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International Roska Canyon - Greece

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Sonny Lawrence, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

    One never knows when or where an event will occur that allows introspection deeply into personal philosophy.

    The most sought after canyon at the 2007 international canyoning rendezvous in Loutra Ypatis, Greece was Roska. During the event, it had snowed, making it difficult to get to the location, which as it was, required a 3-½ hour drive from the rendezvous headquarters. Once the snow was cleared off the roads; that still left the canyon water level in the dangerous zone. This is a unique canyon in that it emptied into a river requiring the individual to then walk upstream through narrow chasms about a mile. Often the river would be at shoulder height. That river exit became a third significant challenge. Early on Roska was listed as off limits for the rendezvous. The Greek canyoneers did not need any dead foreign canyoneers gumming up the works downstream. However as the week progressed, it became more reasonable for strong teams to attempt the canyon.

    Roska is a class C canyon with numerous waterfalls, toboggans and jumps. The photos in this article were shot by Tente and Chisus from Spain. Here is a video by Lolo Marato during the same week for Roska canyon.
    The water is always cold, necessitating a warm wetsuit. The recent snow only added to this. I was canyoning with a group of five Spaniards. They formed an excellent team. Usually I took position in the middle of the group. I did not set rope. I was along for the ride. I was a “canyon sheep.” About 3/4 of the way down the canyon, we came to a drop with a waterfall at about a 70-degree incline. I was able to spread my legs and bridge the water on both sides. Typically the rope would be set 5-8 feet off the pool so the person could rappel off the end, avoiding entanglement with the rope in the hydraulic formed by the waterfall. In addition, the person could jump backwards (downstream) in order to avoid the recycling effect of the hydraulic. At this particular drop, I went first. Initially I was straddling the water. However the rock was polished and I slipped into the flow of water. I consciously made the decision to ride the water down. I came off the end of the rope but ended up in the maytag. I was wearing my pack with the chest strap and bellyband fastened. As I was being thrashed around in the pool, I attempted to jettison the pack. That was not going to happen!

    I then had three conscious images. I did not have words. No internal dialog. It wasn’t “thinking” in the usual sense of the word. I just had images.

    My first image was of five Spaniards peering over the side. They were perplexed, watching me.

    My second image was my body floating around in the pool, lifeless.

    During this time of mental images I was being recycled in the pool that was carving out a cave. It was dark. I kept bumping up against the ceiling of the cave. I was trapped. My third image was to just exhale my breath and be done with it.

    The next thing I knew, I was spit out of the hydraulic into waist deep water. I was coughing and sputtering. I looked up toward the top of the waterfall to see a Spanish woman who was very concerned for me. I kept gesturing for her to stop. I looked around, saw a bolt and mentally registered how to create a guided rappel for the five above. Meanwhile she went on rope and joined me. I kept coughing. The others came down and rigged the immediate next drop. It looked almost identical to what I had just descended. I was stuck in a vertical world of rock and moving water. The only way out was down. It occurred to me I had no choice but to keep going and face whatever terrors lay ahead. Live rescue at that location was not an option. I continued. There were many more similar drops. I performed well. The rest of the trip was fun and uneventful. The canyon was gorgeous.

    Over the next few months I told the story to friends and processed the information. I formed the opinion that before I had a chance to exhale, the hydraulic squirted me out, saving me. After many years of vigorous outdoor experiences, I viewed myself as a fighter, a survivor. I fought the maytag and won. My third image of exhaling and being done with it implied mentally giving up. In giving presentations to large groups of people, I shared the story many times. It did not change. I had physically fought and won.

    A year went by. I then attended a swift water lecture put on by the sheriff’s whitewater rescue team. This was familiar ground for me. I spent 10 years whitewater boating. I had a few close calls during that time. I understand the material well. During the presentation it was mentioned how as a person tries to breath underwater, a reflex is triggered wherein the soft tissues in the throat close, trapping air in the lungs. I realized that was what had happened with me a year before. Weeks went by. I slowly became consciously aware that the reason I was coughing and sputtering was because I had opened my mouth and took in water. More days passed and I came to understand the probability that the reason I was spit out by the maytag was because I had exhaled enough air to make me sink, catching the downstream water. Whereas previously I thought I had mentally given up but never had the chance to act. I now believe I had actually physically given up.

    But here is the paradox. The act of giving up: exhaling, caused me to sink to the bottom. That may be what actually saved me. Giving up may be what saved my life.


    Featured Image for the Homepage

    Roska_07_04_2007_Tente105. Roska_07_04_2007_Tente082. Roska_07_04_2007_Tente060. Roska_07_04_2007_Tente072. Roska_07_04_2007_Chisu009.
    Dan Ransom and Nick like this.
  2. Ram


    A very scary story. Thanks for sharing. Gripping.
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