"Ben. Ben. Uh...Ben?" I wake up a little disoriented, forgetting where I am for a second. I glance at my watch, trying to decipher the numbers behind its crack-riddled screen. It's 2 am. I look over at Chris hanging off the rappel station, waiting his turn to go next. I'm sitting 10 feet to the left of him on the rather bumpy bivy ledge where we slept the previous night. "Dude, I just called your name like five times. You were snoring," he tells me with a nervous chuckle. I take a moment to collect myself, realizing that I had just fallen asleep in the middle of our descent; 1200 vertical feet still lay below us. I ponder the day. We've been on the move for the past 19 hours, most of that time being spent in 95 degree weather on sun-baked rock. With only a gallon of water to share between three of us, we were cherishing every last drop; out of fear of even further dehydration, all I've had to eat was a single Clif Bar. As I sit here anchored by hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, I wonder to myself, Why do I do this?
"Off rappel!" Jenkins, our third, yells from below. Chris's turn. In a trance-like state, I stare blankly as Chris sighs, equally exhausted. He struggles to set up his rappel and descends into the night to join that dot of light 200 feet below. I am alone. I turn off my headlamp. I imagine looking at myself from a mile away, a speck of light suddenly disappearing into the sea of limestone. Lacking the energy to muster any substantial thought, I find my mind in a state of blissful tranquility, at peace with the world. As I dangle at the anchor, back and legs numb, throat parched, hands trembling, toes bleeding, I manage a grin. "Off rappel!" Chris yells. I linger on that peace for just a moment longer, turn on my headlamp, and take off into the void.