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Peter Pan Climbing on the Razor's Edge

Submitted by fjielgeit on 2005-06-28

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"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over. Thus the wise say the path to salvation is hard.”

I ventured up a new pitch on which I had an out-of-body experience. I was locked in a finger crack two grades harder than I'd ever led before. We were a hundred feet up a 200 foot verticle granite line. I was at the hanging belay watching my partner work through the crux, one piece of pro exactly half way between him and me. He ripped out of the crack. I ducked to avoid the inevitable and DK landed on my back. I held the belay. I heard, felt, ribs break. Snap, crackle, pop is more than a cereal. His fingers too bloody to try again. Easiest way down was up. My turn.

I was anxious and afraid to move into lead mode, yet I heard another voice in my head, "GO." Barely hanging on, tip toeing up. I was focused, serene, then climbing outside myself. Like Peter Pan's Tinkerbelle, I was flying alongside watching me struggle. I fell, then sent that pretty gash on the next go. DK knew my agony, ecstacy, but had no idea of my epiphany.

What I got out of this trip is, whether we are supermen and women at the crags in our prime, or old mortals out of shape, to be on the sharp end of the perlon means, come what may, we're all running it out at times up there, dancing on the stone scimitar.

If we haven’t already, one day we'll caress the Razor's Edge (book by Summerset Maugham). Which side: be cut, a close shave, or like Pete and Captain Hook, win the saber duel? We will practice a heightened state of awareness few know. We'll pass through to other dimensions as on a vision quest.

The only vision quest most people know is which bumper sticker to look at on a freeway. What is Touching the Void to the highway crowd? It's as foreign a concept as, well, Maugham wrote about his main character Larry on his mountain climb: "How grand the sight was that was displayed before me... I was ravished with the beauty of the world. I'd never known such exaltation and transcendent joy... (I was) released from my body and a pure spirit partook of a loveliness I had never conceived. I had knowledge more than human possess was such rapture... No words can tell the ecstasy of my bliss. When I came to myself I was exhausted and trembling."

Climber, we wear Maugham's -- Larry's -- boots.

Doug Robinson, father of clean free climbing, explains where this mythical and mystical, extra sensory passion comes from, "(We) are producing (heightened states) right in our brains, by mixing hormones of effort with a dash of fear and cooking them over fires of stress into (an endorphin) cocktail that becomes, mind bending." (Climber as Visionary)

I am still a visionary, still have psychic moments, but I'm not a youth any longer; I've been on the rocks, teetering on a sword for over twenty years. Dancing on the razors edge is dangerous business, not a game for the faint hearted, easily scared, or those prone to crushing nightmares. You've got to dig air beneath your feet, the feelings of struggle and success, thoughts of doubt to confidence, falling and flying because we are them all. NO FEAR? How about KNOW FEAR, embrace her, and breathe deep!

Now my ascent is at a crux. Like Peter, I think about growing up. I consider the metaphors in my life, the balance of living on the heights and working in the city, when to risk or be careful, dream yet be down to earth, grasp my love then let her go.

Oh Tink, what side of the razors edge is this cosmic, romantic stoner on now?


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