Base camp was in a warm pocket near the bottom, the men sleeping in Fern's Navel, as it were. They began the four-hour ascent shortly after dawn in three parties, each led by an instructor. Most of the climb involved only hiking and scrambling, but for the final few hundred feet each instructor tied his party together with a 150-foot nylon rope. This was when Clemens had to face his fear and Copen suddenly discovered he could be afraid. But each kept his terror under control with words of encouragement to the other, although Clemens had to be coaxed to partake in the traditional kissing of the peak; he preferred to close his eyes and hug it for dear life.
One Outward Bound belief is that speed tends to blunt sharp moments in a person's life, and that people move too fast nowadays to let time hone the edges of those moments. So immediately after the climb there is a period of at least 24 hours during which each student is left alone. A person can learn a lot about himself by simply sitting still for 24 hours in silence. Some occupy themselves by whittling sticks, some by watching ants; some find tranquillity, some boredom. Moran, the young insular one, enjoyed the isolation; he chose the highest peak in the solo area, climbed to the top of the biggest rock he could find there and rotated slowly in place for nearly an hour as he watched the sun set, spraying the canyons orange and the mountains pink.
But none of the soloists seemed to come down from the mountain with any spiritual revelations. Most spent their time doing things like sorting the sunflower seeds from the M&M's in the high energy snack they carried.
Glor, the radio station manager, may have spoken for most of them when he said, "I didn't want to think any profound thoughts. All I wanted to do was sit for 24 hours and look at a rock. Not think about it, simply look at it."
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
The instructors picked up the students one at a time after the solos, gathering them in a dismal snowstorm under an ugly pewter sky to brief them for the final test, in which they would be given two days to find their way back to camp. They could choose between two routes: the easy one of about 10 miles, and the hard one, about 15 with a tricky canyon exit.
Seven of the 11 managers chose the short route. By the time these men reached the motel two days later, they were barely speaking to each other.
The other group would face a different sort of adventure. "We want to make it a real back-buster," Cullen, the ex-Notre Dame linebacker, said. The other three men (Copen, Moran and Breslin, the floor-covering company manager) looked around with raised eyebrows as if to say, "We do?"
In the larger group, Bill Purdy, the Outward Bound trustee, was elected leader, to the dismay of Ben Dorgelo, the Los Angeles adman. Dorgelo saw a leader as "first among equals," while Purdy assumed he would be absolute chief. The stage was set for dissension.
The group set off and Purdy was soon telling the men precisely where to walk and how fast; when Dorgelo broke formation to explore the trail, he was harshly ordered back. Perhaps as a result, the men missed the first turn and had to backtrack a mile. After wading through a frigid, fast-flowing creek in near darkness, they camped for the night. Dorgelo slept alone in a cave, away from the others.