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General Climbing Discussion

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A short story 28-Aug-2007 At 10:30:25 AM IdratherbeclimbingM9

The swirl of the ground rushed at me with frightening speed.
I thought time was supposed to stand still in moments like these.

* * *

The day had started out pleasantly enough when I met her at the station, all bright eyed with anticipation of her first multi-pitch climb.

As we geared up the coolness of the morning was dissipating; the mist rising from the fern gullies to intermittently reveal in the early light the exquisitely mellow hues of yellow and orange sandstone towering above us. Our chatter was minimal as we both soaked up the ambience of this place and, I suspect, a degree of nervousness on her part; but it did not show in the smile she flashed me as I set off, the tinkle of my hex’s acting as a counter-point to the call of bellbirds.

The climbing was easy enough, but I started to become warm once I got into the rhythm of movement, sufficiently far above the treetops to be fully in the morning sun. It was going to be a hot day.

Early afternoon found us sipping from our drink bottles on a sandy ledge shaded by an ornately-weathered ceiling-arête leading out and up, to the anticipated summit book. At the end of the ledge, framing the panorama before us, a featured wall led to a line of weakness in the form of a dihedral - forming one side of the arête above.

“How are you feeling?” I asked, as I saw her eyeing up the intended line of our route.
“Okay with what I can see, but unsure about what is out of sight,” she replied.

Was that déjà vu? I can’t remember my reply now, but at the time it reassured her.

The exposure off the ledge was scintillating, and I involuntarily sucked in my breath as I committed to the moves. Higher up the corner seam closed off, and a flake led leftwards out to the arête. Near this was a horizontal break that looked good for protection. After placing a nut in it I relished the satisfying snick sound as the karabiner gate closed over the rope. I stepped up higher while pulling on an edge with my right hand.
The hold crumbled and I very nearly discoloured my underwear.
“Watch me!” I called backwards over my shoulder as I dropped the now useless bit of hold and eased up again with renewed focus.

Stepping around the sharp arête I could see easier ground up higher that led to the likely final belay spot, before the slope angled back out of sight in a jumble of Xanthorria grass to the summit. Although these beautiful plants are now fully protected, I thought it ironic that they were decimated during the two World Wars, due to their resin being used in the manufacture of cordite, the explosive which was used in rifle ammunition. They are endemic to these hills, and these ancient examples are safe enough in their inaccessible location.

The next few moves were probably the crux of the whole climb.
Splayed out like a huntsman-spider, I delicately rocked my balance point over my left toes but found the rope-drag on the arête holding me back.
“Slack!” I yelled, and was relieved to be able to complete the move.
Just above, out of reach, was a stretchy move to place the next piece of protection. I found what I thought was the right tri-cam nut for the placement and removed it from my harness. Put its sling between my teeth. Eased with tentative balance cautiously higher. I managed to grope it into the pod blindly, but as I attempted to seat it with a tug my crucial left foot placement slipped and I slowly cart-wheeled off the face.

The swirl of the ground rushed at me with frightening speed.
I thought time was supposed to stand still in moments like these.



“Uuunghh,” I involuntarily grunted as the rope went tight; hard across my chest.

I blinked at the merge of sky and treetops below as I gently pendulumed in the overhanging area under the belay ledge.

“ARE YOU OKAY?!” she screamed.


I took stock of myself.
“I… I think so,” I croaked back with RELIEF flooding though me as I realised I was okay.
The visual horizon tilted as I swayed to and fro on the rope.

I started looking for my prusik cords at the rear of my harness, but when I found them all I could think was ‘that’s queer; they are flailing about’.
Looking up I could see an end of rope receding fast upwards. My peripheral vision noted another end flapping idly beside me as I fully realised I was weightless.

A distant wail seemed to fffaaadddeee.

The swirl of the ground rushed at me with frightening speed.
I thought time was supposed to stand still in moments like these.

I’m so cold.

As my heart stopped so did-

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