“Holy Hell!” I thought, as my pack lay hanging by a line up in the tree about twenty-five feet off the ground. “How am I going to get it down from there?” I thought. I’m sure a handful of students were also pondering the same thing. I’m not going to lie, I thought about leaving the pack hanging and walk away having learned my lesson, but how dreadful a thought knowing a pack worth one hundred seventy five dollars, not including it’s contents, would spend the rest of it’s days hanging by limb, literally. I guess I should start at the beginning in how I ended up in this predicament.
Having come off of the knife sharpening portion of the class, we quickly moved into and through the knot tying portion of the class. During the discussion on tying out ridglines for a tarp and how to secure a tarp to the ridgeline, I shared one of my favorite knots with the students, the Klemheist. Like the Prusik, it grips around the line and slides when one grips it at the hitch, but tightens when the loop end is pulled. Unlike the prusik, and why I prefer it, it is much easier to tie than the prusik and the students have an easy go of it. After having some fun with the ridgline and toggle hitches, I moved on to teaching my favorite bear bag hand… The PCT bear bag hang
The PCT bear bag hang was popularized by backpackers along the pacific crest trail, and quite frankly is an ingenious method of hanging a bear bag in the tree, literally omitting a problem that has occurred with bear bags who’s line was hitched around a tree after the bag was hoisted in the air. In some areas, bears became hip to the line hitched around the tree and simply broke it knowing the bag would come crashing down and its delicious contents would provide quite the feast. I wrote an article on this a couple of years ago, and posted a good instructional link there >>> http://www.wehikedit.com/pct-bear-bag-hang.html
Yes I showed the students, as per the article, how to attach the toggle using a cow hitch. I even showed them my preferred method using a marlin spike. For whatever reason, however, I decided, “Hey guys let’s do this with the klemheist you guys just learned.” I mean why not. It would prevent me from having to reach up high to attach the toggle. I could use a klemheist and attach the toggle while working at a comfortable height, then slide the klemheist loop with attached toggle up high. Everything was going well. The bag was safely about twelve feet off the ground and the klemheist loop and toggle performed flawlessly, that is until I attempted to retrieve the bag. I pulled on the slack line, but the klemheist knot got caught in the grab handle of my pack, and sure as Mr. Murphy reared his ugly head, it slid the knot, along with the toggle, up higher along the line, so when I released the line, the bag was now sitting higher up along the line. And that my friends brings my back to the opening of this article.
Here’s my favorite pack sitting about twenty-five feet off the ground with no conceivable way of getting it down. I sat there, dumbfounded, staring at it. I tried pulling hard on the line, but that only sent the pack higher.
Just when I was running out of options and ready to climb the tree, one of the students says, “Alan, why not throw another section of line over the branch, then tie one end to that thick climbing rope you have, pull that line up into the tree and around the branch, then tie off the ends to your truck and break the branch down?” If that wasn’t a light bulb moment, I don’t know what was.
“Awesome idea!” I replied.
As luck would have it, the branch I had originally hung the bag from was dead, so when I was hoisting the other line into the tree and tugging and pulling, the branch came crashing down, albeit almost on my head. Regardless, my pack came down with it, much to my pleasure.
I then looked at the students and told them, “Rather it happen to me here, than to you out there. Here I could have just walked away. Out there It may have not been so easy, if you’re a few days into your adventure.