You can’t always be a hard ass about safety, but you should be a hard ass about not breaking 3 of life's golden rules.. i) have fun ii) do things that matter iii) don’t die.
That lead course you took that covered rappelling stations didn’t account for the time you get to the station and 2 of the bolts have rusted out and the one that’s still silver spins around when you flick it. What then huh? That wasn't in the manual.. Being safe and knowing safety is key, but all I’m saying is that things aren’t that straightforward. Sometimes you have to improvise. But how can you improvise without having a lot of experience? Most likely, you're going to have a mentor, but you're also going to be on your own with situations sometimes. Making mistakes is part of gaining experience. Surviving those mistakes....that's what ya want! When I hear about someone making a mistake and not surviving, I’ve learned to be reflective and sympathetic, not judgemental and omnipotent. I think it can happen to anyone, regardless of their experience or knowledge. This is because we all have moments of stupidity AND if you're involved in the coolest sports, then you're going to be taking some chances. It's a fact. Here’s 3 times in the great year of our Lord, 2015 where I found myself…makin' mistakes and being a dummy.
Though I participate in some perceived ‘risky’ activities, the risks generally lie in making mistakes. Meaning, if no mistakes are made, the chances of accidents are pretty close to zero.
)I mean, it’s not like I’m driving in a metal box at 120kmh twice a day for years, or smoking cigarettes and eating like shit. - Activities like THAT, will likely get ya killed.)
Mistake #1 - That one time I down climbed without a rope..
I was in Mexico on day 1 of a 2 week trip, rappelling off a climb called SNOT GIRLZ. My partner and I climbed up a route on the other side of the cliff. From several sources, we received beta that rapping down snot girlz was easier and faster than rapping down the route we had just climbed, so that’s what we did. The problem was that with this plan, we hadn’t climbed up the route that we were now rappelling down, which means that we had no idea what the terrain was and where the rappelling stations were. I went first to find the station. My plan was to go slow and scan for the station. If I didn’t see it, no big deal, I could just pull back up. As I got 3/4 of the way down the rope, I saw the station below, saweet. When I got towards the end of my rope, I realized that the station was still a few feet below me. Not good. I figured I might be able to reach it if I went ally the down to the end of my rope.
(How’d I misjudge that badly?? Must of been the heat and some sort of optical illusion.)
I was literary at the end of my rope and the rope stretch was so strong that I couldn’t jug back up the rope. There was no bolts near me and I was getting afraid that the knots I had tied in the end of the rope, that were threatening to come through my rappelling device, would fail and I’d fall the 500 or so feet to the ground.
The terrain in that spot was at an arete with big fat holds and lots of features (5.8ish). I decided it would be pretty easy to just climb up a bit, undo the knots, tie the rope to myself and then down climb the 10 feet to the station below. So that’s what I did. It amounted to climbing down about 10' without any protection. If I slipped or pulled a rock off, I probably would have fallen to my death. It was kind of a bummer, but at the time, it seemed like the best option. I still kind of think it was. I've learned a lot from that experience and probably wouldn't find myself in that exact scenario again.
Mistake #2 - Sticky parachute fail
I was skydiving in Arizona and it was real hot one day. The indoor parachute packing area was busy, so I decided to pack my parachute outside. I’m not a super fast packer, so I wanted to take my time and not be rushed because I had to wait for a spot indoors.
The nylon fabric of my parachute was really sticky on the sweat of my hands and arms. It was causing my pack to be a little messy and not as tight as I usually have it. Packing the parachute into the deployment bag (D-Bag) was almost fucking impossible. I was basically just stuffing it in there, totally unmiticulously. My plane call was coming up quickly and since it was so busy, it would be really bad form to miss my call. Plus, I decided that this was the best job I could do, given the hot temps etc. I figured as long as I had my lines managed and everything else placed well, I would have a good opening and good parachute. Whoops.
I was kind of worried the whole plane ride up, but remembered back to when I first started packing parachutes and that even with a shit pack today, it was probably better than the packs I jumped then. Whoops.
Anyway, so the plane door opens and I totally jump out of a plane, knowing that my pack is sub optimal. 12,000 feet turns to 8,000, turns to 4,000 and then I reach back to pull, preparing for the worst. As soon as my main handle left my hand, my parachute cracked open hard and then started spinning with line twists. My neck, back and ankles instantly throbbed. I guess my ankles smacked together on opening. I reached up and pulled the lines apart so it would be harder for them to keep twisting. The line twists stopped and I slowly began to turn in the opposite direction until my lines straightened out. At that point, everything was fine, but I had burned a lot of altitude to sort out the problem. I landed off field in the desert.
This problem started with me being kind of a wuss and worrying about getting in other people's way in the indoor pack area and also inconveniencing people if I were to miss my plane because I hadn't packed in time. Now I'm thinking...who &*%$ing cares... I have a parachute to pack nicely and a life to live! I'm not too worried about anything except packing a teight rig and then....packing another teight rig cause I'm alive!
Nothing too crazy, but these 2 moments make my skin crawl a little when I think about them!