Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recklessness Begets Ballsiness

Or maybe it's the other way around. I actually have no idea what I'm trying to say with that stupid title. Disregard.

This is a picture of Breckan biking through Tibet.

Here is a link to my buddy Spencer's latest escapade on his world bike tour. It's worth a read. It's also worth enlarging the pictures. Some really beautiful shots that include Spencer's ratty mustache.

Put simply, they have invaded Tibet. I'm not sure what the international ramifications of this could be but it's not hard to imagine that in the near future Spencer and Charlie will be kidnapped by the Chinese government and forced to play Russian Roulette in some smoke filled back room in a Shanghai brothel. DI DI MOW! Or however you spell it. (It's clear that my only knowledge of Southeast Asia comes from Vietnam movies.)

What's interesting to me is that while they were considering whether to go the safe way or the crazy way, Spencer used the ironclad argument of "Come on!" to persuade his group to plunge head first into the unknown. I've had that discussion before.

Here is a link to Spencer's account of this event.

It was February last year. Spencer, Justin and Travis and I had just spent the day canyoneering through Keyhole canyon in Zion. It was wet and frozen. We had drysuits on which did an amazing job of keeping us warm as we smashed through 5 inches of ice so we could swim through the bottom of the deep slot. This was the first time Justin and I had ever done anything like this. And it happened to be the most extreme conditions possible. Check out the massive amounts of hanging ice that was dangling over our heads the entire time. Did we bother to rent helmets with our drysuits, you ask? No. We're not a bunch of pussies (read people with a shred of common sense). Enlarge these photos for a better idea of what it was like. But it's so hard to get a decent picture in those slots. These really don't do it justice.

That's waste deep water with sandy ice on top.

This shows how much ice there was. There were several long swims where we had to break the ice with our elbows as we tread water.

So we pounded through Keyhole, which is the shortest and easiest slot canyon in Zion. It's also the darkest, wettest and coldest. It was probably about 2:00 when we got to the trail head for Pinecreek. Pinecreek is bigger than Keyhole but still a pretty short canyon. It should have taken us about four hours to finish it, which means we would have been hiking out just as it was getting dark. However, we had a bit of technical problem. Travis had a hole in his drysuit. So he had to drive back to the outfitter we rented it from, get a replacement and drive back. All in all (including a rock slide on the road) that delayed us almost two hours. So it was almost 4:00 when we got to the first rappel in Pinecreek. At this point, there is no going back. Once you start the first descent, you have no choice but to finish the entire canyon.

As Spencer was setting up the rope, it occurred to him that we didn't have any webbing with us. Webbing is used to secure the rope to the anchor. In those pictures, the webbing is the red part and it wears out pretty quickly. Again, it was February and no one (besides Spencer and Charlie) had descended this canyon in months. In that time there had been several flash floods that put the existing webbing through a lot of beating. The first anchor was fine, but we had no way of knowing the condition of the other anchors. And we had no way of repairing them if they were in bad shape. If that were the case, (or if someone turned an ankle or if the hundreds of pounds of pointy ice that was dangling over our helmetless heads came crashing down or if a hundred other things went wrong) we would have had to spend the night in the slot until rescue came the next day.

Here is a picture of Pinecreek from above. You can see how deep and narrow it is. That photo was taken last week in the sunshine.

I remember Travis saying, "The canyon will still be here in a three months when it's warm and dry." And I figured it had already been a fun day, no need to take such a needless risk. We can just return our gear and drive home in the day light. We stood silent for a while as we all waited for someone to say, "Screw it, let's go home." Instead, Spencer broke the silence with the following argument:

"Come on!"
(waits a few seconds)
"Come on!"
(with slightly different inflection)

That's all we needed. We hooked into the rope and rappelled away into unknown darkness.

Did I mention Spencer starts law school this fall? His powers of reason and persuasion cannot be argued. Just imagine him standing up to give a closing argument in defense of a clearly guilty client (I can't see him as anything other than one of the greasy dirtbag lawyers) and saying, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. . . come on. Come on!"

Boom! Acquittal.

We descended Pinecreek without any problems. It was dark when we hiked out and we didn't get back to the rental place until after 10:00. We then drove home exhausted.

It was insane and needlessly reckless. But it was just about the most fun I have ever had. That was the first canyon adventure I've embarked upon. Since then, it has gotten into my blood. I've gone back to Zion now 7 or 8 times since then including last weekend where my big gay brother, Big Gay Al joined us. We did the same two canyons I did that first time. No ice. But it was still cold as hell (even with the wetsuits). But also a lot of fun.

A year plus later Spencer, Breckan, Charlie and some other guy I don't know are along the border of Western China deciding whether to bike the long way around or to risk an international incident by illegally (?) occupying Tibet.

Is there really any question which way they went?

Seriously guys, be safe. Be smart. And don't ever listen to what Spencer says. Ever.

1 comment:

Spencer said...

There was a time during that trip (and this happens about never), that I thought, "this is a bad idea." Then it turned out super aweosme and it was a good idea.