'The Day A Mountain Changed My Life' August winner: Lyndon MarquisPublished: 2nd October 2018
Discover the winning entries from our monthly writing competition capturing memorable mountain days.
I have chosen to climb Cam Crag Ridge, a gnarly Grade 2 scramble ascending 200m of grippy, volcanic rock on the eastern flank of Glaramara. The first few metres of it are easy-going on rough-textured rock. I top out above Woof Stones and the scramble begins in earnest.
As I am on an overhang, moving my right hand up toward the next hold, both feet flick out from under me. I am suddenly hanging on my left arm. I can get no purchase with my right hand nor either of my feet. I dangle on my left arm until it goes dead. Then I drop 5m onto uneven ground, where I snap my right tibia and fibula. As I bounce 30-40m down a rock-studded slope, I hear more bones popping inside. The world cartwheels around a fragile little hub of pain, fear and panic. Towards the end of my tumble, I black out. For this relief, much thanks.
When I return to the world, I look up to find my right foot flopping about horrifically. I lever myself upright to assess the situation. When I load my weight onto my arms, I discover that my right collarbone may be broken, that I can’t feel my left arm, and that there is something wrong with my ribs. Briefly, I have traumatised the nerve cluster that works my left arm, broken my back, my right clavicle, seven ribs and my right leg. I will spend eight hours alone on the mountain as night, rain and desperation settle upon me, then two days in surgery, three weeks in hospital, five months off work and finally three years having my leg surgically reconstructed.
I am just getting back out onto the mountains now, and how has that mountain changed my life? Scar tissue binds muscle to bone, slowing me, dulling the kinaesthesia that once shimmered so brightly. My spine is titanium. My left arm is numb between elbow and shoulder, my ribs start to ache by mid-afternoon.
But none of that really matters.
I am grateful for each breath I draw, for birdsong, for sunshine and for rain. All of it. I am more empathetic (I hope) to the suffering of others, to the wounds they may have that I cannot see. More patient and slower to judge. I am still here.
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