My New Hobby Almost Killed Me!
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Thread: My New Hobby Almost Killed Me!

  1. #1
    Senior Member Pass Man's Avatar
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    My New Hobby Almost Killed Me!

    I was smitten with the TW back in the early 90s. The first time I had seen one in the classifieds. Something about the profile of it, and that big fat tire! What a cool unconventional bike. But I had a two year old daughter and I had to be thinking more responsibly. I had sold my Kawasaki just before my daughters birth. How I missed cruising down Palm Canyon Boulevard on a warm Spring night. Or taking the back roads to Tecate Mexico. Well we moved away from Palm Springs in 1992. Back to the Yosemite region of Central California. It was a great place to have an adventure in, just as long as I didn't buy a motorcycle. I found that there were plenty of other hobbies that would keep me entertained in that span of time. Mountain biking, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, playing in a band, brewing beer, and even rock climbing. Yes rock climbing, a sport that almost killed me quite literally! After all I gave up motorcycles because my wife said they were "too dangerous"! A friend of a friend introduced me to the sport. It started off quite easy, just a harness and some rock climbing shoes. I would tag along with my pals who had all the ropes, cams, carabiners and most importantly.....experience! We started with sport climbing, which means only a rope length up. No big commitment, just kinda scary. After I cut my teeth on several months of this climbing, Jim said " it's time to do your first multi pitch climb." That is multiple rope lengths, or big commitment! I was scared but I didn't want to show it. So he and I and Tom were camped out at Yosemite that night. It was April and the weather was still fickle. It rained most that night, but early that morning the sun was burning through the mist. We started up the Royal Arches route, which is rated at a modest 5.8 level of difficulty. It's essentially a beginner to intermediate level. I can't recall if it was 16 or 18 pitches long. But I was Leary of the vertical walls that towered over 1000 feet high above my head. The first 5 pitches went well and I was feeling more confident. But soon that feeling fled. To be continued
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    Senior Member Pass Man's Avatar
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    The next pitch was a last chance to retreat. As we had only one rope for the three of us. We couldn't rappel off any pitches above this spot without an extra rope. Our plan was to reach the summit and take a steep mountaineers trail down to the Valley floor, and be eating pizza and drinking beer by dark. The only problem was we didn't plan on the snow storm! We had only our climbing pants and a light jacket on. A power bar and an apple for food. And now we were commited. The easy climbing soon turned slippery! Good footholds with dry granite ,were impossible with snow. We fought our way up though and arrived at the top wet and exhausted. It was much later than our planned arrival due to the poor climbing conditions. Now we tried to find the faintly marked trail at the summit. It was covered in snow and we were following a non existent trail in the dark with headlamps. The wind was swirling the snow in a near white-out condition. We suddenly came to the end of the trail at the edge of the granite cliff. We were on top of Washingtons Column, a route some 1400 ft high. And quite sheer. We nearly didn't see the cliffs edge due to the snow! Now we had to find a makeshift shelter and fast! We came upon a granite boulder about the size of a V.W. Bug. It was laying over a small depression which allowed a tight bivouac . The three of us crawled under the rock and were fortunate enough to make a fire. The rock was tilted at a 45 degree angle, so we kept sliding down the bank and had to continually readjust our positions. (Forgive me for the size of this post. I didn't mean to turn this into a novel! I just started wanting to tell an experience, but can't condense it any more than I have.)

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    Senior Member Pass Man's Avatar
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    Okay, by now most of you have probably went on to other threads We didn't sleep that night. It was the longest night of my life. I kept thinking of my family and how worried they must be. I kept waiting for dawn. I kept imagining the horizon was getting lighter, but it was just wishful thinking . The wind blew hard at times, threatening to blow out the small fire. One side of my body would be freezing and the other was too hot. I imagined a rotisserie turning my body to keep it all even. We finally saw the morning sun illuminating Half Dome in mist. It was almost worth the night of hell! The clouds were all colors of a beautiful painting. Pink, purple, orange and gold reflected on Half Domes snowy girth. The perfect Ansel Adams moment and no camera. We were now thinking in daylight that we could find the down route. We were wrong.

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  5. #4
    Senior Member Pass Man's Avatar
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    We trudged up through tall Manzanita bushes and when we disturbed them a pile of wet snow fell over us. Our shoes consisted of poor choices for snow. I had sneakers, Jim had sandals with wet socks in 5 inches of snow! Our feet were miserable and our bellies were empty. We pushed on for 6 hours through brush towards the east, but could not find the way down Yosemite's unyielding cliffs. At one point we thought we were on the trail but it ended at a 1200 ft cliff. It was a deer trail. Now we had to back track a mile of misery. We finally got desperate and found a small stream plunging down the cliff. We noticed old climbers slings, so we thought we may be on the route down. We began to rappel the first water fall, which was 50' high. We had to become totally immersed in ice water as the slot in the falls was the lowest point to rappel. We doubled our 150' rope back through the sling which left 75' of rappel rope. We got to the next ledge and noticed it was 75' long. Just enough rope. But the third waterfall was about 90'. Now as I grabbed for a handhold the rock came loose and nearly crushed Toms hand. He had a gash on his knuckles, but worse yet we saw that our rope had been cut! About a third of the way through . Now we had to go down the water fall with the 90' drop! Tom and I went on it single, tied at the top. Jim had to double it through the sling, pull the rope out and climb the last 15 feet un roped on slick granite! We were holding our breath. Now the sun was setting and things were looking bad for us . We had no wood here, we may freeze to death. We continued towards a large steep plateau un roped when the realization came that the last 200' to safety was vertical. Just as it seemed all hope was lost, the Search and Rescue located us from below! They sent a climber up with extra ropes and rescued our hypothermic butts. The moral of this story is ......the TW ain't so bad after all.
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    Senior Member joeband's Avatar
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    an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. i always have basic survival materials on my TW and have a whistle on my key. never know how will the SHTF.

    ps: i can only imagine how beautiful that sunrise was for many reasons.
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    Senior Member Pass Man's Avatar
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    A couple years later we went back and did the same route over. This time it went off as planned.

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    Senior Member Pass Man's Avatar
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    Joe Band, A night owl like myself. Yes I learned a valuable lesson. Always be prepared! That sunrise was epic! I appreciated being alive and I think that heightened my sense for sure.

  9. #8
    Senior Member Borneo's Avatar
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    Good story. I started climbing back in the 70's when there were no active camming devices, a figure 8 was high tech and I'm not even sure the word "stealth" existed let alone stealth rubber. We used blocks of oak and machine nuts for protection. Thing about lead climbing is you fall twice the distance you are above your last anchor...that holds. I started riding motorcycles in the late 60's and progressed to motocross bikes by the 70's. I still climb and ride. In the early 80's I added in alpine climbing for real, not just my usual hike to the summit. That eventually resulted in 8000m peaks. I still climb and ride motorcycles. Funny thing is my worst injuries (I have been hurt pretty decently rock climbing) came from getting hit by a boat while water skiing. Four feet of scars, a pinned together knee and one leg three inches shorter than the other. I also lost a good part of my hearing as a direct result of that whole deal. Go figure.

    Looking back on it, riding motorcycles has turned out to be one of the safer things I have done.
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    Senior Member Borneo's Avatar
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    As a side note, I was on the 2006 International team to K2 with Ger McDonnell and Wilco Van Roojen. Ger and Wilco went back in 2008 for another attempt (Ger's second and Wilco's third) I did not go. The rock fall hazard was horrendous in 2006, an environmental issue that could not be controlled. Ger was seriously injured by rockfall on that expedition in 2006 and flown out from base camp by the Pakistani military. (Base camp was so high that the Paki helicopter could only fly about ten feet off the deck) Unfortunately Wilco was seriously injured in 2008 (as were quite a few others) and Ger remains on the mountain. Huges D'Aubarede who became a friend in 2006 also died, the prayer flags he left in front of my tent on the day he left the mountain still hang in my office. In all 11 climbers died in one event, more than the Everest tragedy that garnered so much press. K2 has always been called the "Killer Mountain" for good reason. There is an excellent documentary here:

    I'm not much of a philosopher, nor am I sure there is a take away moral to stories like these, but if there is it may well be "live your life well for no man knows his appointed time".
    Last edited by Borneo; 02-27-2014 at 04:35 AM.
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  11. #10
    Senior Member Pass Man's Avatar
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    Good stuff! A fellow climber in hiding.The thing that amazes me is how you can run into a World Class climber, and don't even know it. I ran across Jim Bridwell in Palm Springs at Tahquitz Canyon in the 90s. My friend knew who he was and started a conversation. Turns out he's a rock god. He put up some famous routes in Yosemite and elsewhere. Yet just a humble guy. Another time I was taking some friends from New York over to the base of El Capitan to get some good pictures, and this guy was just coming off a route. He was real friendly and talked about climbing to my Brooklyn guests . After he left it took me a while to register who he was? Conrad Anker. A famous climber, author. The man who found Mallory's body on Everest! That's what I like about the climbing community, they're just ordinary people.
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