The Luck of Johnny H.

i want to take a moment to tell you a bit about my good friend Johnny. Johnny’s a little hard to describe. Maybe if i tell you a story about him, you’ll understand.
Johnny, Djane, Slacks, and i drove over a cliff one day. i figger it wouldn’t have happened if Johnny wasn’t sitting in the passenger seat. See, the shotgun up front in a 4×4 on a dodgy road has a job to do. That job is to be the spotter, the swamper, the extra eyes, ears, and hands of the driver. In this case, the driver was Slacks, and the 4×4 in question was none other than Slack’s big black pantload Trogdor. Of course, Johnny wasn’t watching the road when we drove off the cliff.
Now, i’ve often said that we wouldn’t have driven off that there cliff if i was up front m’self, filling my usual spotter role. Djane counters that we probably wouldn’t have made it out in one piece if Johnny wasn’t up front there to provide his usual luck/unluck effect.
Johnny was filming something on the horizon, the mountain we were driving out west to climb. Johnny usually has some sort of camera glued to him, be it film or video. He just told me today that he’d found some sort of chest-harness to hold his camera so he can take pictures while biking/climbing/rally-racing/cliff-jumping/etc. hands-free. Of course, he filming when we went over the cliff.
We now have some great “impending doom” footage. My favourite shot is of the rocky creek-bottom a couple hundred feet below us, looking out the passenger-side window… framed by Johnny’s feet standing on the inside of the door. Oh yeah, that one’s worth a chuckle.
Then there’s the classic Esler Fall story. Thinking he was on belay (some miscommunication there), Johnny backed off a clifftop after a sportclimb to the top. Only slightly impeded by the drag of the rope, he fell about 50 feet to the ground. He landed on his feet, compressing himself so fully that he bounced his head off his own knee and dented the dirt with it. The spot he landed on is the only patch of actual dirt at the bottom of that climb, smack between a pointy rock and a jagged stump. I couldn’t have happened to anyone else, but then again, nobody else would have survived it. Luck/unluck again.
There’s another story from this summer, one i’m afraid to ask him about; i think the details might turn my stomach. He rapped down a couple pitches of poorly-bolted backcountry limestone with his girlfriend. Then they ran out of anchors. And rope. Johnny pulled it together and got his girlfriend off the rock, then hung in his harness on a sling for something like 66 hours before help came. Just another day in the woods. Frankly, i’m surprised he doesn’t have pictures from his time hanging up there.
Johnny is a hell of a guy, and a hell of a photographer. He’s back to South America this winter to finish his epic Pan-American journey to Cape Horn on his vintage BMW motorcycle.
If you already know Johnny, please feel free to “comment” and post a story of your own.

  1. osteoderm’s avatar

    I’ve since learned even more tales and details, but I’m hoping someone else will join in and start tellin’ the tell…



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