"Man, this is bad," Sid chattered.
"Don't think about it. It'll make you colder. Let's move."
I started up toward the hole, shaking but not really cold because of the cave fever. The hole was the entrance to what looked to be a 10- or 12-foot tunnel, twisting upward at a 45� angle. But it was very narrow, maybe too narrow.
"Can we make it?"
"You probably can," I said. "But this may be the end of the road for the fat man." I removed my pack and shirt. "Hold these," I said. "I'll reach back and get them if I make it."
If the hole had been a "downer," where my weight might have driven me through, this would have been the place to consider the next step, the one beyond reason and instinct. Since the opening was an "upper," above us, the decision did not need to be made. The test was a purely physical one. If I couldn't fit I would just have to back out and admit that, while the spirit was willing, the flesh was too plentiful. I took a deep breath, sucked it all in and began to wriggle up—face, arms, stomach, legs, everything pressed against the rock. Just when it looked hopeless, the tunnel widened an inch or two, and I sucked in again, kicked, squirmed and came out above in a low-ceilinged room, perhaps 40 feet square. The boys quickly slithered up behind me.
The room was the end of Well Cave. We hunted around the edges, but everywhere the ceiling came down to meet the floor. There was a good bit of scree, piles of fallen rock, and a couple of times we thought we felt currents of air. We seemed fairly close to the surface, and the place had a bad, faulty feel to it. There being no other exit, we left the way we came.
Sliding down the groundhog hole. I was still feeling great. I had done something that I had thought for years I would not do again. I had done a hard cave in the old way. I was certain that if that last tunnel had been a downer, I would have gone into it anyway. I was feeling a fine freakish fellow. The mood disappeared at the edge of the pool.
"It's going to be harder going back." Sid said in a flat, informative way.
Suddenly I really noticed the boys, thought about where they were, what they were doing. Their faces were white, tired, dull. Standing still, they shook from the cold. When they moved, they moved stiffly. They had, at 16, done a cave more difficult than any I had attempted until I was much older and then only after I had done half a dozen easier ones. Looking at them, I realized they were listening to reason and instinct saying you have gone too far.