Giles Quarter, Geomorphology, and the Gut Adventure
Pardon my alliterative heading there…two days ago I agreed to guide a French geomorphologist down the Giles Quarter coastline trail and up the Gut to Windwardside. Gut is what the Sabans call the steep, winding ravines that slash downwards all over the volcanic island; many are off trail canopies of thick and ropy shrub and foliage that winds itself around anything on your person and cuts and scratches any exposed skin. But hey…an adventure, right?
We picked up orange hard hats at the Conservation Bureau down in Fort Bay- natural and goat induced rockfall is common on Giles Quarter–then set off down the coastline. Cristian is a gregarious living archetype of the absent minded professor; in the case of our hike, the shiny objects of his interest were various examples of geomorphology/vulcanology on Saba: conglomerate, alluvial stream beds, plants thriving in microclimates in the various Saban ecosystems. Rocks, dirt, plants, and terrain…wahoo.
Up close and personal on the Saba south coastline, we could see fields of long yellow grass laid flat by gusty breezes. In the picture, just beyond the long grass, there’s an abrupt 10-20 foot cliff drop off to the rocky Saba shore (shown with the balancing rock photo), with big swells coming in vis a vis the northwest tradewinds.
I tried to persuade Cristian to take one of the ridges for our ascent up to The Road, which are relatively scrub free, straightforward ascents, but he really wanted to wade into the Gut that comes right into Windwardside (~1400 feet) to get his “cross section” of the island. Looking up we knew it was going to be a scrub fight, and, when we got up towards the top of the ravine, some fairly vertical cliff and rock scrambling.
The story ends thusly: it took us 2 hrs to get to the base of the scrub in the Gut, and an additional 2-3 hrs to climb out to the road via separate paths.
At some point, fairly well cut up from scrub, Cristian took off up the left side of the Gut walls while I reasoned it would be safer to brute force my way through the canopy up the low slope of the Gut stream bed. When I hit a impassable rock and scrub wall, I started up the fairly vertical walls, at times swinging from embedded tree root systems across rock walls with very little foothold and pulling myself up past loose rock. A little Tarzanesque, ‘cept I ain’t no king of the jungle. I emerged out at the Captain’s Quarters ruins per plan, a bit tired and having gone through 4.5 liters of water and still feeling like I’d lost weight. Cristian walked up to the Trail Shop about 30 minutes later. He had major abrasions all over his forearms, his neck red from 5 hrs in the sun despite sunblock. I was just dirty, sweaty, and my arms looked like the result of a minor cat fight. We had a beer at Saba Snack, recounting our adventure while he expressed some regret I hadn’t followed him to take pictures of the “marvelous” geomorphology on his route and apologized for getting separated.
I’m all for a little off trail from time to time, but coulda used a machete and some gloves on this one. Easy to see why visitors on Saba could underestimate the effort to work through jungle and scrub when looking at it from above. Think I’ll save my future Saba climbing efforts to the more tried and true trails and ridges. All the effort but less poky scratchy plants and rock climbing sans rope 🙂