Sunday, November 8, 2009

The short story of the deathcamp waterfall

Again we went searching for the waterfall, hoping the recent sunshine would trigger the snow melt we needed. Below the cliff where the Yeso creek cut through the gray scree, water was pumping between its banks and roostertailing off the rocks. When we arrived at the end of the road, the sun was high and the temperature was mild. Besides the crumbling barrack's of the camp, below the old pits where the bodies had long ago turned to dust, we found the waterfall flushed out and good to go.

It turned out to be an extremely trick drop, about 35 feet with a narrow entrance only two feet wide. All the water pushed through the channel, and drove sharply into the sharp basalt wall, then bounced off and flung itself down to the pool below. The entrance looked just a toilet bowl, and I knew at once that I did not to be the contents that it flushed down.

David, Tino and Stephen committed to the drop. Haakon and Clay jumped off the lip with their throwbags and swam through the icy pool to the banks to set safety. I sat above the entrance with my fish-eye lens and waited. My hands were shaking. A cross between anxiety, high altitude and thirst made the barometer in my head plummet every time I stood up and I was afraid I'd pass out there on my precarious perch. Stephen circled in the eddy a few times and then looked up at me. He mouthed the words, "I'm. So. Scared." I made some meaningless gesture with my fist against my heart that was meant to inspire confidence. And then he paddled out and dropped through. He sunk into the entrance, completely subbed out and disappeared.

A few moments passed of my heart thumping like a rabbit's hind food and then someone called out that he was alright although the line had not been pretty. As you can see I got an entirely uninspired photo of Stephen, partly because it was out of focus, partly because I couldn't get close enough with the wide-angle and partly because he totally subbed out. I climbed out of the crater and went around bottom to photo Tino's first attempt:Tino went down stern over teakettle, landed on his head and was ejected upon impact. I wondered if Dave would still run it after bearing witness, but he was already marching up towards the top eddy. Not sure how he did it, but Dave sort of styled it, plugged deep and bounced up intact:Watching the successful run, Tino hiked up and ran it again. This time he went smashing into the basalt wall upon entrance, and this happened:
When bad things happen to good people....yeesh! Meanwhile, Eric and I yanked Stephen's boat out of the pool with a rope, and Stephen was gunning to run it again. His line was better but he landed with a resounding snap. His AT paddle snapped cleanly in two.: But Stephen's $450.00 accident didn't stop Tino from climbing out and going for a third run. And thank goodness because I got this sweet shot:Thanks to Tino, Dave and Stephen for running the sketchy new falls in the cold altitude so I could take some pictures.

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