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Muir's Self-Abandoned Rescue in Alaska

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

"Once in Alaska, John Muir, and a traveling companion, Samuel Hall Young sailed up the Stikine River, where more than a hundred glaciers could be seen, remnants of the great ice sheet that had recently carved a deep Yosemite-like canyon. Chunks of ice floated around their boat as they continued on to the old Hudson's Bay trading post of Glenora. Here both men set off to climb a nearby mountain and gain a grand view of the coastal range. Near sunset Young, struggling to keep up with his nimble companion slipped on loose rock and slid over the edge. He saved himself from a fatal plunge by clutching at an outcropping, but the effort dislocated both shoulders, leaving him hanging in severe pain over a glacier a thousand feet below. Muir, whistling old Scots songs to cheer him up, managed to get below on a narrow ledge and then swing his companion to safety. Carrying the injured man down to the level surface of the ice, Muir worked until midnight to reset his shoulders and bind his arms tight to his body with a torn-up shirt. "All that night," Young later wrote, "this man of steel and lightning worked, never resting a minute, doing the work of three men...My eyes brim with tears even now when I think of his utter self-abandon as he ministered to my infirmities."

[From A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir by Daniel Worster] 

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