That’s when I started to freak out.
Thunder boomed in the distance, we couldn’t hear each other over the gale, and one of our party had lost his ATC. (I won’t mention his name, but it starts with “Patrick.”)
Due to the lost ATC, he volunteered to rappel last with his figure 8. It’s been since high school since I’ve used one of those, so in the chaos of the moment it didn’t occur to me that a figure 8 would twist our ropes. At the bottom of the first rappel it started to rain.
After 10 minutes of pulling and flicking, the ropes began to budge.
We couldn’t understand how they’d gotten so twisted and stuck. Repeat this terrifying process two more times, each time in an increasingly stronger downpour: That’s how we spent the next hour. By the last rappel we realized it was the figure 8 that was messing us up. Our solution was to tie an ATC to the rope and haul it up to Patrick before he came down. The last rap was smooth and dry.
Just yesterday I learned a tip that would have eliminated the figure 8 twist problem: Enter the “Mick Fix.” Named after the guy who made me feel like a noob with his vast and varied climbing experience. Simply attach a draw or runner to your harness.
You live and you learn. In climbing it’s more like “learn and you’ll live.” Know your team and know your gear. Like Mick said, a solid foundation of safe habits allows you to think creatively and survive in a tough situation. The next time I climb the Tower, I think I’ll see if Mick is free.