Peering off the portaledge, day 5, 36 pitches off the deck. Late in the day the swallows stop darting, replaced by squeaking bats. The shadows creep around the corners, one by one. Everything else glows crimson. I grab the straps of the ledge and look up. Just touching the fabric sends spikes of pain through my fingers. Two more pitches of 5.13- and this thing in the bag... I put on my shoes and saddle up for one more pitch before the lights go out.
The Golden Desert pitch is a sweeping dihedral with shallow fingerlocks. The light is fading and I'm fatigued, but still moving fast, straining to see the little edges and dimples in the granite. Past the crux, I plug in a yellow TCU, but can't see what the lobes are doing. I could call for tension, give up... But I go for it, groping for holds like a blind man, and fall inches from a jug. The cam rips and I'm dangling in darkness, 30 feet lower, blood dripping off my fingers into space.
That night on the ledge I turn to Jason.
"Dude, I'm haunted by failure."
"Well, there's worse things to be haunted by," he replies.
"Ghosts. Ghosts would be way worse."
We laugh like lunatics.
Two days later we are on top, the route done, sipping espresso. Then we strap on the haulbags and stumble down the trail, wobbling from the load.
Everything hurts, but it doesn't matter anymore.