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Submitted by crag on 2003-09-11 | Last Modified on 2010-02-26

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With the anticipation of the climb building inside of me, the anxiety over the path I'll take up the escarpment that lies above is quenched by my pre-climb superstitions-like habits. Open the pack; smell the nylon mixed with the chalk and sweat. Suddenly I feel reassured. Dumping the contents of the pack on the ground, I commence the gratifying ritual of sorting gear. I hear the familiar clank of the aluminum and stainless steel which I trust more than anything these days, a deep breath and a sigh of relief.

First I tape the nagging ring finger, (damn stupid contrived indoor boulder problem), on the right hand then slip on the Scarpa Minima's. They feel a little crusty from being in the trunk of my car but I've always felt this was the best way to dry them out. After a little stretching to awaken my muscle I find a familiar boulder problem. Funny it hasn't changed in 20 yrs. Just standing there waiting for me, challenging me, rewarding me. Gripping the chalk caked hold my body becomes fully aware of the motion my mind has called it to do.

The movements are not new but they are very reassuring, therapeutic. My left foot steps through and in front of my right allowing me to maintain balance on my precarious perch. As I welcome the effects of the sun, sweat begins to build on my back I lower my waist over my left foot allowing my grip to relax to the point were my fingers are there just to maintain balance. After my warm-up dance I'm ready for the main event. Slipping into my climbing harness I ponder how much longer can I keep it in service before I honorably retire it? It has served me while along with its partner, the rope, they have never let me down, never questioning my motives or me of its motives.

Making sure the safety buckle is doubled backed I adjust the waist belt so that belay loop is at its center point. Some may call it fiddling but the next few steps are the most important in my pre-climb ritual; racking. If I don't do this the same way each and every time anxiety jumps on my back for the ride. OK, I'm going to rack the pro on my waist for this climb, small and medium Stoppers on the right along with the smaller Hexes including the wired ones along with the first 4 Tri Cams. The left side is adorned with Metolius TCUs and BD's Camelots. I wonder if I'll place my new 0.4 silver color coded BD Camelot. Making up the balance of my arsenal are a couple of quick draws and single and double length runners twisted down to make them more compact.

No belay singles required today, I've ventured out by myself...soloing; roped. Finding the right angle to position the tubular webbing around the boulder lying at the feet of my climb I pay extra attention to the webbing as it wraps around the rock. Fixing my life line with a figure eight to two opposed locking carabineers I pay out several feet of slack and attach the rope to my harness with a clove hitch and a locking biner. A figure 8 "fraidie" knot follows several feet behind its main tie-in point.

I take a look around, good, no one else is here today; maybe they're still engrossed with the previous weeks events. Not that I am not, I just need a little "away" time to calm myself, climbing is the best therapeutic medicine around. Selfish? Yes! Well, maybe not all that bad. I've donated time, brawn, money and body. Will it be enough? I only pray that it will but, I fear that it will not.

I prayed for those directly affected and still involved, but the damage done to my faith has been tremendous. Scriptures do exist that explain the events that happened, the question now is does my faith exist. I quickly compartmentalize the world events and tuck them neatly away in a little box in the back of my mind and launch into the rock and the crack that will afford me the protection placements that I desire and need.

Placing protection early and often my upward progression is only interrupted by the adjustment of the clove hitch and the back-up figure 8. This is a friendly well known climb. No challenges await me, even the over hang just above my head it will require nothing more than a grunt as I stand up high out over the roof and grab the "Thank God Bucket"...ironic isn't it. I know the rock; I know what it will yield. I can touch it, it touches me back, it's familiar, a very comforting feeling. Above the overhang I now find myself in a more vertical world with about 40 ft. below me and another 35 ft to the safety of the ledge. I find a comfortable stance and build a small two piece anchor equalized on a double length sling with an over hand knot in the middle, gotta love the hands free stances. I pay out about 15 ft of rope, place a #4 Chouinard Stopper in my mouth and climb out onto the main face of the climb.

I place each foot and hand exactly where they need to go, not missing a single well rehearsed movement. I know full well that a slip will cause me to fall past the overhang before the rope becomes taught, if not hitting the ground first. Reaching with my left hand and grabbing a corner hold I pay special attention to my left hand to make sure I don't latch onto the stone too hard. I'm gentle with it, as if I'm telling the rock I need something back from it today. The old stopper goes in as planed as it has countless times before along with the shiny new quick draw. Kind of like the old meets the new they work in unison without judgment asking nothing of each other only seeking to give.

Knowing that there is a small intermediate ledge before the belay ledge I loosen the clove hitch and attempt to pay out another 10 feet of rope so that I can make it to the next to last ledge. Foiled! The arms start to loose their security and the powers in my mind begin to fall to its worst enemy, Mr. Fear! A fall at this point will still have consequences that I do not wish to consider. Ok, regroup, be calm, breathe, yea' that's it breathe. Concentrate, work the hitch. You've left enough between it and the "fraidie" knot that you don't have to worry about it. Working the knot with greater success my mind wonders if perhaps this predicament has been brought upon me by my own doing...duh! Maybe I deserve this. If I fall now it would be a punishment for past sins.

Cinching the clove hitch down into it's new position, I high step on good right foot hold and reach for a small crimp, pause for a second, stand up fully on the right foot and drive my left hand deep into a horizontal crack where I place a picture perfect blue Tri-Cam, clip it and quietly groan as I fire off the last few moves to the intermediate ledge with no rope to spare. The first words I mouth in silence are: “You’re so *u^king stupid!”

Paying close attention to the last bit of rope management required to gain the main ledge, I take a deep breath and attempt to put things into perspective. Making the last few moves to the main ledge I'm ever so careful not to make any mistakes, you know the ones that get you in trouble because you had to make one more ski run down the mountain when everyone else was in the lodge fighting for position at the bar. Constructing my rappel anchor as quickly as possible I can hear voices down below. I now concentrate in cleaning the route, hiking back up to break down my rappel anchor before I'm forced into polite conversation.

Back on the ground my eyes are drawn to a familiar sight, so I decide to stick around and make myself receptive to the onlooker’s questions. Ok! So I know it's presumptuous of me to think that there would be any questions, hell, I never even considered that the fellow climbers who just arrived could be experienced rope soloist. As I selfishly bummed a cig from one of them, familiar sight, I sat down on the ground and chatted.

As it turned out they had a lot more to offer than I had originally thought. I was glad that I stayed and talked. It helped reaffirm certain things in my life which I had just recently, not in a god or any religion but in humanity.


In an ever increasing world off uncertainty climbing has always been one of the few things that help keeps me grounded, irony at its best.


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