The following is a TRUE STORY…and fun to recant, but it breaks from the rule that only 10% has to be true because ALL of this happened. I added some movie-plot details because that’s how I like to run it through in my head! This is a PhotoBlog, afterall! The pictures were all taken at the scene.
[Opening caption] “You did tie the ropes together, right?”
[Closeup shot following a helmet rolling down a snowy path towards oblivion] There was an awkward sound of silence when I noticed my helmet just pitched over the edge, carelessly left unattached to my pack and the lightest nudge from my boot sent it bobbling down a path and over the edge of the ice column we just climbed. My mind, awash in both trepidation and chagrin, foolishly tried to come up with some way to save face despite knowing my pride left with the helmet. And then you hear the impact, then another, and another as if the helmet is trying to escape ground zero, the site of the inevitable verbal beat-down that is only moments away.
[Wide shot of the entire height of the Hully Gully from across the valley] It was my introduction to ice climbing with the legendary Ike Deal; soldier, outdoorsman, gear hog of Colorado Springs, up the Hully Gully, although the helmet was mine. The Hully Gully is a 110-foot, two pitch ice waterfall accessed off of Old Stage Road, about two miles from Colorado Springs and in the South Cheyenne Canyon. Only the footprints of those who went before us marked the trail down from Old Stage Road to the top of the ice climb. It used to be private property but in 2005 the Colorado Springs Park & Rec Department was able to secure an easement from the Hills, who own Seven Falls, allowing ice climbers access to Hully Gully from the Old Stage Road. This easement does not include Ramona Falls, which is still off-limits and meant that the only way to retrieve the helmet was to descend the Hully Gully (again).
[Tight shot on Ike, pan over to Tim] The look on Ike’s face was a mix of annoyance and debility as he had already climbed the upper pitch twice that morning and wasn’t planning a third. Seemed appropriate at that point, endeared to the helmet as I was because my wife gave it to me, to withhold that it was second hand, costing only a few dollars. My penance would have kept us out there longer than we had time for (due to my inexperience) so it was Ike who hastily clambered down the pitch, trusting my emerging belay skills to manage his descent.
[Zoom from top of pitch down to bottom] We misjudged the final resting spot of the helmet. Ike yelled up to me as I was looking down on him…looking down on the helmet. We simply didn’t have enough rope to make it down to the bottom of the first pitch to the helmet so Ike returned empty handed, hatching a plan to come back the following week with two ropes to make it all the way to the bottom. The helmet would have to wait.
[Fade to black, reopen to shot following two men down a trail] The following week we returned and a rescue mission-oriented Ike (again) descended the upper part of the Hully Gully, this time with a second rope over his shoulder. In about 30 minutes he and attached the two lines, descended the first pitch to the bottom, retrieved the helmet, and climbed back top of the gully, all smiles that we had successfully completed the mission and the helmet was safe.
[Tight shot of the helmet tied to a tree, follow focus to Ike pulling up a rope] It was during the retrieval of the ropes that we noticed that the rope(s) seemed to feel rather light and realized that only one rope was coming up…the other had not been re-tied and lie at the bottom looking up at us. Not pointing any fingers here (point…point….)
[Tight shot of smirk on Tim’s face] Personally, it felt good to see it there. Sure, I made a bone-head maneuver losing my helmet in the first place…but this!? Oh, this was just the bandage my wounded pride needed and finally I could look Ike in the eye and say, “What a dumba$$”. The rope, approximately 100x the cost of my helmet, carried a significantly higher expediency for its retrieval and now it was time to play Army. There would be no more climbing back up the gully that day. “Ike…I’ll be at the extraction point in 45 minutes. You better be there. If not, I’ll hang out until you show up.”
[Wide shot of Ike moving downhill through forest, silently, and with stealthy moves, eyes darting] Years of training had prepared Ike for this mission…moving about 200 meters through private property to his extraction point with the glide of Sacajawea!
[Cut to exterior shot of a blue suburban speeding to a stop on a mountain road] The door to the truck opened long before the wheels slowed down enough for Ike to jump in. Through some coordinated efforts, Ike was waiting face down in a ditch just on the outskirts of the private property around Seven Falls, the rope coiled over his shoulder, waiting patiently. Although jumping in through an open window would have made great cinema, Ike held on to the open door and slumped into the seat as I scanned the mirrors for anyone who may have seen us exiting the park.
[Fade on road as truck dust settles]
After seeing so much lately through a lens and building some skills in the field of photo journalism, my mind seems to recall moments like these as I described above…as if I was recreating the scenes for filming. If I was to re-live them, how would I record them…where are the moments worth capturing and which ones would convey the emotion of the moment?
And I don’t even know where that helmet is now.
Thanks, Ike, for this!