The Shortcut

I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing in here until September…but something crazy happened today that is worth noting.

I went with several friends on a hike up Stawamus Chief in Squamish as a get-together-trip before I leave for Japan.  The trek was grueling.  My thighs burnt from the workout, I sweated like a water fountain, and I felt my heart pounding as I pushed myself on.

If you’ve never climbed up the Chief…the last stretch up the second peak is steep.  There is a ladder and metal chains drilled into the granite surfaces to assist climbers and to help prevent climbers from falling down the sheer vertical slab of granite.   And yes, the trail near the top is narrow, some parts only a foot wide.  Climbing up isn’t too bad, but climbing back down is a different issue.

View of Howe Sound from Peak 2Creative Commons License
View of Howe Sound from Peak 2

After spending an hour eating lunch and observing the breath-taking view of Howe Sound and Squamish from the Chief’s 655m (2,149ft) elevation, we decided to head back down.  Going down was slow progress since there were huge boulders to scale down with only chains to help.  About 5min into our decent, we were rounding a large granite slab that juts up from a 2m ledge at a sixty degree angle. Suddenly, I hear a loud scrapping sound.  I quickly turned and saw a man in a white t-shirt falling (well he was actually sliding, but since the granite was so steep, the word falling would be more appropriate) down the 10m near-vertical granite slab.  I remember thinking “ohhhhh crap!” as I quickly glanced down at the 2m wide ledge that seperated the granite rock from a cliff.  I can visualize him crashing down onto the ledge and tumbling off the edge into the gnarled maze of trees, branches, and sharp rocks below.  All these thoughts happened in a matter of seconds as the guy crashed butt first onto the ledge.  He tipped forward, but managed to prevent himself from rolling off the cliff.  My eyes must have been dilated to the size of light bulbs as I just stared at him.  I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins.  Staggering to his feet, that silly man just grinned as a hiker nearby asked if he was okay.

British-man: Yeah, my butt took the brunt of the fall.

I noted his British accent as he inspected his hand which was bloody.  I was still staring because I couldn’t believe I just saw a man fall from the sky.

Me:  You OK?  I got some alcohol swabs.

British-man:  Do you?  Yeah, that would be great.

Grabbing the chains, I climbed over to the ledge.  Grabbed the first aid kit from my pack (I was cheering at the thought of using it) and unzipped it.

British-man:  Wow you’re all prepared.

Me:  Yeah, just incase anything happens to my friends.  (Or an insane guy decides to take a shortcut instead of following the trail!).

I handed him the alcohol wipes and took a look at his hand.  He had some bad abrasions on his hand and he was only at the beginning of the decent.  Lots more chain grabbing, tree holding, granite rock hauling, and soil touching to go.  In other words, plenty of grime are going into those wounds.  I thought I’d tape his hand up for him.

Me:  Man, you’re insane.  You decided to take a crazy short-cut hunh?

British-man:  (Grunts)

Me:  (What an IDIOT!!)  Here, I’m going to put this gauze on your wound.

As I went to grab my roll of tape, he takes the gauze I placed on his wound and starts rubbing it all over his hand as if he’s trying to wipe all the blood off.  He then crumbles the sterile gauze with the alcohol swab in his grimy hands.  I was slightly irritated.

Me:  (He’s wasting my beautiful sterile gauze!!)

I grabbed another gauze from the first aid kit, this time just a clean gauze, not the nicely sterile packaged ones.

Me:  Hold this gauze here, I’m going to tape it up so you won’t get an infection.  (What the HELL were you thinking?!?!?  That you could walk down a sixty degree inclined flat piece of smooth granite??  That you’re Spiderman??)

British-man:  Thanks.

Me:  No problem.  (You could have DIED!!!  Fallen down that cliff….stupid.) Man, I can’t believe you just did that.  (Crazy British tourist).

British-man:  Yeah…(chuckes).

At this point, his friends caught up to him as I’m trying to tape the gauze onto his sweaty hand.  The tape didn’t stick too well to his hand, then I remembered what I learnt in HKIN361, the contact-thumb tape job.  The gauze was in the perfect position for it.  As I was taping, British-man was getting antsy and just wanted to get moving.  I guess he didn’t like all the attention (it was a busy time and lots of hikers were making their way up or down, plus they were talking about how he “fell”).  So I did a fast tape job.  He refused to get anything for the other minor abrasions on his leg and hands.  He and his friends thanked me and went on their way.  After he left, I told my friend that I wasn’t satisfied with the tape job I did, I should have set an anchor at the wrist for the tape to attach to so it won’t slip from the sweat.

Friend:  Whatever, you pampered him enough.

I still can’t believe that guy did what he did or how lucky he was not to have gone over the ledge.  I remember running through scenarios in my head of what it would have been like if he rolled off.  I will probably have to call 911, and since it is so forested, a helicopter evacuation would probably be impossible.  The paramedics will have to hike 1.5hrs to get to where we were at…I can’t imagine them trying to lug a long backboard up along with the jump bag and other equipment.  I’d have to try and get down there to help.  He’ll probably suffer possible spinal injuries due to the mechanism of the fall, he could have been stabbed by those random branches sticking out from the cliffs, or knocked his head on those sharp rocks, or bashed himself against the trees…Damn, I wonder if he even realized close he came to killing himself.


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