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General Climbing Discussion

Topic Date User
Descents 16-May-2006 At 3:23:40 PM sticky
This story is a bit long, apologies.

Getting off Uncle Ben's in Squish with only one headlamp (Where our hero tries to kill himself and his partner, but Simon saves the day!).

We had been going all day. We we thirsty and exhausted. Simon had fallen several metres just minutes before, and I had completely terrified myself with a moment of deja vu from a recurring nightmare I had been suffering from for the past few years (another story altogether!). Finally, we made the top, in the dark, after 24 hours on the go. I was erratic and slow thinking. I could see the concern in Simon's face, but I didn't know how to snap myself together.

Eight or so abseils, but it was bolted rap anchors all the way - what could be easier? Back in time to have a summit beer at the pub. I led down, prusiks, wearing the tikka and the half the rack; Simon followed. The first several raps were fine, until I rapped down to the portaledge, two hundred metres off the deck. It wasn't there. I had run out of rope; the portaledge had disappeared, the anchor with it.

Through the inky night I made out a patch of reflective material to my right . The portaledge. I had rapped about twenty metres to the left of where I should have been. I wasn't thinking clearly, so ignoring the jumars on my harness I wrapped the rope around my leg and did some running pendulums to get to the 'ledge - desperate, one handed lunges, falling just short (or wide) each time.

Back, forth, back, forth, the edge of the ledge tantlisingly close. With each swing, I heard the ominous scratch of rope rubbing against granite. I vaguely wondered what would give way first - the rope or my patience. I was very worried. Back... forth, rest . Back ... forth, rest, seemingly forever. It was probably twenty minutes, maybe a little more. Simon had fallen asleep.

At last, I grabbed the ledge. Now to reach the anchor, eight feet above. I clumsily climbed up the rope hand over hand, until Simon awoke and told me to use my bloody jumars. With one hand holding onto the ledge I jugged up to the bolts. I was too far gone to work out how to unweight the line I had jugged up, so I fixed the other line for Simon to abseil down and sort me out. I was fading quickly.

Once free I grabbed one of the bags and went back down into the dark. Simon dismantled and packed up the portaledge and pig, following promptly down. After two more raps we we landed on the Flake Ledge, a shiny set of ringbolts marking our progress.

Glad to be out of trouble, I left Simon the headtorch to sort out the gear as I threaded the rope through the rings and lowered into the forest below. We still seemed very high. I remember seeing some young trees growing out from the cliff as I descended into the forest, and wondering if they'd hold an abseil.

I first noticed a problem when I hit the knots at the end of the rope. Bugger. I had packed my jumars in the pig. Simon had those. I didn't have any prusiks. I called out to Simon, joking at first, then slightly panicked. No answer. How the hell was I going to get down? I needed to get up, or Simon needed to get down. I had no way of getting up, and Simon couldn't get down until I got off the rope.

It was pitch black in the forest - I couldn't see the hands in front of my face. Beneath my feet I felt a small ledge of dirt, a foot and a half wide. I felt the rock for some bolts. Nothing.

Then I decided. Simon could lower himself to the trees and set up an anchor there. But first I needed to get off the rope. I took a deep breath and unclipped from the rope. The ledge held my weight. I pressed myself into the cliff, hoped, and waited.

After an age, I heard Simon coming. He had the pig on his back; the 'ledge and poo-tube dragging six feet beneath him, bouncing their way down the cliff. I shouted up to him to explain the situation. I heard him mutter his assent and continue down.
"For god's sake," I sighed, "Please don't knock me off this bloody cliff."

Simon found a small tree clad ledge and lowered the rope (onto my head). I clipped in and rapped off to the ground, thirty metres below. Unbeknownst to me, Simon hadn't trusted the tree. He had given me a body belay, with the tree as backup. Now he dropped the ledge, the pig, everything he had - thirty mertres to the base of the Chief.

He gingerly weighted the tree and abseiled down into safety. We were down. After an hour of stumbling through the forest we reached the campground as the sun began to filter through the trees. The beer could wait.

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