Monday, November 8, 2010

Conquering K2 - Part Three

Now the nylon fabric is sewed on, stretched tight across the frame, and I’m ready to take flight. Ideally, I would hook my harness onto the frame before pushing off, but in these winds, just lifting the wing slightly off the ground would send it sailing out of my hand, leaving me stranded to die.

To take off with the glider, I’m going to have to dive under the cloth, grab the crossbar and leap to my feet, all in one smooth, continuous movement. As soon as I dive under the cloth, it’s likely that enough wind will get under it to send it sailing, so there’s no room for error and no second chances. But isn’t that part of the fun?

As I crouch behind the wing, I take a few deep breaths and pre-visualize my every move. After about twenty minutes, I go for it.

I’m flying! It worked, just as I planned. The force of the take-off nearly dislocated both of my shoulders, so I’ll be a bit sore tomorrow. But my grip is secure and the kite is soaring beautifully. I even swing around and catch an updraft near the face to prolong the flight a little.

Suddenly I notice the right side wing seam coming loose, and in a flash I’m spinning in a death spiral. Apparently, I should have gone ahead and sewn the double stitch after all.

I’m spinning like a cowboy lariat and falling fast, but I remain calm. I quickly deduce that the only way to pull out of this spin is to shift all of my weight to the left side. And the fastest way to do that is to just let go with my right hand. It’s my only option — other than death.

Like most actions one is forced to take in a CDE, timing is everything. Once I come out of this spin, I’ll be holding on with only one hand and I’ll have absolutely no control of the glider. If I come out of the spin sailing toward the mountain, or any of the surrounding peaks, my life is over. Yet spinning at this speed, there’s no way to consciously time this move. I just have to trust my gut. Years of putting myself in positions like this have honed my intuition and given me the confidence needed to make those split-second decisions necessary to survive — so far.

I jerk my right hand away from the crossbar, and the glider immediately rolls out of its spin into a nice straight glide — directly toward the Skardu K2 Motel where a fetching young Mongolian pleasure-worker is warming my bed.

Some would say I was very lucky to come out of that spin so easily. Well I don’t believe in luck. And I don’t believe in god. I believe I control the universe with my mind.

As I sail down through the fading light of this amazing day, with the taste of blood in my mouth, my throat raw from screaming, my icy tears frozen on my face and warm urine running down my leg, I can’t remember being happier. This is what I live for. It is in that moment — and in that moment alone — when through the sheer force of my will I make the Reaper eat my dust — that I truly live.

A death wish? No way. I have a life wish.

Next week: paragliding in Pakistan.

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