Pride Cometh Before The Fall


As a joke, I got my photo taken next to the Icebox Canyon trailhead sign: “Each year people are killed due to falls when scrambling on rock surfaces. Wear and use proper equipment.”

I thought that was funny, because Jayson and I had just spent the morning using proper equipment to climb at the Black Corridor, a sport climbing area and urinal on the eastern side of Red Rocks, and we had kept ourselves from getting killed. A little afternoon dayhike up Icebox Canyon should be a very casual afternoon stroll, right? I mean, come on, it’s pretty much for pedestrians, and I’m a rock climber. A mountaineer, even. People who do not climb might even call me an “expert.”

We hiked all the way to the back of the canyon, up the surprisingly techy slab next to the waterfall, and started back down without incident. We caught a group of three hikers just as the trail dropped off the top of a boulder, requiring a hop of about 3½ feet to the dry creekbed below. We waited as the group of three made their way over the boulder.

Then Mr. Hero Expert Rock Climber and Mountaineer, Yours Truly, Who Has Braved Literally Dozens of Exciting and Dangerous Rock Faces, stepped forward to drop over the boulder and caught the toe of his shoe on a small protrusion, then caught his other shoe on that shoe and flew forward onto the creekbed, hands first, partly catching himself but mostly making a very loud noise as his body crashed into the rocks.

Everyone whipped around at the noise, and I hopped up as quickly as I could, dusting myself off. A couple people asked “Are you all right?” And yes, yes I was fine, just stupid and careless, maybe more than slightly embarrassed. The first group of hikers walked on ahead and Jayson and I laughed.

Life has a way of reminding you you’re not such hot shit sometimes, doesn’t it? You stub your toe, spill coffee on your shirt, trip over a crack in the sidewalk, bite into your cheek when you’re trying to chew a burrito, start coughing when drinking water, and you’re amazed at how dumb you feel afterward. Jesus, I’m 30-something. You would think I would have learned how to drink water and breathe at the same time by now.

Other times, it’s a little more public.

My friend Forest fell out of a kayak a couple weeks ago, on flat water, with his camera around his neck. As our friend Andreas pushed Forest and his sea kayak into the water and said Be Careful Of The Camera, Forest told me he thought, “Pretty sure I got this, thanks.” A half-second later, the Invisible Hand of Humility flipped his boat, plunging Forest and his camera into the 33-degree glacial meltwater.

Luckily, the camera was insured, and Forest has a sense of humor. His kayak story reminded him of one night in a small village in Greece a few years ago with a friend who had somehow convinced the most beautiful girl in the village to hang out, and ride on the back of his rented scooter. As they cruised around the windy roads, the girl said to Forest’s friend, “You really know how to handle this thing.”

Smoothly, he looked over his left shoulder, said, Baby, I’ve Been On Two Wheels My Whole Life, then looked over his right shoulder and kissed her on the lips.

A few turns later, Forest came around a corner to find his friend and the girl picking themselves up off the ground and dusting off fresh road rash. The girl said to his friend, “You can take me home now.”


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6 replies on “Pride Cometh Before The Fall”
  1. says: Joe

    Great artical Brendan!! This is so true and probably the reason we should never take ourselves too seriously. As the Grateful Dead sing…..”When life looks like Easy Street there is danger at your door”.

    Joe in Iowa

  2. says: Jason C

    Nice shirt. 🙂

    We all have those stories I suppose. During college at UNI I took a trip with other students to KY to crawl through Mammoth Caves. During a downtime a few of us thought it would be fun to check out this rockwall on the other side of a river. No problem, we’ll just swim. About halfway across the three strongest swimmers realized how cold the water was and how cold water shuts down your muscles. But we were halfway and continued. A few others who weren’t as strong swimmers got into real trouble and needed assistance to swim back before going under. We were stuck on the other side working up the courage and warmth to make the return swim back. Young and dumb.

  3. says: Graham S

    In ultimate Frisbee there’s a natural law called “conservation of greatness,” and it displays itself all the time. You make an amazing catch, and with adrenaline pumping, the first thing you do is make an absolutely terrible throw right to the other team. Watch out when you feel great. Equilibrium is on its way.

  4. says: Will

    I spent a lot of days scrambling icebox canyon as a kid. It’s in some ways sort of startling that it is considered an easy hike, the first third is fine, going up the creekbed, but then you get to those immense sandstone slabs tumbled all over each other, and have to chimney up a bunch of weird skew angles before you get to the hikey part. It’s quite the transition zone.

    Glad you didn’t land on one of those dagger shaped slabs that kick around in the creek.

  5. says: Jen

    Ha! Mr. Hero Expert Rock Climber and Mountaineer, Yours Truly, Who Has Braved Literally Dozens of Exciting and Dangerous Rock Faces.

    My sister has a pair of shoes that she calls her “Pride” shoes, because every time she wears them and feels too good about herself, she’ll trip. ‘Tis true that pride comes before a fall!

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