Daily Prompt: Bite

We were doing rope work at Dutton Cave in northeast Iowa, almost thirty years ago, when my son was not quite yet in his teens. He was, I think, about ten or eleven years old.

The maw of this cozy cavern is perfect for rappelling as the top of the opening is accessible via a short climb through brush and bramble on either side of the cave proper. At the crown of the vertical granite face, overlooking the drop, is where the ropes were set in place. Playtime prep work was done by the (far) more experienced members of our merry band of adventurers. My son and I, neophytes to the world of spelunking, were simply along for the ride.

Prior to the free-fall exhilaration of gliding down a nylon rope – climbers dutifully attached to said rope wearing only an awkwardly cumbersome but oh-so-necessary corded harness to aid in their ascent or descent – the group elders decreed that one must first successfully climb from the relatively flat, rock-strewn bottom to the sloping, rock-strewn top of the cave wall – an upward span of forty agonizing feet. Doing so, peering into the darkness of the cave or looking out at the tops of the trees in the park, relative to one’s orientation while suspended from the rope at various height intervals, climbers rise slowly up the rope via a stepping motion using a mechanical device known as an ascender.

My time with the group was short-lived and I don’t claim to possess even a modicum of expertise or the skillful ability to correctly employ the appropriate jargon of the sport. So I ask more diligent readers to please bear with me. I will tell you, however, that rope climbing using these ascenders is both a difficult and a most satisfying endeavor.

Once a climber cleared the cave opening, all that stood in the way of reaching terra firma was the delicately demanding act of pushing the ascender up the rope while maneuvering it up and over and then past the rock-lip of the surface where the rope lies. This is not an easy task given the weight of the climber enhanced by the pull of gravity, which makes for a very tight surface connection of rope to rock. However, once achieved, this climber – and this climber’s son who was not at all happy with his mother for insisting he do this! – were both rewarded with instant euphoria. That satisfying bite of the rope as the ascender cleared the rock and slid its way up the track of the rope allowing first me and then my son to summit the top of the cave entrance made the physical and mental challenges of completing the task entirely worth the effort.

Now, at last, we were able to enjoy rappelling back down to the spot where we began our incredible little climbing adventure. And it was all good.

Daily Prompt: Bite


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  1. Sounds like it was a fun day, Julie. I bet your son had a whole new impression of the person who is his mother.

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