Not too many people outside of the climbing community go to Taghia. There is no hospital in Taghia and so there I hung, 25 meters above a rushing mountain stream, as warm sticky wetness dripped down my back. I had definitely just blown it.
“Fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck”
Alvaro yelled up from below, “Are you alright?” His tone indicated that he wasn’t quite sure if I would answer.
“Yeah.” I said feebly.
I reached my right hand up and touched the back of my head and felt the blood that was leaking.
“Lower me a little.”
As Alvaro did so my feet wobbly touched the ledge I had miraculously not collided into as I careened upside down the 9 meters to my point of impact. The fucking rock had broken on the first pitch of the first climb. Shit.
I took off my shirt and tied it around my head as tightly as I could. Then I stopped again, tried to chill, wiped some blood from my neck and forehead, and looked at my dully aching arm.
“Alvaro, I think I can go back up and get the gear.”
Juan who had appeared from inside the narrow gully further up-stream yelled something to Alvaro who couldn’t see me. Then asked if I was O.K.
“Yeah, I think so. Just cut on my head.”
Juan yelled back over the sound of the water, “Good. Alvaro can lower you and he and I can get the gear.”
Minutes later I stood next to the stream watching red drops come off my blood soaked shirt run down my arm then drip into the clear mountain water. I took off my harness and handed it to Juan who stood close by watching me.
“Don’t go back without us. We will get the gear and come right back down.”
I agreed then walked to a small cascade and stuck my whole head under the frigid water as I washed the blood off my shirt. I climbed out, sat down and re-tied the shirt around my head. What a stupid move. I had left my helmet on my mattress in the small Hutte we were staying in not expecting to climb… paradoxically I had brought a rope, harness, shoes and gear ‘just in case.’ Bad decision. I surely couldn’t climb with a cut that would reopen and bleed half way up the 600-meter face of Oujdad in the High Atlas Mountains. At least I was in a beautiful place and my brains weren’t spread out all over the ledge I had narrowly missed as gravity showed me who was boss.
A few minutes later, Alvaro, Juan and my new friend (the headache) joined me. We started back to the Hutte as ominously dark storm clouds appeared from the East. I wished the clouds had appeared an hour earlier as I walked slowly on with unsteady feet guided by unsteady eyes. Within seconds of stepping into the shelter of the rustic Hutte operated by Ali and his family the sky opened. I made to go and clean myself up while Alvaro and Juan went to ask about bandages. At some point Alvaro also snuck back into our room and snapped a quick photo of my helmet.
As I washed the last bit of blood from my chest and hair Juan walked up and said that there was a nurse with the Italian party that was in the Hutte with us.
A few minutes later the angel of my trip showed up with a rather large first aid kit and an Italian friend, video camera in hand. As the lights went out in the Hutte a small collection of Italians and Spaniards gathered while Lara the Italian nurse simply told me that she had sutures and that I needed some but unfortunately she did not have any anesthesia…
“Sorry” she said under the light of Juan’s headlamp. The next minutes were spent digging my fingers into my legs, or anything else that happened to come close, every time Lara pierced and tugged.
Six stitches later we all walked outside where the dry stream bed that flowed past our Hutte to join its larger sibling (whom I had bled into) was a raging torrent. The rain had stopped and the post-storm dusk light lit the scene well. The dry bed was raging full with mud filled run-off as I realized how lucky I was… because of my cut I had narrowly missed getting stuck on the cliff in a downpour which would have made my first day of climbing in Taghia, Morocco not fun at all.
One question lingers: Was it kind of Alvaro to qualify my stupidity with evidence? Leave a comment; let me know what you think. Maybe I’ll even post the picture!