My lady friend comes over to hang around with me...literally.
It will be night soon and neither of them has bivouac gear. If they remain as they are then the injured one will almost certainly be hypothermic by morning and may not survive. His partner can do nothing until both of them are at the belay but he doesn't have the necessary knowledge to get him there. If he lets go of the rope, the other will fall. The important things in life are always simple and the simple things in life are always hard. This thought arrives perfectly formed and whole in his mind. He has to climb back up to the belay or he will probably die.
"I can do this..."
He shouts instructions up to Duncan, who ties a knot in the rope above his belay plate so it can't run through. Now he has both hands free. He drops a loop of rope down which the injured one clips into his belay plate, configuring it in guide mode so it won't run backwards. He has cord loops clipped to the back of his harness which are for climbing a rope in just this situation, but he can't reach round to them without his injured ribs screaming at him. He takes a sling from round his neck and ties it around the rope in a klemheist knot. It will slide up the rope, but not down. By standing up in the loop with his uninjured leg he can gain height. As Duncan pulls in the slack and shortens the loop he can hang in his harness, push the klemheist up the rope again and stand in it, allowing Duncan to take in more slack. It will be slow, but it will get him to the belay.
"I can do this..."
Because the slope is steep, but not vertical, there comes a point where he is forced to put weight on his injured leg for balance. It folds sideways, he screams.........
This happens three more times before he reaches the ledge.
Six weeks ago she'd told him the relationship was over. She never said why. Yesterday was their son's birthday. She had mentioned she'd be moving out the following day. That morning he'd got the kids up, made them breakfast and walked with them to school. Now he's home from work, at his front door and he knows the house will be empty. It is. Halfway across the front room he slumps to his knees, hugs the sofa and his mind shuts down...
At the belay ledge, he's suddenly bone-tired. He wants to close his eyes and just drift off - Is he dying? Duncan is talking about untying and going for help. He knows this is a bad idea, but he just wants to lie there and rest - He doesn't want to think any more. Part of him tries to believe that Duncan should go, and for a few minutes they discuss ways off the ridge and he lets himself believe he'll be off the hill soon........ Slowly he comes back to reality. He doesn't know what they should do, but he knows this isn't it. It's getting dark, the system of ledges that Duncan proposes to follow is steep, grassy and leads nowhere, he'll die if he tries that. There's no way off the ridge except the way they were going and they've lost the light. They must wait for daylight, suffer the cold and Duncan must finish the route and get help that way. Maybe there'll be a phone signal at the top? - they already know there's none here. He tells this to Duncan and suggests wryly, that the groove that he disdained might be a better idea than the wall.......
He can't stop crying when he's alone. It starts when he wakes up and remembers she's not there. At work he's a zombie. He stops feeling hungry. Eating becomes an effort he often can't be bothered to make. In his daydreams he dies. One night, in desperation he calls the Samaritans and he realises how detailed his suicide plan had become. He slowly forgets what it feels like to be happy. Dark thoughts and this flat lifeless mood become normal to him. His world is shrinking to a point. He sees it and he doesn't care.
The night is cold and stretches on forever.