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Authors: Gary Paulsen

The Rock Jockeys

BOOK: The Rock Jockeys
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MOUNTAINTOP TERROR

Rick took a deep breath. “Climber ready.”

He braced his back and started edging his way up. It was a tight fit. Rick’s knees were almost in his mouth as he struggled through the chimney. Finally he topped out. “I’m up. There’s a ledge here. I’ll anchor and wait.”

One at a time the other two boys emerged from the long crevice. There was barely enough room for all three to stand on the ledge. Above them was a granite overhang that jutted out almost six feet. Rick had already inserted one piton and was trying to find a toehold.

The overhang presented a dangerous problem. Rick, as the leader, had to find a way to go out and over the top. It would mean working upside down and trusting all his weight to the pitons he was able to hammer in along the way.

Spud and J.D. wrapped the rope around themselves and stood ready. Like an oversized spider, Rick climbed along the underside of the rock. He unclipped another piton from his belt and reached for his hammer.

Suddenly the carabiner, the aluminum oval snaplink attached to the piton, bent and Rick’s body jerked and fell a few inches. Then with a sickening sound the carabiner popped open and the rope came completely loose.

Rick fell backward into space.

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YEARLING BOOKS/YOUNG YEARLINGS/YEARLING CLASSICS
are designed especially to entertain and enlighten young people. Patricia Reilly Giff, consultant to this series, received her bachelor’s degree from Marymount College and a master’s degree in history from St. John’s University. She holds a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University. She was a teacher and reading consultant for many years, and is the author of numerous books for young readers.

For a complete listing of all Yearling titles,
write to
Dell Readers Service,
P.O. Box 1045,
South Holland, IL 60473.

Published by
Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
a division of
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
1540 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

Copyright © 1995 by Gary Paulsen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

The trademarks Yearling
®
and Dell
®
are registered in the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

eISBN: 978-0-307-80396-2

Series design: Barbara Berger

Interior illustration by Michael David Biegel

v3.1

Contents

Dear Readers:

Real adventure is many things—it’s danger and daring and sometimes even a struggle for life or death. From competing in the Iditarod dogsled race across Alaska to sailing the Pacific Ocean, I’ve experienced some of this adventure myself. I try to capture this spirit in my stories, and each time I sit down to write, that challenge is a bit of an adventure in itself.

You’re all a part of this adventure as well. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of talking with many of you in schools, and this book is the result of hearing firsthand what you want to read about most—power-packed action and excitement.

You asked for it—so hang on tight while we jump into another thrilling story in my World of Adventure.

C
HAPTER
1

Rick Williams ran his hand through his short brown hair and looked out the window. The sun wasn’t up yet. He turned his attention back to what he was doing, rolled his sleeping bag tightly, and secured it to the frame of his metal packboard. He was the designated leader of this climb and he wanted no mistakes. Mentally he checked off his list of equipment: headlamp, mittens, sunglasses, food, extra clothing, canteen, cooking kit, compass …

The front door burst open. A sandy-haired boy who was about three inches taller than
Rick strode across the room and fell into the nearest chair. He grinned up at his friend. “I would have bet money on it. How many times have you inspected your pack this week?”

Rick turned red. “Come off it, J.D. You know the right equipment can mean the difference between life and death up there.”

J.D. sat up. “There’s not much chance of anybody getting hurt on good old Sugarloaf. Shoot, we’ve climbed that mountain a thousand times. It’s baby stuff.”

Rick looked at him. “You haven’t talked to Spud yet, have you?”

“No, I—hey, what are you guys up to?” J.D. asked suspiciously.

“Did I hear someone mention my name?” A stocky boy with jet-black hair stepped into the room. He set his pack in the middle of the floor and pointed outside. “I left my climbing gear on the porch. We almost ready to go?”

J.D. stood up. “What did you forget to tell me this time, Spud?”

“Shhh.” Rick held his hand up and looked back toward the stairs, where his parents’
bedroom was. “We don’t want everybody to know.”

“This spring break we’re doing things a little different, J.D.,” Spud whispered. “The Rock Jockeys are finally going on a
real
climb. We’ve worked hard to get in shape and practiced our heads off. Now it’s time to put it all to the test.”

“Where are we going? Elk Mountain? Timmons Peak?”

Spud grew serious. “We’re going up the north face—Devil’s Wall.”

J.D. sucked in a breath. Devil’s Wall was the most dangerous mountain face in the area. “Does your dad know we’re not going to Sugarloaf?” he asked.

Rick shook his head. “No, but it’s all right. Dad’s our teacher and he knows we’re good. He’s responsible for everything we know about rock climbing. He’ll be proud when we become the first climbers in history to make it up the north face.”

“After he kills us.” J.D. ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t know … I didn’t really come prepared for a climb like this.”

“Got it covered.” Spud raced to the porch and came back with extra food and supplies. He motioned for J.D. to put the stuff in his own pack.

J.D. was still worried. “Maybe we should wait till summer. The top is probably covered with ice and snow now.”

“Come on, J.D.” Rick picked up his pack. “So far everybody in town makes fun of the Rock Jockeys. This is our big chance to show them we’re serious climbers. Think how famous we’ll be: the first, not to mention the youngest, climbers to make it all the way up Devil’s Wall.” Rick paused. “And there’s also the bomber to think of.”

“Don’t tell me you guys believe that stupid rumor?”

The whole town knew the story about how a World War II bomber had supposedly crashed somewhere on the top of Devil’s Wall. The latest gossip was that the crew had all been killed and the government hadn’t been able to recover the plane.

BOOK: The Rock Jockeys
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