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The Loss of a Loved One


by Brett Homes

April 09, 2002

About a month ago while climbing with my father, I got a taste of how climbing could cause tragedy when we lost one of our dearest climbing partners. It was a particularly hot day so we decided to climb Dracula, a climb that is said to never see sunlight. So after a rather difficult walk made harder by us taking the wrong track, we reached the base of Dracula. We found that there were already people climbing it, but we decided to sit in the shade and wait until they had finished.

When it was finally our time to climb, I decided to take the lead. I put on my harness and roped up. After a reasonably difficult first pitch, I set up my belay and got ready for my father to join me. I was on a large belay ledge so I was reasonably comfortable which was good because my dad took so long to climb. When my father reached me, we decided it was easier for him to lead the next pitch. I passed all the gear to him, and he was ready to go. My younger brother called up from the ground telling us that he would meet us at the car, and we replied that we would see him there.

It didn’t take us long to complete the final pitch which finished on a very large shelf so we took out our protection and coiled our rope. That’s when we looked around and started to wonder how we would get down, I pulled the guide book out of my pocket and began reading it said abseil 30m from the obvious pillar. We only had a 50m rope and could not reach the ground and still be able to retrieve our rope. So I continued reading. It said, "if you do not have double ropes then you can walk across to the top of Red Parrot Chasm and abseil 25m off chains or down climb at grade 5 so I began to walk to where I thought Red Parrot Chasm was but I could not find any chains so we decided we would need to find another way down. We walked to the back of the cliff and found that if we wrapped our rope around a particularly large pillar (approximately 5m around). We wrapped the rope, and I abseiled first. When I reached the ground, I tried to pull the rope but it would not budge. There was too much friction so my dad pulled the rope up saying that he would try to find another way.

I jogged around to the front of the cliff. When I got there I noticed our pack was missing with my shoes in it, and I realized my brother had taken it with him. I looked up and called out to my dad to see where he was, I saw his little yellow helmet pop over the edge of the cliff and he said he would loop a bollard and see how close to the ground it got him, moments later the ends of the rope came whizzing down and dad called, "How close is it!" I called back that it was about five meters short of reaching the ground. Dad decided to try anyway and stop at a ledge half way to see what he could do he started abseiling and halfway down stopped and said he could pull the rope down and rap it around another rock so he did and we were soon reunited at the base.

I told him about our shoes and he decided that he was about due for some new climbing shoes so he didn’t mind walking back in those but as I had just got mine I wanted to keep them in good condition so I walked back bare foot. It was getting close to dark so we started walking without even checking our gear. We reached the car half an hour later and my feet were covered in cuts and bull ant bites but at least my climbing shoes were fine. I gave my brother an evil look and began to look for my shoes in the pack. While I was putting them on my dad was checking through the gear and he said, "I think we’ve lost a nut". “What,” I said. "A nut, a Wallnut, number 9, I think," he replied. I sorted through our gear and sure enough the number 9 was missing. We looked everywhere and counted our nuts four more times, but to no avail we drove back to camp sadly. Not only did we have a bitch of a time abseiling, we lost one of our climbing team.

Number nine was so important that I would have even swapped my brother for him at least a Wallnut doesn’t take off with your shoes.

The real problems started a week later when we went climbing again. Of course the first piece of pro I wanted to place was just perfect for Number 9 so I leaned back my head and yelled, “Number 9 where are you?” A group of tourists that walked past looked up at me with shocked looks on their faces, and then they began to whisper amongst themselves. My parents noticed something was wrong too. I couldn’t eat, and I was having trouble sleeping. One night, when I finally got to sleep, I had dreams of Number 9. Some other climber had found him and put him on their rack. They didn’t know how special he was, and they treated him bad. I still have nightmares of him on other people’s racks and in other people’s packs. Someone said I was crazy to love a Wallnut that much. But he or she just doesn’t understand. He had protected me so many times, and now I can’t protect him against the mean harsh world. Please come back Number 9. Come back.

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