This is a story about rock climbing on Kowloon Peak and a tree.
I started rock climbing around 1977 and one of the first people I was introduced to turned out to be my life-long friend, Allen. He was my very patient mentor and took me on many of my most memorable climbs.
At one time or another we did all the best climbs in Hong Kong. These included Sunset Crack, Switchback (an aid climb) and Suicide Wall (now known as Suicide Cliff). One of the more memorable, but least successful outings was when we visited Majestic Slabs on Kowloon Peak with our friend Oly.
I had been there once before but we were rained off so now was my chance to explore new territory.
In order to get to the climb we started from the car park of the Good Hope School just off Clear Water Bay Road and made our way up the steep hillside until, after passing several graves, and an electricity pylon, we had to branch off left to get to the Slabs. This involved a bit of jungle bashing. Majestic Slabs was not a popular area and the foot path was frequently overgrown and had to be re-opened by virtually every visitor.
Due to the nature of the rock face and its location on Kowloon Peak, Majestic Slabs rarely get the full benefit of the sun. This meant that they are greasy (rock climbing terms for slippery). For reasons which I do not recall, I was chosen to lead the first pitch. This involved climbing upwards for about 50 feet and then traversing about 30 feet across the rock face to a ledge on the right.
I made my way up to the top of a crack and placed a good running belay (an anchor to which a carabiner is attached, the climbing rope then runs through the carabiner to safeguard the lead climber in the event of a fall).
This proved to be a provident move. I then began traversing my way across the greasy rock face to a point just below a good sized ledge which was to be the first belay point. At least I think it was a good sized ledge. I never got the opportunity to explore it. The lack of foot and handholds was nerve-racking and my calves were aching from the tension. It was then that I saw a small tree just above me.
(The first rule of rock climbing is never to trust your weight to any vegetation. As it is growing on a rock face the roots are likely to be shallow).
To hell with it, I thought. I just wanted to gain the ledge, make the first belay and bring Allen and Oly up. I grabbed hold of the tree and hauled myself upwards. I only gained about a foot when the tree came away in my hand. Before I realised what was happening, I was falling downwards and sideways at the same time. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to be frightened and before I knew it, somewhat miraculously, I found myself in a sitting position, on a ledge, about halfway across the traverse. I had a small, deep cut on one of my fingers but was otherwise unhurt. I was just beginning to congratulate myself on having survived a potentially bad fall when the tree, remember the tree, this is a story about the tree, landed on my head.
Now, as last, I knew the reason for the rule about vegetation.
This is just one of the many memories I have of rock climbing back in the days when my knees didn’t require the constant application of heating rub and support. Oh, and my ankles, I mustn’t forget my ankles lest they feel left out.
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