I´ve been hiking through forests, fields, and mountains since I was 8 years old and while I still find a lot of pleasure in the simple activity of hiking, my terrains have changed significantly over the years. Once I moved to the Rocky Mountains, I found myself confronted with, guess what! Yes, a hellofalot of rocks and boulders. As a matter of fact, they are so plentiful and large, that I had to expand my typical hiking trips to include climbing. Can´t be that difficult, right!?
After a pretty rough drive on a level 5 road, I finally reached one of my particularly well hidden hiking spots. At the end of the road is a cute little valley with a small lake. As usual, I had enough equipment to rough it for a few days in case of an emergency and felt confident and excited as I began my hike up a steep hill. About half-way up, the hill became increasingly more rocky and soon I had to start climbing over rocks in order to continue upwards. I was having one of those insane-energy-days during which I can practically run up the side of a mountain, no problem! I made it 3/4 of the way up in under an hour.
The amazing view pushed me higher and higher, until I found large boulders blocking my way. In a zig-zag manner, I continued upwards finding little ledges here and there and squeezing through incredibly narrow niches. Just before I reached the top, the mountain began smoothing out and it was impossible to grab a hold anywhere. I felt like a child desperately reaching for the candy jar on top of the fridge! After further investigation, I came upon a small path that appeared to lead around this baby-ass boulder and towards the top. “Ha Ha!” I thought to myself and began walking towards the path.
It wasn´t long until the path began narrowing and tilting downward. Aaaaaaand of course, I began making my way down the smooth rock. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was heading straight for my own death. When I realized that the end of this path was equal to the end of the boulder, I had already shifted from our modern way of walking to a scootching kind of locomotion. I stopped and began hugging the smooth rock to my left. “Alrighty”, I thought. “You´ll just have to turn around”. As I started shifting my body to the left, my backpack pushed me forward as it was hitting the rocks on the right. The same thing happened, when I tried turning around by shifting to the right. In short, I was stuck.
An attempt to stand up quickly reminded me that I have the balance of a newborn and when I tried to sit back down my backpack once more pushed me a couple inches towards the edge. I was getting a little worried. “Plan, plan. Come up with a goddamn plan!”. And there was my aha! moment. I had to sacrifice my backpack. Using incredibly slow and careful yoga-like movements, I started taking off my pack. By the time I had freed myself from the dead weight (pun intended), I had slid forward a few more inches. I muscled the thing over my head, set it down, and let go. And that´s when shit hit the fan.
I am not sure if maybe the weight of the backpack had kept me from sliding, but as soon as I let go, I began taking off as well. My attempts to stop were fruitless and I began preparing myself to jump. Just seconds before reaching the end of the rock, I realized exactly what kind of deep shit I was in. This wasn´t the end of the boulder, this was the end of the entire structure and I was sliding towards a 25m (80 ft) drop-off. I could feel my nails breaking as I desperately tried to hold on to the rocks beside me. The gravel under my boots sped me towards the edge and suddenly thoughts of my endlessly worried grandmother popped into my head. She had foreseen this exact moment and had lectured me about ending up dead in the mountains for as long as I can remember.
Obviously, I didn´t die (or did I?). As I was getting ready to kiss my ass goodbye, I suddenly stopped. The tip of my hiking boots were past the edge, and I knew any movement could be my last. I´d be lying if I´d claim to remember precisely how I managed to turn around. All I remember is finding a tiny ledge to my right, and pulling myself up. After that, I grabbed a hold of, and badly dismembered, an old bush and soon found some half-way solid ground again. Stubborn as I am, I retrieved my backpack, which survived the fall surprisingly well, and went back up that mountain. This time, a lot more carefully, I might add.
Now, I know the outdoor adventurers, mountain climbers, and safety sticklers are probably grinding their teeth by now. Yeah, that experience was a bit close to the´great end´for my taste. and since then I have been able to gather a lot more information and experience regarding mountain climbing. The moral of the story: It´s only half the fun if someone ends up dead at the end.