The first rays of sun were just peeking through the trees the next morning when Hanna crawled out of the tent she shared with Kirstie and began to pace around the forest. She’d been awake since before dawn. The thought of climbing with such a legendary woman was both terrifying and enchanting. She wondered if any more memories would return.
And what she might learn about herself.
An ancient Volkswagen Beetle braked abruptly behind the Hoffmanns’ car and its driver seemed to materialize by the picnic table even before the motor had quieted.
“Is there a Hanna Hoffmann here?” The woman’s voice echoed through the still-sleeping campground.
Hanna scrambled over from behind a tree. “Ich bin hier!”
“I guess that must mean ‘Okay, let’s go then’.” Bowen grinned. “I’ve got climbing shoes and a harness for you. We’ve got a lot to do today.”
Kirstie joined them and translated Diana’s rapid-fire chatter about her plans for their day. As they arrived at the base of what seemed like a perfectly vertical face a short walk from the Lumpy Ridge parking area, Diana handed Hanna a pair of shoes with smooth rubber soles.
“Climbing shoes need to fit close so you can really be in touch with the rock.” She buckled the straps for Hanna and then turned away to put her own shoes on.
“Now for a lesson in belaying. The leader depends on her partner. The rope runs around your waist and up to me, through the carabiners that I clip to the pro. That’s these metal things— they’re called ‘chocks’—that go into cracks in the rock. If I fall, you just cinch the rope tight against your waist, and I’ll be held by the highest piece I put in.”
Diana seemed to dance up the cliff. Hanna didn’t believe she would get more than a foot off the ground. Yet in a short time, they were shaking hands at the top as Kirstie joined them.
“You’re a natural climber, Hanna. You use your body gracefully—balance instead of brawn. That’s how women succeed in this sport.”
Bowen’s tone was matter-of-fact. But what Hanna heard was the same message she’d heard from Doris after her impromptu climb in the Alps. You belong. As a woman.
After the previous week that reassurance meant a lot.
After a few more short climbs Diana gestured toward an imposing 800-foot buttress several hundred yards away. “Hanna, that was first done by one of the best climbers in the world. It’s six pitches, and steep—it probably looks intimidating, but I’m sure you can do it. Shall we?”
Intimidating? The buttress looked completely impossible. But she was ready to follow.
She had little in common with this woman’s indefatigable energy and self-confidence. Yet she felt a kinship. Maybe Diana had also been a frightened, shy little girl at one point. Maybe she too could become a climber.
Three hours later she was standing at the top of what Diana called Kor’s Flake, but to her was the top of the world. Her hands were scratched, her muscles ached, and her back throbbed with pain. But she felt like a mountain goddess.
The feeling was still there as she went to sleep that night.
A girl was hiding in a narrow crack in the wall of a rock cavern, where she’d been chased by a monster. Her two cats sat on their haunches at her feet. The cats started walking toward a glowing tunnel in the distance, hugging the wall. Seeing and hearing no other creature, the girl followed them.
Soon she saw another giant cavern beyond the opening. The cats arched their backs and hissed as they looked back into the gloom, but nothing blocked their progress into the new cavern, whose many-hued stalactites and amethyst geode-studded walls were dimly illuminated by light from a distant castle.