Somebody remarked that a stranger is simply a friend you haven't met. My trusty 1828 Noah Webster dictionary says that a friend is one who is attached to another by affection, which leads him to desire his company, or one who has sufficient interest to serve another.
The dictionary definition amply describes Mike Corbett who, along with his friend Mark Wellman, started the assault on El Capitan on July 19, 1989. El Capitan is a sheer rock wall 3,569 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley in northern California. It is one of the most difficult mountains for rock climbers to scale. The combination of difficulty and danger is sufficient to test the strength and courage of even the world's most elite climbers.
It took Wellman and Corbett seven days to make the climb. They encountered temperatures of up to 105 degrees and wind gusts that made the ascent even more difficult. When they reached the summit, Corbett stood in triumph, but Wellman just kept his seat. Wellman is the first person to scale El Capitan without the use of his legs.
Wellman had given up climbing in 1982 after he was paralyzed as the result of a fall. From that point on the only rock climbing he did was in his dreams. Then Corbett convinced him they could climb the mountain together. Wellman certainly couldn't have done it without Corbett, who led the way and helped Wellman move through each stage, higher and higher. On the seventh day, Corbett was unable to secure the pitons in the loose rock skirting the summit. Knowing that a misstep would send them both plunging to their deaths, Corbett hoisted Wellman onto his back and clambered the remaining distance to the top. An old but very true statement holds that if you would have a friend, be a friend. I encourage you to be a friend as Mike Corbett was to Mark Wellman.
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