“Finally!” she said to herself, letting out a small sigh. She made sure Jack didn’t see or hear it. She then attached the carabiner to the protection and pulled the rope through in one motion. She continued to climb up another few feet and again looked frantically for a place to insert another anchor into the cliff. The rock face up there was extremely thin. It had limited cracks to offer her. This was a harder climb than she had envisioned. As she continued to move up, she spotted a nice hand-hold and prepared to lunge toward it. As she moved, her left toe slipped and came off the rock. In an instant gravity caught her and sent her hurling straight down toward the valley floor!
“Aaaah!” she shouted as she fell. The rope pulled tight and her harness cut into her legs and waist. Her whole body recoiled as the anchors and rope caught her fall. Kay was shocked and out of her element: It had been a while since she had miscalculated on the rock. She tried to regain her composure.
Jack was attached to the rope on the other end, and he felt the tug of her weight as she fell. “I got you!” he shouted. “See, this is why we climb with all our gear!”
“Good thing I had just put that last anchor into the rock,” she muttered.
She was relieved that she had only fallen five feet or so, although she dangled over the desert valley with nothing below her for two hundred feet. Fortunately, her protection device and carabiner held firmly in the rock.
“You need to be careful.” Jack’s voice was higher-pitched than normal and very serious. He was a bit frazzled by her fall, although she appeared to be okay. “This looks too dangerous and it’s not worth it,” he continued. “Just come down. We should head back now. Dad would be so mad if he knew we were doing this.”
But just as Jack finished his sentence, Kay refocused and gripped the rock face again.
“No, I’m okay now. My balance is good and I’m almost there.”
She spotted a new approach that appeared more manageable.
“I think this way will work better.” She moved toward a jagged crack in the rock.
“I agree,” Jack nodded. “I can see some good solid hand-holds from here.”
She was back on track and now only five feet from the shimmering lights.
“What does it look like?” Jack strained his eyes upward.
“It’s an opening to a cave”—she paused to catch her breath— “and it looks deep.” Kay swung her leg up so that her heel entered the opening. She pushed herself up and rolled into the cave sideways.
“What can you see?” Jack shouted.
“This is unbelievable!” she yelled. “Absolutely amazing!”
“Give me details,” he demanded.
“You have to come up and see this!” she shouted. “You have to come up!”