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Crazy Branch Quest – Story of a Highline and Base Jump Story

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Yes, the crazy branch quest!! I can still feel it cherish my rectum : the branch. In french, there is an expression I could translate by « The ass surrounded by noodles », Hugo and I have found the opposite of this one. As a new expression showing a recurring bad luck and a deep feeling of rape from de the fate : « Ouch!! I feel like a fuckin’ branch in my ass!! »

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The first symptoms of « The Branch » appeared on the Guebershwihr climbing place in Alsace, France, while Hugo Damien and I tried hopelessly to set up a highline. After a night spent to drill the rocks without any driller, we discovered, as the morning came, that the anchors weren’t locked in the stone because of its softness. The failure was complete when we Damien saw that the slings were missing. For the newbies, the slings are the link between the webbing and the anchors, then we could said they’re essentials. This day, they were just untraceable. The Alsace Highline Enterprise stopped right there whereas the Crazy Branch Quest took its dash.

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The day after, Hugo and I took the road to the « Gorges du Verdon » after having realized we didn’t have any anchors for our futur highline. Hopefully, Julien tell us that we could get his, just delivered in the city of Die. A small turnig in the way to Verdon. The branch looked like a sprig for a time. I tell the great news to my brasilian copilot in a proper english : Okay Hugo, don’t worry about the anchors, we are going to Die (you will notified the subte translation pun).

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After one night spent to Die, we took the road again. The road traffic during the holyday usually sounds as something far from me, I’m not used to travel in the high touristic places like the South or… the South. So this day, we heard its sound quite to close from us. The drive into the gorges was ponctuated by many insults – always polite – during S.O.D. was playing « Kill All The Assholes » and « The Song That Don’t Go Fast » on the radio.

Julien and Jelena were quietly  waiting for us, sleeping into there van, few steps to the futur highline spot. A nice horseshoe 125 meters high and 28 meter between the cliffs, with easy acces and surmounted by a big cross. A cross made in two big branches!!

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The setting of the highline sounded like the triumphal return of the branch and our anal irritations. The « Gorges du Verdon » are one the most famous climbing spot in France and all the cliffs are full of anchors. Then we decided to use some climbing bolts being already there to take it easy and earn the drilling time. But the branch wasn’t see the plan like that… and during the first time we pull on the pulleys as two warriors to rig the White Magic webbing, we heard a « cling » weird noise. Julien and Jelena, sitting on the other side of the gap were showing the same nonbeliever faces. One of the anchors should have move, it was the most possible thing. All veins out, we started to pull to hear a second noise, looking like « Cling-Shlack-Clong ». But neither Hugo or me payed attention to this. Perhaps because of fall back on the grount (rather fall back on the rocks for Hugo) caused by the webbing. To tell right, the webbing didn’t break as Hugo thought, but the delta carbine between this and the pulleys. « Ouch! The branch hurt me so bad!! » Fate could stop there, but no, it wasn’t. When the branch is in there, it remains for long. What should been a simple hitch, turned to the tragic and prematured end of the White Magic webbing : when the delta carbine broke, it did what we could call in a scientific call : some bad impacts. Julien saved us one more time, giving us his own webbing. Quite loose, to be exact, but it was the only way.

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The final setting was done the day after, with some « Big Up » from the branch. We had to rig the webbing three time before it looks tight enough because of the elasticity. As Hugo didn’t look as his wanted to go first, I catch the eight knot to my harness and went to check this line. Few steps and I gave its first leash fall. As we thought, the webbing was looser than it should be, then after many minutes of intense fight, I passed the torch to Hugo. He walked to the half, finghting as hard as me. Came Julien’s turn, with a lot of leash fall too before he went to the half line. The branch seemed to be quiet right know. Julien crossed the line, just before this damn piece of wood hit again. I try to walk the line a last time for the day and Hugo just opened his mouth that I felt something slipping out of my pants back pocket. « Dude, your keyyyyyys » as I saw them falling trough the darkness of the threes more than hundred meters down. A nice buch of keys, car key, home keys, main door and back door, with a beautifull green leash on it. Such a bad branch!

Julien took all best wish he could find and went down the big wall to look in vain for the bunch. It get lost for real. Up from the edge, Hugo and I were watching the moving light spot in the night. Triing to guide him the best we could. Locked outside. It was almost done, but with a happy coincidence, I kept the car’s windows a ittle bit open. Using the old school trick with the steal stem, we open the access to the whole usefull gear we needed to spend a good night : like a sleeping bag or a pad.

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The mornig, we went down the crests road – by walk – in the rising sun. With sleepy eyes and heavy steps, we were walking to the base jump starts. The jump the days before was pretty short, and the flying monkey with me was decided to find a deeper spot offering a jump straight the the bottom of the gorges. Like the destiny make right things and the damn branch didn’t seem as early riser, we crossed the road of few french base jumpers. A good way to learn where were the good cliff to jump. Hugo was ready for 300 meters cliff’s breakfast. The jump took such a long time that my D300 stopped the sequence before he opened his parachute. The nose above de space, I looked at him, asking myself why I didn’t start free fall yet…

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Last day in the gorges went quietly as we were counting the scorpions hidden under our pads during the night. A pretty fun game I won with three of them in once. The day went as quietly as it came, between base jump and highline – relaxing and decompressing activities as you can imagine. The « SOS-team-for-the-vicious-branch-victims » came late in the aftenoon. Reno and Sophie, cames from Marseille to bring us the second car key, didn’t looked as astonished as we hoped when we show them our tricky car openning. However a good turn. The noisy sound of the engine announced our soon departure. The following of the trip drove us to a water in Marseille and a base jump in Cassis. But not to fast. Before that we had to get lost in the Var countryside and left from ten minutes the Mc Donald’s closing in Barjols. We knew that the branch won’t leave us easily.

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The whoe day was calculated. Timing, sun situation, weather forecast. We even checked and tried the ideal spot to set the water line up. Sunday should happen like that : 7.30am Base jump in Cassis, 9.30 – 10am arrival in Calanque de Sugiton to set the line up, 10am to noon intense shooting, 1pm back in Marseille to avoid the massive tourists wave looking for fresh water. But yes, you read « should happen » because of the branche (which couldn’t let us ended our trip on a victory tune) hit one last massive time at 8.02am exactly. The same intant that Hugo was landing his jump in a violent shock. Straight swallowed by the bushes, I held my breath until he uttered a huge monkey sceam to let us know he was in one sigle piece. The bad surpreise came a bit later, we met him down in the Cassis’s little street, limping out. He get nothing broken, his heel enough painfull to erase our perfect programm. The branch gave us the coup de grace and game was over. Only remained to Hugo a way to go back to his brother in Barcelona and to go back in Alsace for Sophie and me. No remors, it was a great and memorable week.

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Despite everything, we can say this trip between Alsace, Verdon, and Marseille was a true adventure. And all the crazy shit happen were just there to make the good memories stronger. As always into a travel. That’s why we are always going to travel again.

« Dude? Do you the branch anymore? I think I will mess it »

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