Friday, April 29, 2005

Epics: A response


By Rod Smith

Dear Bigness,

Can I just say that your account of bad times on the slopes of South Africa’s Table Mountain sounds pretty much exactly what I experience every time that my merry band of 48 non-gear owning, non-leading friends accompany me simultaneously onto the soaring lines of the 10m-high, crenellated sandstone of Sydney’s Bangor West.

I mean, it's uncanny that what you describe is exactly what we encountered on one particularly trouser-filling trip. We had almost-mist, near-benighting, congenital stupidity, multiple multi-pitches of up to 30cm each, a cliff draped in so much rope it looked like a macramé lesson from god, loss of crack and one good head torch.

I can feel the cold sweat run down my sticht plate when I remember that fateful day-into-night when I was responsible for six screamingly gripped people scattered up and down this towering cliff, on intermediate stances, from 9am until midnight, simply because a key hand jam had been inadvertently filled in by the local council road-mending crew.

With lives at risk I was forced to make decisions of Yatesian and Simpsonesque and even Shakespearian proportions. With the fearful expression on my face hidden by the dimming of the day, I announced that I had to tie every one off so that I could lower off and answer nature's call.

What I really did was lower off, drive to the Como pub, drink 15 beers for courage, drive back, jumar back to my high point and finish the climb by the light of a birthday candle that one of the gang happened to have secreted in an area where candles aren't normally secreted.

My Boag’s-charged state had allowed me, as it always does, to see things that I normally would have missed. In this case it was a micro hold that had previously been hidden by the shadow of an ant's earlobe.

Needless to say (so why say it?) that this discovery allowed me to put away my souvenir Touching-The-Void-See-You-Later Knife and lead my mewling minions to the safety of a nearby Seven Eleven for celebratory half dried-up pies and sausage rolls.

I still look back in horror on that route which some call Andrew's Bulge (16) but which I call Andrew's 11-metres-of-sheer-terror Bulge.

The only time I have ever gone back there I was almost blinded by the sun that glints off the hundreds of fingernails still embedded in the rock after they were ripped from the tips of my crimping, crying, frightened friends.

Here's to epics.