Chris Martin was one of my regular climbing partners during the 1990’s, we met commercial longline fishing in Alaska on his uncle’s boat. For several years we climbed quite a few peaks (and made quite a few more attempts) in Washington’s Cascades including Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Shuksan, Mount Stuart, Mount Baker, Torment Peak, Sahale Peak, Mesaschie Peak, Mount Maude, South Early Winter Spire, Eldorado Peak, Stetattle Ridge, etc, in addition to skiing the Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt, ascents of Mont Blanc in France and Chimborazo in Ecuador, ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies, and a near miss on British Columbia’s Mount Waddington.
While descending from Mount Shuksan after climbing the north ridge in 1993, Chris slipped on sharp rocks severing arteries and nerves in his right forearm, the situation rapidly turning desperate as he began to lose consciousness from massive blood loss. I was able to stem the bleeding using pre-made cravats for tourniquets though I had no practical experience, then lashed his forearm high to his neck before we hiked out several miles to the road and flagged down a passing car, our clothes covered with blood. Eighteen months later he thanked me for saving his life by purchasing us both tickets to Ecuador, to climb 20,700’ Chimborazo. On the return from the summit after a much-too rapid ascent, I became incapacitated by life-threatening cerebral oedema, cerebral spinal fluid seeping from my nostrils. Unable to continue, Chris dragged and carried me 1500’ down the mountain until I was capable of descending on my own. Not far from the safety of the Whymper Refuge I passed by several grave markers for climbers lost on Chimborazo, yet another somber reminder of the fine line between life and death in the mountains, and the frailty of human life in general. Many lessons learned that day, and a permanent bond formed between two friends who have the unique distinction and honour of saving each other’s lives.