Rocky crags pass beneath me like inverted icicles, cold and sharp and glittering with snow. The wind buffets the little chopper and I have trouble keeping it on course. I scrabble frantically at the controls, but everything is unfamiliar and horribly complex. I can feel the mountaintops reaching up at me, their cold, jutting fingers getting closer with each one I pass. I don't know whether it's the whiskey blurring my senses, or the fact that I have never flown a helicopter before, or the swirling, thrashing wind, or even if the mountaintops are just determined to snatch me out of the air. I suppose it doesn't matter. One way or another, the mountains finally do catch me.
I expect the crash to be harder. But it's gentle, really — or at least, it is as gentle as a helicopter accident can be. The skids kiss the snow, sink deeper into it, catch on a rock perhaps, and the next second, it's done. The rotors become tangled in the snow; the windshield cracks; metal twists itself. I grab my whiskey bottle as I leave the wreckage; the chopper is done, but I am not. I can't be. It seems impossible that I could ever make it to Placement Pike now, but I must try.
Outside it's cold. Bitterly cold. An icy wind tears malevolently at my exposed flesh, stabbing like glass, burning like acid. I begin to trudge through the snow, head bowed arms wrapped around myself. I take a small swig of whiskey and it makes me feel a little warmer.
Down around a rugged cliff, I hunch in the shelter of a small overhang and survey the valley below me. It's stark looking and nearly empty. But down near a heap of boulders far off, I see a tiny, hesitant tendril of gray smoke snaking into the sky. Someone has built a fire down there. Could it be Eliza or Minette? I don't see how it could be, but I realize I'll freeze to death if I stay where I am. I begin the long, stumbling trek downhill.