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  • It strikes me that Beau and his wife wear the least serious expressions in this picture. We were supposed to look serious, and they turned it into a joke. There's an accompanying picture in which we're all smiling, but that image is not so interesting. Someone asked us to look serious. I don't believe the idea came from within our party, though perhaps it did.

    Who was holding the camera? Whose camera was it?

    Beau slipped past me and disappeared down the chute adjacent to the one we'd scaled, his lone ice-axe cutting a hiss into the soft snow above his lowered face. I had time to think about the rope in my pack and to permanently -- for all time -- misunderstand the sound of recognition he made as he realized he could not stop.

    He dropped five hundred feet of vertical down a narrow, rocky chute and then off of a twenty foot cliff onto shards of shale before he finally stopped.

    Liz watched his fall from the scree slope below Singleshot's south face, where she'd recognized before any of us that the final ascent was too dangerous for all the snow that remained under the sun. From the fetal position on a flat boulder to which he'd crawled, he called her on his cell phone and told her that he was all right, though it was difficult for him to string words together because he was in shock. When he called me, it took so long for him to respond to my questions that I suspected he had brain damage.

    It took us twenty minutes to get to him, her and the Andis from below and me from above, and by that time he was taking pictures of his wounds with his phone and sending them to family and friends.

    It's all a part of the same mystery. I always wonder, whenever I look at this photo, why it is me and the Andis who actually look very serious, when called upon.
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