In the spring of 1970, I returned to Revelstoke from college and met with chum Gordon Jones and another UBC student who had become a friend, Walter Morello of Creston, BC. Looking for some adventure, we decided to explore logging roads up the Jordan River. We spent some time driving backroads, fishing, and keeping Gordon’s German shepherd busy by throwing sticks. We were on the way home when we spotted a cablecar through the trees. Little did we realize what we had just let ourselves in for.
We walked over through the bush. There was an outhouse-like structure on the riverbank. On its door was a sign: Department of Water Resources. It was securely locked, so the purpose of this odd building remained a puzzle. More interestingly, a cable stretched across the Jordan between two open wood towers. There was nothing else around to explain a function for all this construction, and there didn’t appear to be anything on the opposite shore. However, Gordon and I had been on cablecars before, up the Illecillewaet River at Twin Butte, and knew them to be fun. Naturally, we climbed the ladder on the near tower, and to our joy, found the trolley unlocked! What an opportunity—we had to go for a ride. It was only a two-man affair, so Walter and I climbed in. We rolled freely to the centre, and then pulled ourselves up the far side by hauling on the cable immediately above us.
While Walt was looking around on the ground below, I was standing on the tower’s platform, preparing to cross back and bring Gordon over. Suddenly, the car slipped out of my grasp, rolled down the sag in the wire, and stopped well out over the river. I didn’t know whether to laugh or sob. We were stranded! The Jordan River is very cold and fairly fast, although not especially deep or wide. It was impossible to wade however, and would have been dangerous to swim when fully clothed. What then, were we to do? We were literally “up the creek.”
The car was about 20 meters out from our shore, and I attempted two methods of getting to it; hand-over-hand, and then walking on one cable while holding another one overhead—both were frightening. For the first attempt, the distance was too far to hold on that length of time; the second was impossible as I wobbled forward then back, stretched between two swinging wires—they needed to be attached to one another for that method to work. I fell to the ground three meters below. I was unhurt, but it looked like Gordon would have to bring assistance for our rescue—Walter was too heavy for such tricks.
In was difficult to hear his shouts over the sound of the water, but after observing all this, Gordon went back to the Parkinmobile which fortunately was unlocked. He returned with two strong leather straps with buckles which just happened to be in my trunk. Walt and I wondered what he had in mind, and watched intently.
Climbing the tower, Gord stood on the landing platform and removed his boots, shirt, glasses and watch. Then, he hung each strap over the lower cable and bucked each them securely in a loop. What then proceeded was the most daring and dramatic feat I had witnessed up to that point.
Hooking his heels over the wire, Gord hoisted himself by his arms so the straps slid under his shoulders to support his torso. Thus hung suspended like a sloth, he was able to inch down the cable, while taking frequent rests. There was no water under him to break his fall—it might have been six or seven meters onto the boulders below. He made it. You bet he made it, and the day was saved.
Gord said he couldn’t have done it without the straps, and he wouldn’t do it again. This was our introduction to discovering The Bomb. Where one adventure ended, another was about to begin…
Tom Parkin is widely-published author and RSS grad. This is the first of a three-part series which will run in sequence. Watch for Part II: Fun With Bombs next month.