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Worst Nightmare: Man Down

A hair-raising tale of wilderness terror that will haunt your backcountry dreams
Oct12_WaterBottle_445x260Water Bottle (iStockphoto)

The first thing Matt saw was Jake’s water bottle. It was at the bottom of a sheer limestone cliff. As Matt ran toward his brother, he already knew what he was going to see. The impact from falling 200 feet does the same thing to a body as stepping on an IED. It explodes. Shreds. Splatters.

His eyes cloudy with tears, Matt knelt down and put his hand on a sunken chest where both lungs had collapsed. He tried to count respirations, feel a heartbeat. There was a fist-sized gash around the liver that sucked air and pooled with blood. Clear fluid and blood dripped from the nose and ears. Another gash revealed the colon. “Hang on, buddy,” Matt said, almost reflexively. Hollow eyes stared back at him.

A raven passed overhead, casting a shadow. Matt shuddered.

“There you are!”

Matt looked in the direction of the voice and then his gaze drifted up to the top of the South Rim, 2,500 feet above. The craggy peaks of the Hindu Kush disappeared, the red rock of the Grand Canyon came back into focus.

“Thank god for that juniper bush!” said Jake, breathless from the search for his brother and covered with bloody scratches from his short tumble. Matt was kneeling over a boulder, his face wet with tears. “Where did you go, man?” Jake asked, picking up his intact water bottle from the rocks. “I thought I had lost you.”

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