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The Ninja Experience

Author: Brad Dietrich
Date: December 04, 2004
Life, and climbing, in British Columbia, are just like life and climbing everywhere else. Going ninja is sometimes just as necessay in Canada as everywhere else.

I mentioned something about a ninja climb that was almost busted? It was rather funny. I should start by explaining that my yard borders on a piece of property maybe two square miles in size, half pasture, half forest, with a major power line running through it.

From my childhood until I was about 30, the property was owned by an old guy who stopped active farming and allowed those of us in the neighborhood to use the forest as we wanted. We all got used to using it as though it were a public park or something. Fifteen or so years ago, it was bought by another old guy who is now using it to raise some cattle and harvest some timber. The power line right-of-way has been made into a hayfield. The new owner has given my family permission to walk on his property (and I think the bicycles are okay, too), but he hates the motorcycle/quad/4X4 owners who help themselves to his property and he makes whatever barricades against them that he can. I don't blame him for getting angry at people who do damage, but he is rather obsessed with the lack of respect for private property that people in our town have when compared to the townsfolk where he comes from, and will give you an angry diatribe on the subject any time you are unfortunate enough to bump into him. You can imagine why I've managed to avoid asking him if I can climb his trees.

Now, my favorite practice tree is a largish maple, inconveniently located about 200 feet from where an access lane meets the power line hayfield. On the weekend under discussion, I was about fifty-feet up, looking for a different way to advance my rope, when along comes the owner's pick-up. I hoped he might turn around (which he did), park for a bit (which he did), then bugger off (which he didn't). Instead, he got out for a little foot patrol. Worse yet, he was there to assess some damage done by quads, and was in a noticeably foul temper.

A month earlier he would have been unable to see me, even if he had known which tree to look into. Two years ago he would have been unable to see me because of the surrounding firs and cedars, which are no longer there. Now, however, the tree is surrounded by logging slash, and the only thing its leaves can hide in November is the ground below. And I'm wearing a reddish fleece top.

Wait! It gets worse; my companion for the climb was my wife's little dog. This is a dog whose mission in life is to protect us by monitoring the front yard and warning us of every car that drives by, the neighbors, the neighbors' dogs, wild rabbits, birds pulling worms, and leaves blowing in the wind. And that's just the threats she can see!

You just know that the first thing the property owner will hear when he gets out of his truck is this yappy little cur announcing our location! As he sat in the cab I looked around for the dog, and saw her sitting on the trail below. "Abby, go home!" I said several times, while she alternately looked at me and behind her as if to say, "Is that guy talking to me?" I slapped my forehead in exasperation and turned around to watch the owner to see what he'd do. He got out of the truck, and walked into the hayfield, in my general direction. From that distance I couldn't see his eyes, or the angle of his face; all I could see was that he was facing me. And, I could hear him talking angrily. I was certain he saw me, but I didn't wave or call out, just in case, and I fretted about what a skulking idiot I would seem if he was looking and talking to me and I was trying to hide in plain view. I got behind the trunk as best I could, and tried to keep my rope from swinging. As I moved behind the trunk to stay hidden as he headed along the power line, my heart was in my throat, expecting that moronic dog to start up. For some reason she didn't, and after the owner disappeared from view I quickly looked for her. She was gone! She actually did go home!

I felt hugely relieved, and once I waited for a bit - long enough for him to get further away, but not so long that he would see enough and come back - I descended as quickly as I ever have, hastily untied my rope and pulled it and the false crotch down. I briefly considered using a throwline to guide it quietly down, but chose speed instead. Naturally, the false crotch stuck firmly. Aaaarrrrggghhh! My blood was pounding in my ears as I tried to flip it down, but after several attempts I guessed that the owner might come back at any time, so I gave up. I stilled the rope, then lounged down against the tree, away from the truck, but also without a view. I waited, listening, half expecting the mutt to reappear and start carrying on. Twenty very long minutes later, I heard the truck door slam, and he started up and drove off. The end.

Of course, if I had been caught, all I would have got was another interminable lecture on disrespect for private property, but I was working on instinct or something, and for those few minutes I very seriously did not want to get caught!! Anyway, we all need more adventure, right?

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