They say size doesn’t count…

They say size doesn’t count, but length certainly does. Luck is a major factor that sometimes comes into play with us even knowing it. My story goes back to the day when 45m ropes were the standard, and Edelrid was the favourite. An Edelrid 70m rope back then would have certainly swung lady luck into my favour.

A new crag had been discovered: high, clean and steep faces, and lots of excitement. I drove 120K’s to get there as early as possible on a misty morning to claim what looked like the best line. I blasted through the Umkomaas valley, leaning into the curves, keenly aware that each one was a potential launching pad, evidenced by the hulks of cars lying in the bottom of the valley. New route names were flashing through my mind.

I arrived at the crag, bashed through the bush and strung my rope over the prize. Out of site, but just around the corner Brett was also playing the game. We cleaned, ticked and check out gear placements. On a Shunt, I moved up and down scoping the moves and soon we were top-roping the routes. Before long dusk approached.

Aiming to quickly to escape the dark, I scrambled to the top, clipped my device in and began to descend the top rope to retrieve some gear. Around the corner Brett was doing likewise. What happens next is quite predictable. I was there but cannot give a first-hand account. It remains a black spot in my memory. One end of the rope would have slipped through the belay device and out of my hand. Brett heard a loud “thwump” and breaking branches and got no response to his shouts.

Isn’t it absurd that I diced with the devil through the valley and the highway, but was rushed and careless and found wanting doing what should be a safe activity?

I remember virtually nothing in my weeks in hospital and the long months recovering at home. I recall many people at my bedside; the silhouette of Sharn at the window looking out to the sea; my father trying to reassure me while I cursed and fought; telling Roger who came to visit me to fuck-off; being tied to the bed covered by a net to stop my attempted escapes; being rushed down the road in a wheelchair in search of an open pub by my ever-caring friends; sitting on the lawn overlooking the beach drinking a beer with Brett; and lounging in a bath being attended to by beautiful nurses.

It would have been tough times if I was fully aware. A paralysed leg which took months to work again and being unable to form sentences, read or write worried others more than it worried me.

My regrets:

  • not thanking the friends who called the ambulance and who rescued me.not fully knowing and ever really thanking those who spent countless hours at my bed side tolerating my outbursts of foul language.
  • not sparing the glance needed to look over the edge to see if both ends were on the ground.
  • telling my future wife when she came to visit that she was getting fat.
  • and finally, not having an Edelrid 70m rope which would have given me that extra slice of luck I needed that day.

But something good came out of the whole affair:
A wonderful new path cut through the bracken by the stretcher party and a super cool new route name when I eventually got back to open it: One Crater Later (26).

Keep on climbing friends.


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