An easy walk out... PART 1
What a better way of starting a blog than sharing a story of an adventure! And as far as adventure sports go, we all fondly remember our 'Type 2 fun' trips. Once you get into an outdoor adventure sport, you start off with copious amounts of type 1 fun. It's all smiles and you're just rolling in it, but pretty soon you are not too far off from having some form of type 2 fun. You never even have to go looking for it, it'll usually find you.
For those not up to speed on this terminology I'll give a quick rundown of what we mean when we talk about the types of fun we have, all three of them to be exact.
TYPE 1 FUN
Enjoyable at all times. You feel safe, happy and can't get enough of it. Examples include: sport climbing at the local crag, drinks and games with friends, eating chocolate. Always subjective of course, we all have fun in different, often weird, ways.
TYPE 2 FUN
This is where the fun begins (or ends??). All good intentions aside, you suffer quite a lot at some point. You find yourself saying things like "I'd pay $1000 for a helicopter charter right now" or "Why did I think I wouldn't need that extra down jacket" or "where is my freaking chocolate" (what, it's subjective, right?). Examples include: Most alpine climbing in marginal weather, cool new ideas (at the time) of traverses or climbs, offwidth climbing for the first time. After all is done and dusted however, the memory of the suffering quickly fades and you can say it was ‘character building’, and the remark of “it wasn’t that bad I guess” often follows.
TYPE 3 FUN
You are probably in hospital after an epic rescue. Maybe many years down the track you'll see it differently, perhaps even committing the age old sin of downgrading it back to a type 2 fun. But for the most part, things got way out of control and there was serious threat to life and the chance of you continuing your beloved hobby slimmed right down. All right, now we got that covered, here is one of my beloved type 2 fun stories. And it all started with an idea...
"Its got to be an easier walk out that the usual exit track"
It started with those words. I’m sure many adventures have started this way. Alas, I was still fresh. Still new to it all. I enlisted my adventure buddy, Josh, for what was to be the mother of all shortcuts to save a 4 hour uphill slog. Josh doesn’t climb regularly at this stage, and is still newer to rope skills than I was. He did have a toughness about him, and I knew he would make it through almost anything, and with a good attitude. Our beautiful locale was a deep canyon, a favourite of mine actually, and the usual walkout was getting a tad boring perhaps, and I, a bit more lazy each time.
Our adventure sport: Canyoning.
The plan: Ascend out of the canyon on our pre-fixed ropes before the last 60 meter waterfall which in my estimation, would save hours off the walk out.
Canyoning involves the descent of narrow, inescapable high walled canyons. Therein lies the challenge and appeal. Once you pull the rope after the first drop, you had better be well equipped, prepared, and experienced enough to make it to the end. An innocent sport at first glance, I have since realised that canyoning often has far more hazards than climbing, even more so because of its hidden dangers to the inexperienced. One thing is for sure however, canyons are a different world. Beautiful, mysterious, and often intimidating.
Canyons are also cold. Very cold. They are places that sunlight refuses to touch. So naturally, I chose a cool Queensland winters day to make our trip. Why wait? ‘The time is now’, right? Josh needed little convincing to come along, I had probably pitched it well, naturally. On a usual trip to this particular canyon you pack two 60 meter ropes. With my particular trip idea, I had us carrying three. To ascend back out (also known as jugging) we had one set of ascenders to share, as that's all I owned at the time. Ideally each person would have had one set, but we figured it would be easy enough to zip line it back down the rope.
“What time will you be back at the car?” Lanna asks before I leave home. “Well a normal trip sees us back at the car at around 3PM after a 7AM start, so, probably 1-2PM? We’ll save so much time with this ascending out idea, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier, it’s going to be fantastic” I remark. So with what will possibly be the heaviest loads we’ve carried to date, Josh and I set out some time after 7AM on a cool overcast Saturday morning.
Around 45 minutes later we hit the top of the canyon. A track conveniently traces around the top of it, making it an ideal canyon. Our first task, secure 45 meters of rope on 50-60 degree slippery rainforest slope (which I now fondly call rainforest scree) to make it to the lip of the canyon. Task 2, secure and drop rope down 50 vertical meters into the canyon, in the correct place, and make sure our lifeline out of this gaping long hole would be there when we later descend the canyon. The tasks completed, I was surprised at the tiring effort it took to ascend back out from that spot for 45m of the rainforest scree. After all, this was just fixing the ropes in place, the real descent of the canyon still had to be done and then we would jug back out the full 95 meters of fixed rope!
We quickly don our thick wetsuits after reaching the canyon entrance a few minutes later. Icy cold water bubbles around the open creek just before the narrowing walls. With not a soul around, we are eager to start. We jump into the first pool without hesitation, we know that delaying only makes those cold shocks harder. The cold water cruelly creeps in between the wetsuit zippers and makes you gasp and slur words mid sentence. We go into action at the first jump. A quick check from top shows the pool clear of obstacles, so we leap, landing 5 meters below into the blue-black liquid. Abseils follow over large chockstones and down twisting, narrowing walls. Through the white water pounding on our heads we bounce down into the deep pools. The canyon is beautiful, and the overcast day magnifies the greens, browns and reds of the steep rock walls. Its truly a magnificent place.
Soon we enter the final swim, we round a bend, 50 meter high walls surrounding us, and see our rope dangling in the water just as we had planned. It would be a short spurt of work, but we would save lots of time and energy so it would be worth it. I decide to go first. Josh had never jugged up a rope with proper ascenders, so I did a quick demo before I left. We were already a little tired and treading water didn’t help. I figured by going first, I could always come down the rope quicker, if he needed help, rather than going up. I was also familiar with the ascenders and could get up the 50 meter distance quite quickly. I thought so anyway.
We ditched our packs, tying them to the end of the rope ready for hauling later, and I quickly begin upwards. Moving hand ascender up, I would stand in the foot loop attached to it and take up the slack with my body ascender before repeating the process. Each time you do it, it gets a little more tiring. Around 5 meters up I spot a very small crumbling ledge. I look down at Josh, floating on his back. “You ok Josh” I ask. “Yep, but I think I'm getting pretty cold”. His lips did look a little blue from where I was. I was at a small ledge, and he would only be treading water if he stayed at the base any longer which would make him worse. I decided I would stop there, disconnect and let him come up to join me, at least getting him out of the water and a little warmer. After spending some time doing my best to secure myself on the ledge, I zipline the ascenders down and let go of the rope. “Josh are you ready?” I ask.
Hypothermia is awfully sneaky. You never realise you have it. His speech had started slurring. His answers to my questions came after long delays and with great confusion. Fingers ceased to work properly, and opening the carabiner to attach the ascender to his harness was proving a very difficult task. I had felt the brink of hypothermia before, but never as close as this, and it was terrifying to watch it happen. I grew increasingly worried. A rescue in this place would take a long time and be a huge undertaking. It seemed like an eternity had passed until he finally got himself connected, fighting hard through the mental fog. After a few sloth like movements he began to heat up as he jugged up towards me, seeming in a much better condition as he joined me on the ledge. Right. That was close. I wanted to get moving quickly, we still had quite a way to go and I definitely wanted things to go smoothly.
Continued in part 2…