HH12HR-018; bags of grit and *that* cliff.
By Kristena Lynn
Our Krypteia Kyoul Cha gave us a quote at the beginning of our adventure; “As one, I am an individual with limitations. As one, we are invincible.” This is something that we would come to understand well during our short hours together as class HH12HR-018.
If you have ever done a HH12HR, you’ll know there are team portions and there are individual portions. Hence the order of the Warriors Ethos.
“I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
So it came to pass, that on April 22, 2016 HH12HR-018 we endured the gravel bags and hill/cliff climb race.
Tony Matesi, Krypteia and Director of Spartan Endurance, lead this portion of the event. Standing in front of a gravel pit we were given our directions. As we were already split into two teams, we were told this was a race. The first team that makes it back to base camp will be the winner. It pays to be a winner. Those were the rules. Men were to fill them three-quarters full, women, half full. They were then to be carried to the foot of what in effect, was a cliff face, scale it, then negotiate the path back to basecamp. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, not exactly.
If you have ever had the pleasure of a gravel sandbag, you will know how heavy they are. Then to get them from point A to B is another task in itself. In previous events, I’ve had to carry multiple sandbags, so before the event I fashioned a handle should this occasion arise. I also double bagged them so that they wouldn’t rip and for extra measure duct taped the outer layer. As we were told beforehand, “come prepared.”
As we began everyone was filling their bags as rapidly as you would imagine. Suddenly a group took off. Did everyone know who was in their groups? As I went to take off there was still about eight of us. To those still with me, I posed the question, “regardless of what team you’re on, do you want to work as a team and finish together?” Everyone agreed and we slowly forged our way towards the hill.
One of my teammates and I decided that once we got to the hill, we would use a human ladder technique to get all the bags up. As we approached the bottom of the hill, Spartan Krypteia Cookie, (who decided he wanted to join in the fun as a participant for this event, “for a laugh”), met us and told us that those who were already halfway up the hill, that this very same approach was already being employed. In fact, he and another member of an “opposing” team had already made it two thirds of the way up, and spotted headlamps all the way back in the quarry. They then decided to partner up, leave their bags on the cliff, go back down and make the mile or two run back quarry to help carry bags for those that were struggling. So far so good, so now it all falls into place and plain sailing ahead, right? No, not quite.
If you have ever been to Seattle in the rainy season or even the end of it, you know the ground isn’t exactly firm. Step after step, participants were losing shoes left and right, because the mud on the hill was so deep it made the task that much harder. Kneeling was hard, squatting was impossible, standing made you sink. We were on this hill for hours even in dry conditions this task would have been a lengthy one. Slowly, we began to realize that some of the class that were unaware of the “teaming up” that had happened below them, had finished the hill and were already on the path to the basecamp. The sudden realization hit us that we were here on our own. As a team we decided that we would send someone up to get the others and tell them we needed help. It was no longer about the race of A versus B. We were all now Team C. I volunteered to go to the summit and get the help we needed.
I made it to the top and yelled up to those that had peaked, that we needed help. They asked what team I was on. I replied it didn’t matter and that we needed help. At first some people were reluctant because, yes, it was a race — at least still to them. However, if someone needs help, especially in those conditions, you help them. They said when all their bags were up they would come back to help. I then made my way back to the hill to tell the rest of the team that support was on the way. As the rest of the bags made their way to the top of the hill, a few members from the cliff climb came to help. Team A, Team B, it didn’t matter, we completely dismissed the race notion and became in inseparable unit.
Now finally making it back to the bottom of the cliff with all the bags and both teams present, the arduous task began once again. The Krypteia were not exactly excited about how long this was taking us, (the looks on their faces said it all), but the job needed to get done. This task had taken so long it was now eating into the rest of the event. The rain was relentless, as the minutes passed by, the ground became slicker and steeper and the task was increasing in difficulty with each muddied, cramping footstep. Make no mistake, the conditions were horrific and each person was trying to carry over 100lbs of weight on a surface that couldn’t be stood on longer than 20 seconds without sinking.
After around four to five hours of human chaining the bags to the summit and then scaling a sheer 90 degree incline with ropes that was hidden by ferns and the blackness of the rainy Seattle night, we made it to the top. Looking around, the faces of those around me were wet with sweat, tears and rain. But the task wasn’t over. We now had to get all the sandbags back to basecamp.
We had to hustle back to where we started — in itself a couple of miles through thick forest to start our next task. Knowing that we didn’t follow directions could have clearly hurt our chances of finishing the event. The mindset wasn’t about passing or failing during this task it was about finish and the task at hand. We came together and worked as one. This set the tone for the event and the way the class fell, it was a natural progression to have this mindset again at the end.
More miles of heavy carries and checkpoint deadlines followed, but what stuck with everyone were those four or five miserable hours on that cliff face. Words cannot do justice to what every single person on that human chain endured. Without everyone coming together, many people would never have made it.
By the time the event finally came to a close, the Krypteia were impressed that we decided to form a team, rather than to leave anyone hanging. Yes it was a race at the beginning, but in the end much more was accomplished than most will ever know.
Outside of Agoge 002 — again, another event I bumped into Cookie and a host of other 018 family — this was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The brothers and sisters I made at this event still laugh about it now, but I assure you it wasn’t funny at the time.
That cliff face, man. I’m telling you. If I never see it again, it’ll be too soon. Those that were in class HH12HR-018 will never be able to explain, those that weren’t there will never understand.