Wednesday, May 1, 2013

at the waterfall clearing my head

Last Saturday I met up with who else, but Joe with Pura Vida Adventures for a little cayoneering action. He has a new hotshot cowboy guide out from Montana for a month and wanted to know if I could show him the Big Bradley adventure canyoneering trip. While Cory surely could have figured it out on his own I was eager to jump at the chance to get onto the trip. This is the standard cayoneering route in the area. Located just outside of Saluda, NC near the Green River this adventurous route was pinoneered by Pura Vida Adventures and was featured in National Geographic Adventure magazine. It has a spectacular entry with a double rappel: first you drop 35' down a rocky shoot into a deep pot hole that leaves you perched 3/4 of the way up a 120' waterfall. The only good way out of that pothole is to drop to the bottom via a second rappel that takes you straight down the waterfall. From there you get a sketchy traverse and then are faced with lots of boulders, log jams, and shorter rappels. An excellent route.

It rained on Saturday and the water was high. I got to take the dubious honor of being first down all the rappels. The first drop down into the pothole went well. The second 75' drop took us right into the spray of the waterfall and with the high water it was exhilarating to say the least. Once down at the bottom it was my job to help set the rope length with Joe via rope signals and then to fireman belay Corey who would in turn fireman belay the clients on the trip. It immediatly became very clear to me that a fireman belay was going to be very difficult. There was nowhere to belay from where I wasn't looking straight up into the spray of the waterfall. No matter where I stood, which way I tilted my head or how hard I tried I really couldn't see what was going on above me. I knew Corey was on his way down and had to hope he knew what he was doing because if he started to fall I likely would not know it until it was too late and he landed at my feet.

He did know what he was doing and after remarking that this was the most extreme thing you can do in this area we came up with a plan for belaying the others: Corey would stand with the rope in a fireman belay while I stood well off to the side - where I could actually see what was going on - with my whistle in my mouth. If something went wrong I would blow my whistle which would signal Corey to pull the rope and stop the fall. Another case of tragedy narrowly adverted except the two clients were very competent and no belay was needed.

After standing in a chest deep pothole for twenty minutes and then right in the spray of a big waterfall for another half hour in April in a steady rain it became very cold. In fact this was the coldest canyoneering day to date that I have done. A little suffering never hurt anyone and this was still as much fun as I could have possible had that day.

First rappel down into the pothole:


In the pothole:


I stopped halfway down the second rappel to snap a picture:


Looking up from my side vantage with Corey on fireman and my whistle in my mouth. Imagine what it looked like standing directly under the rope:




The traverse:


Big Bradley:


The things you notice along the way:


Everyday a holiday, every meal a banquet, another excellent adventure with Pura Vida Adventures!


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