My arms extended in knee-jerk response. My wrists bent back as my hands braced against the trunk. I gritted my teeth as I stared at the foot and a half long spike protruding directly in front of my chest. I was inches away from a grizzly accident. My father and his friend whooped, hollered, and cheered down below.
The event begins on a misty Saturday, clouds billowing above, billions of immeasurably small droplets of water pelting my nose and eyes as my dad, a man from work, and I lug sacks of equipment to a peninsula on the riverfront, where cypress trees grow an impressive four stories. The man from work is an experienced climber who works felling trees and running a chainsaw in the top of them. He’s teaching me the ropes of climbing and repelling. I already know how to repel people, but repelling trees, cliffs, and walls? Sounds intriguing.
We select the tallest of the trees, and he sets up the line. I tie myself in, and the situation escalates.
If you know anything about climbing with a harness and ropes, you are well aware that you are required to consistently pull the slack out of your rope the higher you get. That way, if you fall, you don’t go far, and you won’t feel a painful snap when you reach the end of your rope. If you don’t know a thing about climbing, congratulations! You do now.
I reached a point where I wanted to climb about freely, so I loosened my prussux knot and gave myself a little more leeway. Precariously balanced on a tree branch, I slipped. As you recall, it was sprinkling and the bark of the tree was damp and slick. My boots came out from beneath me. My hands scraped away at whatever I could grab. I fell backwards. Just for a moment I was weightless. Then the rope pulled tight, and I began swinging back towards the tree. I looked down to where I was swinging and saw the remainder of a broken tree branch. The pike stuck out from the tree at a 90° angle and came to a hard splintered point. I extended my arms and caught myself barely diverting disaster. The spike was a mere two inches from the dead center of my chest bone.
I descended, and we packed up. Heading home we unanimously agreed that my mother would not be made aware of the incident unless I never wanted to climb again.
What was your latest brush with danger? Let’s hear about it in the comments below.
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