‘Devils Spine’ – HSC Creative Writing Piece
Here is a rough draft of a (40 minute time limit) story of discovery I used throughout my HSC this year, hope it is of some entertainment. I wrote it out too many times to let it go to waste, each time a fairly different twist but here’s the original. (Characters are myself and Tom as pictured).
I open my eyes, I see nothing but a white blur. I hear nothing but the whisper of my breath and sound of my pulsating heart. It is slowing. My body feels like a dead weight yet there is a strange warm sensation. This sensation is chilled by the fierce wind. My eyes finally begin to focus. I now begin to comprehend the vision of a branch protruding through my stomach; my right leg is completely distorted, the pain is excruciating. Blood is oozing through my clothes; there is smoke, the cries of a man and the sound of a helicopter faintly humming in the distance.
As I pull up in my Landcruiser late at night in the Warrumbungles, my close friend and climbing partner Tom greets me with excitement. It had only been a few years since we’d finished school and this trip had been at the top of our list. We sat by the fire eating and going over the logistics of our adventure. As we headed off to bed Tom turned and asked me “Are you sure we are ready for this man?”
I then responded with chuckle “Of course not! But we’ll give it ago eh.”
I lay in the back of the car thinking about what I had gotten myself into. Eventually I fell asleep.
Awoken by the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos at the crack of dawn, we leave the campsite en route for a magnificent 400 metre cliff known as the ‘Devils Spine’, taking nothing with us but the essentials. Our packs contain food, water, ropes, harnesses, shoes, head torches and hardware. Tom is much smaller than I, consequently I am burdened with the heaviest of the gear. No climber has ever conquered the first ascent of the Devils Spine. The route has seen many failed attempts and even perilous outcomes.
We hike for an hour until reaching the base of the wall and it is ever so intimidating. Fourteen of the most insane looking pitches I have ever encountered stand before me. Tom’s face is gleaming with anticipation, whilst on the other hand, I having the lesser skill between us and knowing the evident dangers the climb may present us, am feeling quite nervous.
We start the first pitch with alacrity, it is crucial we avoid the sun and wind exposure. To preserve our energy. I lead the first pitch with little grace, hauling my way up the line. The rock is sharp and thin; it begins to wear through my skin so I tape both my cuts and knuckles whilst at the anchors. I haul the packs up and Tom soon follows. Tom leads on through pitch two making perfect gear placements. I begin to follow up; half way up the third pitch a Wire becomes jammed. Unfortunately, I must leave it behind.
I make it to the anchors and make myself safe tying the rope off and attaching carabineers to both myself and the old ‘bash in’ bolts. We rest and refuel briefly on a ledge by a small tree stump. The two of us are completely captivated by the enormity of our challenge and the magnificence of the surrounding valley. This next pitch is believed to be the hardest of the Devil’s Spine. It is once again my turn to lead. I carry a light rack of gear, predominantly consisting of cams and wires. It is important I do not take too much gear, as I will already be struggling as I push my limits.
I chalk up my hands and begin my ascent, the first move is dynamic and requires a huge explosion of power to the next hold, I latch on and crimp my fingers hard on the small edge. I then cross over and jam my fingers into a thin crack that splits right through the wall. I place my first cam, I am confident it will hold. The next few moves are a breeze, until I come to a section in which the crack becomes far too thin to jam. I traverse right onto a tremendously exposed section of the wall.
I can see the valley below, the trees like ants, wind surges past almost dragging me off. The next sequence is crucial. I look for gear, as my last placement was ten metres below. With a potential fall of at least twenty metres I can see the apprehension on Tom’s face. I search through my rack but cannot find a piece that will fit safely. The jammed wire I had left earlier was exactly what I needed. I flare a cam in a slot and hope for the best, I know how dangerous a fall could be at this moment. A swing into the ledge below could very well be lethal. I focus all my energy on the next move; carefully I place my left foot on a micro-edge, as the wall is blank. I reach for next hold, it feels so far away. To my absolute horror suddenly the edge breaks and my foot pops off. I feel myself being hurled toward the valley underneath, the flared Cam tears out of the slot and I continue to fall, hoping that this next cam will hold…
BEN SANFORD 2015