the first involved hiking up a sheer cliff face on the escarpment and having the ground start to give way under my feet as I hit a muddy spot and having my arm nearly torn out of its socket and scrabbling at nothing but roots to get myself up.. I survived that one and it wasn't too bad.. just some scrapes and a sore shoulder..
the second I was hiking and came to mt albion.. I saw the falls and a path going down to the falls.. I decided as a good hiker I was going to go down this path to the falls.. about 1/4 of the way down the path started to get steep, so I assumed that like all paths along the escarpment that it was just a matter of enduring some steepness and watching my footing.. well steepness resulted in about a 100 foot drop and by the time I realized the path no longer was there I looked up to realize the path up was rapidly crumbling away.. I was trapped and couldn't go up or down. I also realized that my own foothold on where I was was rapidly slipping away.
I saw people below already at the falls and shouted for them to go find help - emergency crew eventually appeared below as well as surveyors to pinpoint my location, and eventually 2 men came from above on lines with harnesses, buckled me into a harness after suffering from the crumbling limestone themselves as well as the nest of bush I had somehow locked myself into, and we "walked" up the now vertical face of the escarpment, as the path had entirely crumbled away.
They did a full check of me when I got up and marvelled about how my blood pressure was normal after the ordeal I was in- oddly enough I wasn't terrified.. I knew that I really didn't have anything I could do so I had to sit still until help arrived.. my hands gripping the crumbling limestone behind me and my foot on the base of a bush that I wondered if it would give way at any time. My spiritual training seemed to come in well - I just kept telling myself "I am fine, help is on the way" - by the time help came it had gotten dark which was also an interesting experience.. I don't even know how long I was on that ledge but it was certainly an interesting experience.
I would like to say that if I had had a cell phone that this could have all been averted but it would not have done me any good as a) I wouldn't have been able to get reception there and b) I wouldn't have been able to USE it as both my hands were occupied. So I must also thank those below for even BEING there as if they had not I would have eventually slipped off as the bush and limestone gave way and tumbled to my death 100 feet below on the sharp rocks.
They rescue people below these cliffs all the time. Glad to hear you are now okay and no serious harm. Most recent was a homeless drunk who fell and remarkable survived a fall of about 50 feet. This is a popular surfing and also the nude section. It's clearly marked that it's unstable and they suggest entering the beach from a different area. So, people go down their for various reasons. A nude female college student got trapped one time because the trails are unstable and if you take the wrong one you can get to a point where you are just stuck.
Wow, Shawn, you may look like a Renaissance Man, but you are scrappy; I suppose even men of the renaissance days engaged in derring-do, with swords and stuff. Still I am amazed that anyone would set out on a hike like you described alone. A companion would have been much more useful than a cell phone - a companion might have said "Hey, don't go down there!" I am also surprised that such a steep and treacherous path was not marked with warning signs, or augmented with handholds, or even closed off. Of course, as a Floridian, I have no idea about the hiking terrain to be found elsewhere - although a few years ago I did trek around Tallulah Gorge in Georgia - with friends and on marked trails.
All in all, however, it sounds like you had a wonderful experience, a real test of strength, agility, and faith. I admire your courage and, now that you survived the ordeal, you will relive the day in your memory forever. I hope that you will cherish the memory and use it to make you stronger. Needless to say if I had been in your place - in the first place, I wouldn't have gone down that path - and if I had and if I'd gotten stuck as you did, I would probably have remained calm - realizing that my only hope of rescue required me to just hang on - but once it was over, I would indulge in a hysterical meltdown - and I would frighten myself for the rest of my life whenever I thought back and imagined how much worse it could have all turned out.
Thanks for sharing such an exciting story and congratulations for living to tell it.
Oh, you are lucky not have gotten hurt worse and to have people bring help. Luckier than me.....a week ago my foot slipped on a wet, mossy brick walk and I tumbled down onto my left shoulder and fractured my left arm. Am OK, but that is one pain you do not want along with a few months for full recovery. Beware the route you take ahead! Glad you are OK.
When hiking alone, and I often do, I always have a signal mirror and police whistle with me. While screaming for help will eventually strain your vocal chords, a whistle will stay loud and can be heard at greater distance from the git go. Three long bursts, three short bursts then three more long = SOS.
Very glad you are still among the living and that you were able to get help easily enough. I'm a volunteer firefighter, and heard on my pager last night that one of our fire companies in town (different district) had a lost hiker last night. We don't get them too often around here, thankfully, but it does happen.
By the way, always best to have your cell phone with you on a hike even if you don't think you can get service. Keep your phone turned off during the hike, but power it up occasionally to check for service (and to drop some digital breadcrumbs). Even when there's little or no service, signals can bounce off of towers. When someone goes missing, police can call the cell phone provider's emergency hotline and access the data trail for your phone (make sure your friends and family members know your number and service provider). If you're in trouble, try to call 911, even if you don't think you can get through. Calling 911 on a cell phone connects you to the nearest PSAP (public safety answering point). Before the 911 operator can ask, “What’s your emergency?” a computer triangulates your coordinates to within a few hundred feet using signal telemetry, your phone’s GPS chip, or both. So even if you have no service... the attempt to call 911 and/or the data trail from signals bouncing off towers recorded by your provider, may help rescuers to find you.
Of course, there's never a guarantee, but better to take as many safety precautions as possible. And, as Ginny said, better to not go alone, but if you do make sure someone knows you are out there and where you are going.
What's the big deal? I live in Chicago...Each week a dozen or so more people are gunned down (murdered). Thousands of us are shot, raped, beaten within an inch of our lives...In 2012, 532 people were murdered in the city of Chicago.....while they were on a flat sidewalk and not on a sheer cliff.
However, all that stated, glad you are alive, OK, and creative...Just don't vacation in Chicago (as one Irish young lady did a few years back. She can't walk or talk now as she was beaten with a baseball bat by a brother and sister who wanted her purse).
An excellent cautionary tale. I hope by sharing it you will spare several of us much harm. Because we photographers are often to be found lurking at the crumbling edges of safety, be it on the rim of the Grand Canyon, At the top of Yosemite Falls, or in gangland, looking for edgy photos of an alien hostile culture.
When camping/hiking I try to always bring 3 non-obvious things:
1. A pocket knife. I really like my Kershaw Ken Onion 1680 BKST semi-serated kento blade with spring assist for one handed opening. It's the best pocket knife I've ever owned.
2. A rope. A 1/8th inch 25ft length of braided nylon rope. (no center strand.) I really should make that 1/4 inch rope, with all the weight I've gained in the last 40 years. This is affactionately called my "security blanket".
3. A large waterproof and strong bag. I really like the very strong/tough large ones that come free with every 42 lbs of new kitty litter, carefully cleaned of all dust. This because I have realized that my backpack often can't fit my camera and lens, and bad weather may catch me unaware and far from shelter.
The obvious things? Tripod, flash, flash, batteries, filters, and lenses, lens cleaning stuff, water, nutrition bars, emergency meds.
The ubiquitous thing: cell phone with GPS.'
The rope would be good for securing yourself until rescue. Water, helpful. Food, helpful, if only to keep calm while waiting. Phone, if it works great for calling for help. GPS great for providing your precise location, if your phone actually worked. Now that I think about it, I should carry a small first aid kit and a lighter or waxed strike anywhere matches in a safe match container. Bear spray, since I'm going to Alaska next spring, if all goes well.
See, you may have already saved me from harm by causing me to review my standard kit.
Glad you are okay!! I like JC's suggestion to include two very simple items on your hikes: a reflecting mirror and a whistle. I don't hike much anymore, but those are going in the bottom of my backpack. You are very lucky, Shawn. A close relative of mine fell mountain climbing and lost his life at 21 (he was a skilled climber). You really do put your life in the hands of fate when you go up there, because anything can happen at any moment (as you experienced).
I'm sure you are so relieved and happy today!! I hope you check back into this thread and let us know how you are doing and feeling after escaping not one -- but two! -- narrow escapes in a single day.
wow thank you for all the positive responses! A lot kinder than the judgmental responses that were on the spec link that rich provided..
for such a tall man (6'4) I am actually very light.. built like an elf - 125 lbs.. and I like to take the lesser known trails and truly hike so having someone with me is more of a burden than anything else. I don't know if having someone with me in that scenario would have helped as you couldn't see it terminated until you were literally at the point that it terminated. Also like I said I had never ever encountered a sheer drop on the escarpment while hiking there before in my life.. esp. one that seemed to have a trail leading down it.
having a cell phone would not have helped as both my hands were on the back of the cliff keeping me up.. it was that treacherous at that point as the rock was crumbling away. As a result I also couldn't take a picture there and it would have been pretty irresponsible to my health to have tried. I considered it and the voice in my head called me an idiot to even attempt it hehe..
This shot was taken of the falls before I started my decline down the "path" - ironically I had zoomed in a bit to take the shot and this is pretty much exactly the view I had on the ledge, so one could say I did "get the shot" - although there were people in the way.. buut I can always edit those out ;)
This strike me as a danger that is analogous to a very dangerous driving situation which is called a spiral curve.
That's a curve with a large radius of curvature, but after you get around the first portion of the curve, you find something unexpected: the curve is much sharper than when it began. These curves tend to be lethal. They are rarely labeled as "spiral curves", but it would save lives to publicize the term, and teach it in all drivers education courses, and label such curves that way. The only place I've really seen warning sign with this terminology is on the Appalachian Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and so on.
The crown of a hill can be much the same if your walking momentum or loose footing are a factor. Unfortunately, until you encounter such a situation, you may not comprehend the danger, and end up in serious trouble. It's too bad that in the news article people see this as an opportunity for snarky schadenfreude, rather than an important opportunity for people to learn a little more about safety.