Mountain Monday: Tyrolean traverse

First crossing through free space – above a river much wider than it seems

By Meggan Wenbourne

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It was just after a major storm and the river was gushing – looking a bit more fierce than I would have liked to experience. I love water. I’ve never been very afraid of it, but I also have learned to respect it for its strength and unpredictable nature.

I had never hauled myself like a pack over a moving body of water, nor had I ever done it in a breathtaking canyon on the way to a set of cliffs just beyond. Challenge accepted. After all, this was going to be one of the shortest approaches of all time, in terms of distance, but not in terms of effort as I would soon find out.

Rigging myself up to this rope, after inspecting it the best I could for wear and tear, I felt like a lump of logs: awkward, precarious and sure to take a plunge. Aside from occasional hang board exercises, I am not used to suspending myself in the air and then attempting to move myself somewhere, let alone across a body of water. I suppose climbing just feels much different to me than transferring across a rope.

Rigged and ready, I made my way out feeling excited yet wishing I had skipped eating those potatoes and eggs for breakfast …

I dropped. Way lower than I was expecting, but not far enough to really panic. I felt my jacket dip into the water and let me tell you, I have never moved so quickly in all my life. Pulling hand over hand thinking streamlining myself would obviously make things easier, I made my crossing.

I cannot tell you how graceful my movements were in reality, but in my mind, once I started moving I might as well have been a professional Tyrolean traverser … until the second half. As you can imagine, when you add weight to a clothesline, the line droops. Well, no surprise here, but the rope across the river also drooped when my body reached the center, and talk about an uphill battle. My arms began to pump, the adrenaline was still going, the rush of the river was all I could hear and before I knew it, I had spun myself around desperately reaching for land.

Just out of reach and needing momentum I gave it my all. With every last bit of effort, my toes touched the river’s shoreline – I had made it.

Turns out, it wasn’t as awful as I had thought … and I got to do it again when we were finished with our character-building day of climbing on the river’s edge.

Here’s to adventures!


Meg-IndiansMeggan Wenbourne is an avid climber, mountain biker and backpacker who works and plays in Santa Cruz, CA. She spends her time traveling to the mountains as often as possible to get lost in the pine trees and explore the granite rock of the Sierra Nevada range and has recently developed an obsession with the desert and its red rocks. When not away on an adventure, she can be found eating burritos and training at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym, riding amazing trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains or nestled away in her cozy tiny house with cookies and adventure reading.

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