Flash Fiction: The North Face


‘Four seconds. It’s quick, man. Four seconds and you bleed out. All over.’

But he doesn’t think about that, doesn’t think about anything. An empty head, and being the right amount of psyched. No rope, just a bag of chalk. His only thought: the next move of foot or hand. He’s traversing into a parallel crack system across a flat exposed plane when his foot slips, his fingers clutch and for a moment he hangs. And then he’s in the void, arms spread to greet the trees two thousand feet below.

‘Four seconds, man. It’s a lifetime.’


This is a 100-word flash fiction story inspired by the picture above (this week supplied by Marie Gail Stafford). Click here to read pieces by other writers, and here to join in. I did quite a bit of research on climbing free solo and Alex Honnold for this piece. Frightening stuff. I’m definitely not a climber.


If any readers happen to be in Hong Kong this weekend, I’ll be at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival on Saturday 11th November at 1pm, speaking about Swimming Lessons. It would be great to see you there.


46 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: The North Face

  1. Great story. I was thinking about this very subject because I did a 1000-word mountaineer piece for the NYC midnight contest that I was supposed to hear about today, but they postponed the results. As for The North Face, a few years ago I started seeing the once-obscure logo on every college kid and hipster. The logo is on both front and back of their garments, and sometimes on the sleeve as well!


  2. That’s very good indeed, Claire. You present a completely compelling image of the free climber attempting a task of supreme difficulty. You have written it very unemotionally, and that feels authentic. The people the climber leaves behind will grieve, but during the fall I suspect that the climber is still analysing how it went wrong and what he should have done differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I once was mountain climbing, slipped, and fell a long way down. Fortunately, I fell down a water-worn shout in a large crack in the mountain side and landed safely in a river below — what luck!! And I can tell you that the FOUR SECONDS go by very fast. Your story brought back every millisecond of that fall. Your story is gripping and made me sweat again.

    P.S. — Immediately gave up mountain climbing, having failed and crossed that off my bucket list.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my, Claire … I was woozy as I was reading those lines. It was very effective.
    Gosh … I can’t imagine anyone who’d want to do this but there are thrill seekers.
    Great take on the photo prompt.
    Isadora 😎
    CONGRATULATIONS and GOOD LUCK on your upcoming lecture in Hong Kong.

    Liked by 1 person

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