Chapter 2 – Steep Rise
„I can see them – up there!‟, Ben exclaimed with a proud smile.
„Let me see!‟, Kara responded and seized the binoculars out of his hand. Her gaze wandered up along the enormous escarpment that was towering into the sky in front of them. Are you sure?‟
„Absolutely sure‟, said Ben and shouldered his backpack. „They have exactly the color depicted by the people in the valley.‟
„These are three hundred yards until up there, for sure.‟
„Rather four hundred‟, Ben said with a grin and threw a thick climbing rope towards Kara. „Are you ready?‟
Ben was breathing heavily. The ascent had become more arduous steadily. A merciless summer sun was baking the slick stone. The handholds became slippery, the arms tired, the fingers numb. Only Kara was apparently not affected by all of this. Whereas he had initially kept pace with her without any problem she now climbed ahead feistily.
„Careful!‟, Kara exclaimed.
Ben looked up. Several heavy rocks hurtled towards him. Very quickly he drove a safety hook into a crevice and pressed himself as closely as possible against the wall. Like a shot the stones fell past him into the abyss. Kara roped herself down to him.
„I am so sorry, I set them off accidentally.‟
„That was close ‟, Ben retorted.
They belayed themselves beneath a small ledge in order to catch their breath. Down in the valley some fog had gathered, shimmering in the blazing sun.
„It is so beautiful‟, Kara sighed.
„Yes‟, said Ben. „Should we still have some time after the ascent we might –‟ Boom! A dull clap of thunder made the air tremble.
„What was that?‟, Kara asked and bent forward. The rock face began to quake.
„Back to the wall!‟, Ben shouted and pulled Kara back. A massive piece of rock missed them by a hairsbreadths. Bang! A second rock smashed on the ledge above them. The noise was deafening.
„An avalanche!‟, Ben yelled. With great quick-wittedness he shot up from the crouch, grasped the rope with both hands and allowed himself to fall down. He stretched out as long as he could in order not to provide a target.
Kara followed his example – when a hell of slip rock descende upon them. A resounding squeeching, crashing and grinding surrounded them. One of the stones caught Ben by his leg. With his face contorted with pain he struggled to find a firm grasp. He groaned. His grip unloosened.
Kara snatched him resolutely.
„You stay right here!‟, she exclaimed.
And then it was over as quickly as it had begun.
Kara was trembling in every limb.
„This was even closer ‟, Ben said with a grin.
The rest of the ascent cost them their entire strength. When they had finally reached the top what extended beneath their aching legs was a field of flowers shining in radiant orange and bright orange, spotted with fuzzy purple. Ben looked at his compass. It began to rotate and to shine in the colors of the calyxes. Kara was beaming and gave a little whoop of joy. In this moment all the exertions were forgotten.
Only a few miles away a dark shadow scurried through the valley, along the river course. He looked around furtively and gazed into his bag. A compass was shimmering between a few sticks of dynamite. He smiled triumphantly and continued his way.
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