

If you climb a mountain for the first time and die on the descent, is it really a complete first ascent of the mountain? I am rather inclined to think personally that maybe it is quite important, the getting down, and the complete climb of a mountain is reaching the summit and getting safely to the bottom again.

— Sir Edmund Hillary




So there it was. My ascent of Vazquez rock would mean nothing unless I got down again. I decided to strike a balance between Mallory and Hillary. I went down on my butt.

Somewhere in the middle of The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder climb a mountain. At the top, Kerouac panics.

“Don’t worry,” Snyder tells him. “You can’t fall off a mountain.”

Yes, indeedy.




After my descent I found Nick and Avi lollygagging on another part of the rock.

“Dada,” said Nick. “You got down!”

I had been seen far and wide on my perch.

“Nothing to it.”

“Wolf, that was seriously awesome of you,” Avi said.

“What do you think, Nick?”

“Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” he said.





This is the second part of a two part post. Part 1: What goes up

The mountain away from time




The Man Who Skied Down Everest. Fly in space without a rocket.

Nova: Lost on Everest. Finding Mallory.




A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for, no? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sirena October 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Whew. I was afraid you were going to write that you’d fallen and broken something. Well, a butt is a useful part of the body for many things (“oh my god, oh my god”. I read “Into Thin Air” – LOTS of frozen dead bodies and trash and garbage up there on Everest these days. Even the garbage sometimes never makes it back down….


Wolf Pascoe October 29, 2012 at 3:51 pm

” I was afraid you were going to write that you’d fallen and broken something.”

Only my pride.


Jim Parkevich October 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Hi Wolf…
NEXT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Think I told you, my son, Ryan, is a world class-trained technical scuba diver. And he is very good with young children. If you are ever out Columbus, Ohio way, look him up. I’ve already set it up with him, to give Nick (My son’s grand-fathers name) a half days diving instruction. He will then take Nick into the 18′ indoor dive tank and let him swim around for an hour or so !!!! All the gear he needs will be provided–dive skin, B.C., tank(single), fins, mask, regulator…the works..Then stand back and listen to squeals of dis-belief from his friends as he relates his adventures. Another one for the books !!
Oh, and by the way, we will take that adventure (Nora included) to Malabar Farms, Mansfield, Ohio to stand where Bogie and Bacall stood to get married…promise.


Wolf Pascoe October 29, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Who says blogging doesn’t pay?
Thanks, Jim!


Barbara October 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I was afraid you were still up there, blogging on that new iPhone! hehehe Glad you made it down. And for your butt’s sake, I’m glad it was a relatively smooth rock!
Barbara recently posted..A Week of Blessings


Wolf Pascoe October 30, 2012 at 2:01 am

That rock only looked smooth from a distance. But we will refrain from talking about the condition of my butt.


pamela October 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm

So glad you made it back! Personally, I think getting down is harder. It requires much more humility.


Wolf Pascoe October 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I have heaps and gobs of it.


The Exception November 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I never doubted that you would not only get down but that you would arrive at the bottom with style… Glad to to see I was proven correct. 😉
The Exception recently posted..A Perfect Storm


Wolf Pascoe November 3, 2012 at 12:14 am

At the bottom with style. That’s me all over.


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