Alan Arnette admits he often braves mountain peaks on days other climbers label "unpleasant." But in his first-person account for the Coloradoan, Arnette explains why Feb. 10 was an entirely different scenario altogether, one in which he and fellow climber Jim Davidson found themselves in especially blustery conditions as they hiked up Colorado's Twin Sisters Peaks, located near Rocky Mountain National Park. "I'd give us a … 70% chance that something will go wrong," Davidson said to Arnette at one point as they discussed strategy between bursts of strong wind. Arnette explains he often engages in "mental toughness training" (practicing getting knocked down by the wind on a safe trail to "explore my limits"), but on this particular day, he and Davidson realized conditions were too risky to complete a real hike, so they decided to turn back.
It was then, just feet from the safety of a tree line, that Arnette was hit by two mighty gusts of wind in succession. The first made him laugh—"Whew, that was a big one!" he yelled—but the second turned into an instant of "intensity" that was "breathtaking." Arnette was blown over the trail's edge and thrown down the hill "like a rag doll," enduring pain so excruciating he "let out a primal scream that had no words." Once Davidson rushed to where he'd fallen, Arnette details their agonizing wait for help (he'd badly hurt his right leg), with "waves of pain wrenching my body." But it was Davidson's unceasing support, as well as the dozens of volunteers who helped rescue him, that he remembers most. "A true friendship was given an opportunity to shine," he writes. "I am a better person today because of that gust of wind." Arnette's stunning account here. (A man fell 1,500 feet off a mountain and lived.)