I think we went too far to the left,” I mumbled to hide the desperation I
felt. Clinging to a clump of grass on the moss-covered cliff hundreds of feet above the raging South Fork of the Hoh River, I had no margin for a mistake. Later my parents would tell me a tragic story from this exact hill slope. Twenty-seven years earlier, as they made this same approach into the Valhallas, they came upon the abandoned pack of Mike Lonac. Lonac, a pioneer climber in the Olympic Mountains, had tumbled to his death from the cliffs we were now climbing. Even without this knowledge, my fingers began to sweat.