It was six o’clock in the morning on a clear day in June. My brother and I were peering over the edge of the Indian Ridge on the section of the Colorado Trail between Silverton and Durango, watching the sun rise over the mountains in the distance.
“Don’t fall,” I said.
My brother nodded, strapped his helmet to his head, and pulled on his cycling gloves. “I’ll be careful,” he said.
A fall here would involve a sixty foot scrape down an almost vertical rock face, an impact with a narrow shrub covered ledge, and, if you didn’t somehow halt your momentum, a four hundred foot tomahawk tumble into a boulder strewn alpine basin. You really don’t want to fall here. And you especially don’t want to fall here if you’ve got a steel framed twentyniner strapped to your feet and a pack on your back.
So naturally…he fell.
Watching your brother, friend, sister, father (whoever) take a bad fall biking, skiing, climbing (whatever) is a pretty awful experience. In many cases, the experience is worse for the person watching than it is for the person falling (except when it’s not…and then it’s really not). Your stomach rises into the back of your throat. You shout unhelpful tidbits of information like “Holy Shit!” and “Stop, Stop!” You feel helpless.
My brother somehow managed to stop himself on the shrub-covered ledge while his bike went careening into the basin below. It took us two hours to follow the breadcrumb trail of bottle cages and components to find the bike at the edge of the boulder field, nearly four hundred feet below where he fell.
When the dust clears, and all that you’ve suffered is a bruised ego and a mangled bike, remember that any nasty fall that you can walk away from really isn’t so bad. It can always be much, much worse.
Oh yeah…and don’t forget to clean the fox piss before you get back on the bike.