Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shower Climbing Pisgah

When Daniel was here back in April he asked if we ever go up our streams and waterfalls. He had done so in Japan where they call it Shower Climbing. I wasn't sure I knew just what he was talking about but was sure it wasn't something we do around here. His question sparked my interest and since his visit I've been dreaming of a route where you go up one watercourse and then down another. Ever the reasonable type, I figured my best option would be to go up something easy with no waterfalls and then down something a little harder with a couple of small waterfalls. After scouring my maps I picked two streams that diverge into one and whose headwaters are somewhat easily accessible by a common trail. I headed off alone on Saturday morning to see what I could find.

It took a little work to identify which stream to go up but I found it and up I went. I had my Tenkara rod, of course, and fished as I slowly worked my way upstream. Things started out rather overgrown but the canopy opened up into Carolina blue skies and around every bend was yet another perfect pool. I kept thinking okay, now is time to put up the rod, but there was another bend and another pristine cascade and another perfect pool.


Cast again. And again. and again....

At first I was little worried the route was going to be too easy and too boring. But then things started to get a little harder. Huge log jams appeared. Wherever I stepped the driftwood caved in. The upclimbs started to increase in difficulty. The margin of error decreased exponentially.



I was carrying full technical gear and decided if I was carrying a helmet it was now time to use it. At least my head might be safe. I stepped up onto a big stone on a dry oasis in the middle of the stream to have a bite to eat, sip of water and to put on my helmet but when I went to step off that large stone it shifted under my weight and tossed me four feet down to the creek. My knees and shins banged the boulders and I stuck out my arms to catch me. My left thumb caught the brunt of the fall and I watched it bend back to touch my wrist. Pain coursed through my body and after grinding to a halt I assessed the damage: and while it hurt really bad I could still make a fist, grab my fishing rod and flex my fingers.  Not quite tragedy narrowly adverted but also far from worst case scenario.


As if to wash away the pain from my stupid accident and injury around the very next bend I was greeted by a perfect 100', three tired waterfall. There weren't supposed to be any waterfalls on this creek so I considered myself lucky. The sides of the creek were narrow and the waterfall had just enough of a gentle grade and vegetation off to the sides to tell me I could climb it. Now was time to put away the tenkara rod. With a lot of work I manage to scrape my way all the way up it.



Climbing that beast was exhilarating and exhausting and once I topped out I was happy for it to be over but there to great me above the horizon was yet another large waterfall. It was as if I just entered canyon heaven but instead of going down on ropes I was headed up alone instead. I didn't take long to linger, I just focused and went up.



This one was a little harder to get up. It was vertical in many places and there weren't as many reliable holds. I scraped and clawed my way up. While this snail makes it look easy my grip was not nearly as good.


Now by my count there had already been tow major waterfalls where there should have been none so imagine my surprise when at the top of this latest waterfall I looked up to see two more waterfalls waiting just upstream for me.



At this point I was just going on pure adrenaline. My left thumb and hand were throbbing almost as hard as my chest was pounding. There was nowhere to go but up.

This one was the hardest yet. Halfway up I decided I wanted to go down but couldn't. I wanted to just traverse off to the side but couldn't. I couldn't find a decent handhold. Things were getting sketchy to say the least as falling was not an option. I finally found a large crack above me, stuck my mangled left hand in it, made a fist and held on with all my might. After a seemingly impossible amount of time I managed to slowly work my way over to a slight ledge. From there I retreated off to the side through some vegetation.

Tragedy narrowly adverted indeed.


From there luckily the waterfalls ended. It had been a very hard stretch and I was glad to be out of that gorge.

At the trail where I had planned to go left and then down another stream I stopped for lunch. I was beat and felt like going down a similar stream to what I had just been up might be pushing my luck so I did the smart thing and went right instead.

There was still another stream to go down but this one was flatter and near a trail and not too technical at all.  Perfect for a little more tenkara fishing before calling it a day.



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