An easy walk out... PART 2
From the ledge we still had the odd 45 meters of vertical free hanging rope to ascend. Same deal again, I would jug up as quick as I could and zipline the ascenders back down again. I knew speed was crucial. I starting jugging up the rope like I’ve never jugged before. Steam exploded from my wetsuit as I powered up like a vertical steam train. I had never worked so hard in my life. Half way up I stopped to gasp for more air and glance back down. All looked well. I continued on and finally made it to the large tree trunk at the lip of the canyon where I had anchored the rope. I attached my safety and disconnected my ascenders. I sent down the body ascender first by clipping it to the rope by its carabiner. As it shot down, Josh caught it with his rolled up jacket causing a tremendous crack to ring through the canyon.
There's always that one point in a series of mistakes where you think “I totally shouldn’t have done that”. This was that moment.
Leaving the hand ascender on the rope, I disengaged the sharp progress capture teeth, leaving it still attached and ready to use. Now some reading won’t know much about how they work but let's just say there was a much better way to zipline it down, I know this now. The way I did it would be fine for a few meters, but down 50? I had never done it before. As I let the ascender drop out of my hand and watched it zoom down the rope, the realization hit me in slow motion. I could see it before it happened.
The ascender whipped back and forth more and more as it flew down the rope. And with sharp teeth ever so close, it was only a matter of time before they caught on something.
Well, what could happen? At best, tearing the rope sheath a little, at worst, getting stuck mid way down the rope out of reach. Its incredible how much speed an object picks up on a large drop. As it hit a particularly hard whip to the side, a mere 3 or so meters above josh, it came to a violent stop. I’m sure it made a cracking sound, but that could have been my realization of what I had just done.
The word said it all. One set of ascenders for two people and Josh still needed them to get up, and it’s sitting 3 freaking meters above his head! For that brief moment I wanted to be somewhere else, to just not deal with the day any more. The jugging up had knackered me, and I rested my head against the tree trunk and did some expletive ridden poetry. I’m sure Josh must have felt the same, he was the one who needed that ascender after all. After the initial shock passed, I yelled out and prayed he had brought his prussik cord which he could use to improvise an ascender. Some tense moments followed and... he had indeed brought it! Without that cord, we would have been in an even bigger mess.
Josh quickly gets into self rescue mode and finally makes it to the jammed ascender. With luck I am ever grateful for, it had not jammed too bad, nor damaged the rope much, and he began the task, having never rehearsed this before, of switching over from the prussik to the ascender, all while in free hang. Considering how stressful some new situations in climbing and canyoning can be, I was glad I had chosen Josh. With self control I doubt I possess, he held it together even with my unhelpful shouted advice as I could barely see what he was doing. Soon enough he figured it out and was jugging his way up. At last he made it to the tree belay and we high fived in celebration.
Our good spirits soon dampened as we began hauling our bags. Or should I say the water in the bags. Both packs, 60-70L size, had become epically waterlogged. We were now hauling the most pointless haul of all time. You start thinking of how much value is in those bags. Is it worth just leaving them maybe? By now it's getting late in the day, it’s definitely late afternoon already. The F word seems to come to me quite regularly now, I've adopted it as my second language. After what seems like hours, we finally get our bags and tip out the water that’s left. We pull up the rope and begin the final phase of ascending the 45m of 50 degree rainforest scree.
With the loosely held vegetation falling away under our feet, we take turns jugging up, holding onto a tree, then zip lining the ascenders back down to the other person to repeat. We are tired, beat up and have not eaten all day. We make it to the top of the track, the end of the rope, and the end of daylight. The sun is just starting to set and we still have another hours walk out to the car. Is it any surprise we only had one headtorch between us? We stumble along like the zombies we are, bags even heavier now with saturated ropes. Our lonely car sits in the carpark as we make it back at 7:30PM. Funny that, I swear the walk out turned out to be the smoothest part of the trip.
After learning many lessons, Patrick & Josh now each have their own set of ascenders. Prussiks are carried at all times, and shortcuts are viewed with suspicion. The last bit is a lie actually. I end up trying this method another 2 times in the next year and a half. Memories might fade, but imagined shortcuts don’t!