A good dragon story always starts with the legend of a fire breathing beast hidden in no-mans-land. A brave knight will don his suit of armour and all of his weapons and head out on an adventure to coquer something much bigger than himself. This is my dragon story.
Two winters ago I went on an adventure in my favorite stealth camping forest just south of the cities. I wanted to climb the biggest tree I could find. I spent all day bushwacking down the river and along the limestone bluffs looking for a giant tree. I found one but it was so freaking enourmous that I couldn’t even reach the first branch with my throwline so I had to give up. Fast forward to today; I have attained another 18 months worth of climbing techniques/gear so I am going back to coquer this tree.
After almost a year and a half I was worried that I would not be able to find this tree since it is located in the middle of a forest without any trails. But I packed up all of my gear, food, filming equipment, and headed out. The streams were overflowing and the banks were muddy so there was a lot of scrambling over downed trees to cross sections of water and mud. To my surprise, after only 40 minutes of hiking I found it!
Do you think the video shows all the errors I ran into? NOT EVEN CLOSE! It took me four shots with my slingshot and fishing line to finally get the branch I wanted which isn’t too bad considering all of the lower canopies from surrounding trees that I was shooting through. The problem arose when I pulled out my throwline and realized that I only brought like 60′ of it! AH! This means that after I FINALLY nailed the branch that I wanted I had to use the tiny thin fishing line to pull over my heavy climbing rope! HA! I thought it would surely snap before my climbing rope was completely pulled over the branch. THEN! I find out that my super-old-needs-to-be-replaced-before-it-breaks-and-kills-me climbing rope was almost too short. I had to climb up a smaller tree and tie the anchor high just so that the other side of the rope was low enough for me to attach my ascenders. 100 feet just isn’t long enough anymore. I climbed the tree, built an anchor, and rappelled down to untie the original anchor so that I could use all 100′ of my climbing rope.
Once I pulled all of my gear in the tree I started to advance my line up towards the summit but all of the branches moved out horizontally from the base of the tree which means if I climbed any higher I would not be able to rappel out of the tree in two pitches like I usually do. Instead, I would be stuck free hanging on 50 feet of rope from a branch that is 70 feet high. (I double the rope over a branch and rappel like rock climbers using a Black Diamond ATC since dealing with pull lines when retrieving SRT ropes never works for me). So I was torn between climbing higher for a cooler campsite or staying lower for the safety of an emergency rappel.
Have you ever gotten scared at something that you have done many times before? Because I did. I don’t understand why this particular climb felt so much higher than it was but I was terrified to climb around for the first hour until my brain got used to looking down at the ground. When I finally got my hammock setup in the only location that I could find I was so mentally exhausted from climbing around and being scared that I didn’t care the foot end of my hammock was tied to basically a twig. I crawled into my hammock and made a super delicious hummus and vegy wrap before falling asleep withOUT my sleeping bag on. I woke up at 2a.m. freezing my ass off and thanking God that he changed his mind about making it rain that night. I did not feel like giving the “Monster Proof Hammock System” its first rain test on the night where I was already shivering. I finally got warm after putting on all of my clothes and slept like a baby until sunrise.
The next morning I ate a delicious bowl of cereal with almond milk (which doesn’t require refrigeration!) and started climbing around camp to take pictures of the crazy ass campsite. I had a mess of ropes everywhere! At one point I was attached to one branch via my ATC in guide mode and another branch via my GriGri. It was wonky. After taking down camp I tossed on my backpack and started building my rappel. Holy crap, I think I need to ask an arborist friend to teach me how to use retrieval lines because in the 20 minutes of attempting to take down my anchor and build a double rope rappel I found myself hanging upside down (in order to unweight the anchor) and almost getting stuck hanging there because I became too tired to pull my foot over the branch while wearing my backpacking full of gear.
After a year and a half I finally conquered the dragon. The funny part is that I felt like a climbing veteran before this trip but now that it is finished I realized that I am still a beginner and I have ALOT to learn.
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