Everything was planned and rehearsed. Nothing should go wrong. The weather was overcast but fine and the boys all keen – what could go wrong?
Scott Morrow and his Venturer Scout Unit prepare for a major canyoning trip in the rugged Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. They would have to hike in, abseil through some canyons, do a short walk around the base of the mountain and then climb out.
Mike Hunter is Scott’s Venturer Leader and a Captain in the Army Reserve. He has practised his teenage charges in abseiling and ensured they not only know how to look out for each other but can perform rescues if needed.
The boys start their rehearsals for their canyoning trip in an old disused quarry as they practice their abseiling techniques. Abseiling backwards and performing forward Geneva by running down the cliff is all fun but the boys know one slip, and catastrophe awaits.
Mike regales his Venturers with a story about two boys who went abseiling near where the Venturers will canyon, and how one died because he didn’t know a simple self-rescue knot and trick.
In Canada, young men and women in the Rover section of Scouts have formed an alliance with rescue services to help rescue young people who fall victim to misadventure. Scott wants the same style of organisation set up in Australia.
Mike Hunter’s day time job is a newspaper Journalist and he takes Scott’s idea to his editor and runs some articles. The Australian and State Governments back the paper’s call for the organisation to be set up and run by Rovers aged 18 to 15.
Mike then enlists the aid of some Army Commando friends to teach the Venturers how to rappel army-style. This relationship endures and become prophetic for when the big day in the canyon finally arrives.
The Venturers are taken to indoor rock climbing gyms to hone their skills of belaying, rock climbing and balance when at height.
What could go wrong? Mike has confirmed the boys all know how to abseil; how to rock climb, belay and self-rescue. All should be fine.
Fate has a funny way of playing its hand sometimes and like a card player, can play a double game. It springs a surprise no one saw coming.
The boys and Mike go on their intrepid adventure in the knowledge there is nothing more they can practice without actually going canyoning.
The trip through the Blue Mountains is educational as the boys learn some of the roads were used by Cobb and Co stage coaches around the time the State was part of the Colony.
Finally, the boys gear up and start their walk and descent through a series of canyons. Without warning, a life threatening accident occurs in which a Venturer is left dying while most of his Unit rush to get help. The weather turns foul and rescue suddenly becomes almost impossible.
Mike and Scott stay behind to be with the Venturer as his life ebbs from him. Army Commandos are called in to assist and a fledgling youth rescue service launches into operation.