Journal entry from Dec. 12, 2018
Since the semester ended in Barranquilla, I’ve been traveling through Colombia and having a lot of fun, doing things like surfing, rock climbing, dancing salsa, and not writing in my journal. But as I sit painfully bored in the bus en route to Ipiales to cross into Ecuador, I am reflecting back on recent adventures and enigmas. One from last week in Suesca — South America’s rock climbing mecca — especially comes to mind.
It was night time — pitch black — and my climb guide Felipe and I were approaching the crag alongside the railroad tracks to nocturnally climb “Libro Negro,” one of Suesca’s most classic traditional rock climbing routes. As we approached it we spotted a set of eyes up high on the wall reflecting back the light from our headlamps, and we wondered aloud what it could have been. I suggested it was some sort of feline or rodent before we agreed that we had no idea. We soon forgot about it, geared up, and began the climb in the dark.
When Felipe was almost to end of the first pitch he said something about there being a dog up there but I thought he was joking. No way a dog is all the way up there on this deadly thing. So I climbed the 30-40m to where Felipe was on the ledge, and sure enough, Felipe was not joking. There was a very ugly, very scruffy, and very frightened dog up there on that ledge.
We were both astounded. There was no apparent explanation as to how this pup made it up to this ledge we had just climbed up to as everywhere surrounding it was sheer rock face. Puzzled, we stood there for a while on that ledge trying to decide if we should keep climbing to the top and finish the climb or if we should rescue the poor little guy and rappel down.
At first, we decided we were going to rescue him but the little fucker kept escaping our welcoming hands. Felipe kept trying to fit him into a makeshift harness fashioned out of anchor loops and carabiners and I was trying to hold him still. But the pupper just wouldn’t do it. Felipe and I eventually came to the conclusion that if he got up here somehow, surely he would be able to get down somehow as well. We kept climbing.
Felipe began scaling the second pitch of the climb and after not even ascending a few feet, the dog began to cry and whine hysterically. He was utterly terrified and we just couldn’t leave him up there. So there we went again to try and rescue him.
After another 20 minutes of frustration and trying to get this stupid dog to collaborate, Felipe and I managed to get him into the improvised harness but only after much squealing from him. We rappelled down. We were practically heroes — saving this dog — or so we thought. We walked back along the train tracks we had followed on the way in to go eat at Doña Ma’s (the go-to eating spot for local climbers in Suesca), and this little dog followed us all the there, happily wagging his tail the entire way.
At Doña Ma’s, ironically enough, we found out the dog’s name was ‘mono,’ which translates to ‘monkey’ in Spanish. We were also told that this wasn’t the first time dogs have been spotted high up on treacherous segments of the wall, either. But when we went back to complete the route the next day in broad daylight and when we had a good look at the entirety of the wall, we were still bewildered at the impossible nature of this dog’s ascent. We saw no such possible route up to this high mountain ledge for Mono or any legged creature for that matter. At least, not without the use of ropes and standard certified rock climbing gear.