Thursday, May 13, 2004

Freeclimbing the Chimneys

As you can probably tell, my wife an I are exceptionally good at getting ourselves into trouble. This is yet another story of one such time.

If you've ever been to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park then you know what the Chimneys are. They are basically one mountain, with two twin spires that shoot up from the top. You know... Like chimneys. They are not small though... not at all. They are in fact one of the tallest peaks in the whole national park.

So on the day in question Julie and I were hiking around the national park and started looking for something.... challenging. We talked to the ranger, and he said that the trail to the top of the Chimneys was pretty tough. Tough? Hell yeah baby. We were on our way.

We drove to the area where the chimney trail is and found cars everywhere. We parked and started looking for the trail head. Couldn't find it though. The only thing we did find was a trail leading up that said, "Danger: Trail Closed".

So what do you think we did? Damn skippy. Up the trail we went.

Now while we were not the brightest folks you could meet, I assure you we were prepared. We had knives, food, water, and emergency gear. Well... I thought we were prepared. We had agreed to just hike up as far as we could, then turn around and call it a day. heh... You know the old sayin' about a frog and the boilin' water? That apparently applies to hiking, because before we realized it, we weren't so much hiking, as climbing. We'd stop and laugh for while about how that Ranger really knew what he was talking about when he said a trail was tough, and then just climb some more. But before long though we had a choice to make.

We found ourselves in an awkward spot. We had topped the treeline. Above us? Rock. Probly a 40 foot climb. Below us? Ugh. Plain truth is, neither of us believed we could make the climb back down the way we came. To steep, and to slick. Well... shit...

We were young, and had more balls than brains, so we started climbing. Wasn't that bad really, I was going first finding holds and helping her where I could. She didn't need it though. She's a badass from the get-go. We climbed like this for quite a while, until I came to a bad spot.

At this one particular spot there was a rock formation sticking out over our heads. Now this meant I had to reach up, and back, away from the mountain, to get a hold, and pull myself up over this ledge. It also means that in doing so, you are basically dangling your entire body over a 5,000 foot cliff. Did I mention it was windy?

So with my right arm I reached up and grabbed the ledge over my head. Once I had a good solid grib I brought my other arm over and pulled hard to get up as quick as I could. God knows I didn't want to think about what I was doing. Before I knew it I was on top of the ledge and scrambling to get away from it.

That's when I realized... shit... Julie has to do what I just did. I wasn't really scared before... but I was now. I turned to help her and of course, she was already up, smiling and laughing like, "Can you believe we're doing this?" Like I said... she's a badass.

It was justa few feet to the top of the chimney, and we finished it with no problem, except that we were in for a shock when we got there... We climbed up and for the first time we noticed the view. This is how God sees the world. I don't really remember what we saw. I just remember feeling like I was stealing a small piece of Heaven while I was here on earth.

We were looking around in awe, and that's when I heard Julie say, "oh shit."

I looked over to find out what she meant, and that's when I saw the other chimney, complete with fat tourists who had barely broken a sweat getting up to it. A few of them had noticed us, and were pointing, clearly wondering what the hell we were doing over there. Damn. Connecting the two chimneys is basically a rock rim that's about 3 foot wide, with sheer drops to certain splattery death on each side. We climbed down to it, and crawled all the way across to the other side. Did I mention it was windy?

We made it obviously. We got to the other side, rested for a minute or two on the benches there, then walked down the 4 foot wide paved path, that was apparently the trail to the top of the Chimney's that ranger had told us about.

Maybe he didn't know what a difficult trail was after all, but by God we do.

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