I am not sure that I would want to do this. I already have enough trouble with time, why would I want to stop it? Flying half way around the world, through different time zones, leaves me with jet lag, as my body tries to adjust to different time zones. When living in Nepal, I had to adjust to “Nepali Rubber Time”. This is where sometimes days seemingly lasted for years, while at other times, weeks passed as if they were a day. One of my friends compared it to Alice going down the rabbit hole, where time, place and events were very distorted, of a different world. I always felt it was more like Peter Pan’s Never Never Land, where no one ever has to grow up. And, it is where my youth was given back to me after the “six dark years” of my life. Are these reasons why I never wear a watch? In essence, we all freeze a moment in time every time we take a photo.
Then there was the day when time went into s-u-p-e-r s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n. We were coming down from Mt. Rainier in Washington State, after an unsuccessful summit attempt. The weather had been bad all weekend, with alternating hot and cold temps. The snow and ice was in a continuous cycle of melting and freezing. I asked my partner to belay (to use boot, ice ax and rope protection) me across a snow bridge that crossed three small crevasses, as I was really tired. I stepped out very carefully on to the snow bridge. It was only three steps. First step, OK. Second step – POP! and the snow bridge caved in. I expected to see my life flash before my eyes as I fell. I thought I would see a movie being projected a few feet in front of me of my entire life. I hoped that I would re-experience every major positive event of my life, including the emotional and physical sensations of each… birthday parties, picnics, family vacations, romantic dates, school honors, and sporting events. But this didn’t happen. I felt suspended in time and space, as when jumping into a deep pool of water and the sensation of floating downward toward the bottom. I hate the feeling of falling, of roller coasters, and dips in the road, when my stomach come up into my throat, and yet, in this instance, I felt that the hands of God were holding me, lowering me into the crevasse. That seemingly eternal moment when time and space stood still, when my breathing had stopped, was suddenly snapped to a halt with the sudden lurch of my body as my rope caught. I was literally hanging on the end of my rope, my feet dangling over the 150 feet of air below me. Then, as the realization of it all hit, that I had actually fallen into a crevasse, about 30 feet, my first thought was, Don’t get hypothermia! So I put on my wool shirt, even though only moments ago I was hot and sweating profusely. Am I OK? Are my arms and legs intact? One leg was dangling sort of like a dead fish, while the other was shaking like an old sewing machine leg. I will never wear a 1” wide webbing harness again!
I tried to get some supplemental ropes out of my pack, but every time I moved, I went deeper into the crevasse. My partner, on the other end of the rope, yelled, "Don't move!" I found out later that his belay had popped out and he had been pulled to within six feet of the edge of the crevasse. I don’t want to die here. As I looked around, I thought the ice to be at least 200 years old. I have so many more mountains to climb. More old, dirty ice. How many unsuspecting animals were frozen in here? What changes had occurred in the world since this ice had formed? God, I will do anything you want – just don’t let me die in here.
I hung around for about 45 minutes, with not much to do, realizing that it was getting colder and colder by the second. A wave of acute appreciation flooded over me. I love life. I want to continue exploring what life has to offer. I remember whispering to myself, I want to live, as if one part of me were informing another part of me. I continued trying to put on more clothes, knowing that each time I moved, I went deeper and deeper into the crevasse. Finally voices. More voices. Different voices. My rescuers had arrived.
Time. The rescue took 15 minutes. No, 30 minutes. No hours. Days. Seconds. Time. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was actually going to get out of the crevasse… I hoped. My pack and ice ax were the first things hauled out of the crevasse on a second rope. I was slowly pulled up , then the knots of my rope were caught in a 3-foot chunk of overhanging ice. This took seemingly hours to release. Don’t panic. I can see people. These guys know what they are doing. The rope was released. An arm came down over the edge. “Grab hold”. And I was slowly pulled up over the edge of the crevasse. While my legs were still dangling, my chest was on solid (?) ice. “Get up and walk over to your pack”. I managed to crawl to where my pack was. At 11,000 feet of elevation, I breathlessly took days to crawl about twenty feet. Are my legs actually working? Even the numb one?
Once it was established that I was truly OK, I was told I had to jump the crevasse to get down to base camp. Time. How can I jump this thing that I had just lived a lifetime in? We skirted to the narrowest part of the crevasse, and after everyone else had jumped it, one of my rescuers said, “It is the only way down.” I ran and took a flying leap, and cleared it by about ten feet. Thank you for track and field, and especially the long jump, in junior and senior high.
The story continues. My three rescuers descended that day, while my climbing partner and other friends and I stayed another night on the mountain. Avalanches and ice falls rumbled through the night. I am sure that the only reason I made it through the night was the tequila shots. The next day when we got to the sign-out post, we asked the park ranger for the addresses of my three rescuers. “There were no climbing parties of three men who did the route you are talking about. In fact, there were no parties of three men period. I have been here on duty the past 24 hours, and no group of three men has come through.” We heard the music, “do do do do do do…” You have entered the Twilight Zone. According to the ranger, my rescuers didn’t exist. No one was allowed on the mountain without signing in. My photos from inside the crevasse, and of my rescuers never turned out. I not only have one guardian angel, but THREE!
Would I want to freeze time? Not on your life!
Super heroes? I already have them.