Readers Blog

In Smallness

Posted on: July 1, 2008

In verdure and bloom, spring brings a shrugging off of long worn ermine coats and an unfettering from the frozen shackles of ice and snow. The season of birth and regeneration, my parents clean the attic and my neighbour loses the doors on his truck and the sleeves off his shirts. All of his shirts. For me though, spring is Project Season.

Project Season marks the end of the perfidious winter cycle, nights spent keeping warm in pubs and whisky, and days spent expiating myself by training. Crags proper are ample recompense for the gloomy basement woodies and apartment hangboards I trade in, but spring rock comes bearing gifts; Sending Temps. Ephemeral and transient, sending temps are the perfect axis of cool air temperatures, low moisture content, and your own balanced chakra that most maximizes skin-to-rock friction levels. These are the heavenly machinations of your potential moment, when the moon and stars, the sun and seas have aligned to await your move.

With sending temps in hand, the final task (that is, the final task before actually climbing the thing) falls to you; to focus your Qi. Few actually know what it is beyond a game saving Scrabble word somehow related to the East. To focus your Qi is to become one with the Proj, one with Nature, and one with yourself, a synthesizing of all the shamanistic rituals, New Age aphorisms, and quasi-scientific methodologies you’ve haphazardly picked up along the way. Melodramatic solipsism? Of course, but how else to dance with such lovely reticence?

This season’s project requires the suitor to be equally versed in all styles of climbing. With subtle linkages through desperate holds, the full arsenal of technical trickery from the arcane to the modern is needed, from banal deadpoints through to duelling heel hooks, advanced scums, and even the Double Egyptian. One particularly enigmatic sequence that I had thought perfect for some avante garde Rodeo beta forced me regrettably into the French style, employing a series of extreme back flags that proved crucial, if out of fashion. As for the crux sequence itself, the only option is a cross-under move so vicious it seems more Vampire than Rose.

On route again, I look up to scan the holds I know so well, but I see fors the first time above me still, the whirling, infinite gyre of space and star. With visceral clarity, I see the timeless massiveness of the skies and as if burdened by its physical weight I am pulled whipping from the wall. With tidal force my perspective is shaken open by the mocking nihilism of a universe built of such magnitude. Everything is made small and insignificant; this route, myself, this whole anthropic enterprise. Yet bounding, back from reverberations on the outer un-edges of time and space, my perspective rushes to me. In such a scaling of focus wherein even the rising of the sun is rendered small, I can’t help but revel in that smallness. Where everything is equally small, all have equal claim to beauty and significance by that which we put into it. Enveloped in a calm I feel the rope stretch as I’m softly caught from yet another fall. With epiphanous momentum and intensity my sense of focus had left completely and come back stronger, more well rounded, more robust, allowing me to contentedly live and climb knowing there are no big projects, just big worthy beautiful efforts.

So lightened, if not nearly enlightened, sitting at the end of the rope again, I can’t help but think that maybe now that section will go with the Rodeo beta...

Climbing Wall

Posted on: July 1, 2008

Mike falls to the ground

compressing his body,

absorbing all of his 180 pounds

on his toe tips.

Is compassion a thought or a do?

Or is it just a bee sting since the bee doesn't need

poison only for the purpose of stinging?

I let go of my rope,

its hard memory now

burned into my skin.

I smell singed peanuts.

Willed to prevent horror,

my fingers

form four blisters. White is

the color of waiting.

Waiting for the present in the heart's inner space,

Waiting for an anticipated plummet.

The facts are usually arrayed in such

a manner that that there is significance

and meaning in all of them.

I shake them loose,

my body

convulsing in daggers.

Now it is true that the eye is present in a very

mysterious way in bee poison.

A supervisor runs up the stairs,

asking what went wrong.

All I know is that

facts do not become the truth

until you love them.

Later, my soft fingers encased in peas,

the frozen plastic little solace

to my failed belay.

I drive home in Mike's Band-Aids,

using only my pinky and thumb,

wondering if Mike thinks that

the quality of mercy is not strain'd,

it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

upon the place beneath.


Posted on: July 1, 2008

Mount Vernon, Iowa

In a gray brown autumn the clouds hung low in the damp air, and the morning’s thin coffee made us think we needed to stop again. Week after week for years I’d driven through this small college town on my way to the crag and peeked out at the health food store, the artist studio, the diner, the coffee shop with dark windows and FUEL Espresso in large white letters. This time I slowed.

Little bells clanged on the doorknob. Warmth startled me. A farmhouse kitchen behind a downtown storefront. The young woman at the counter brewed a single coffee in my climbing partner’s mug. Said she’d make it strong. Checked on the cookies baking in the little oven behind the counter. Heated water in a white kettle. She was tall, thin, wearing a calf-length black dress, a white apron.

I only had time to look about briefly. It came as a rush, and I only vaguely held on to the small couches and antiques on the walls, the chalkboard menu, the wire-mesh basket over a plate of peach scones. I was wearing my Carhardt’s and Capilene, a Bolivian hand-knit hat, my worn-out Sportivas. I was the out-of-town girl just passing through, but for the hundredth time. I should have had books and a scarf, a hip bag and long earrings. I should have been one of the college students lounging about over their notebooks. I bought a scone and my coffee and walked out the door. We were hurrying off to climb.

What came with me was mostly that feeling. The slow ease from the yellow light. An autumn haze broken. An instant of clarity. I drove on towards Monticello and kept thinking about the tiny artsy town in rural Iowa, the product of a little college and liberal airs wafting from farther south. The type of place I’d write into a story or think about in moments for years to come. The type of town that makes me feel awake in its simple charm. I climbed well that day on my project but never sent it without falling. My partner didn’t get his route either. By the end of the day a slight fever was giving me chills and my stomach quivered. It must have been the damp fall day. The settling in of October. An autumn now and fumbling. Dull browns and muddied golds.

The sunset seeped a thin pink stripe breaking out of the clouds over the empty cornfields. We drove home at dusk and the day slid to a close. It was just that once, just that cold, gray morning at the little kitchen café.

Footwork Fireworks

Posted on: July 1, 2008

Stephen and I worked hard to physically prepare for a trekking vacation high in the Swiss Alps. I couldn’t wait to roll in meadows of edelweiss and dip crusty bread into fondue. But first we had to survive July in Oklahoma. Early summer rains had given way to an unusually colorful carpet of wildflowers and it was particularly enjoyable to be climbing with friends on the 4th of July, sprawled out on a granite deck. During the morning we lounged between climbs like lizards in the hazy sun, but as the heat bore down and the haze burned off we crept between boulders for shade.

The Echo Dome climbs in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge are moderate and easily protected. A week prior we’d opted to top-rope Little Sherman Creature Crack. The crux move was interesting — a two-step traverse to a narrower, yet generous second vertical crack. We enjoyed the route and looked forward to returning with gear.

That’s what started the Echo Dome July 4th fireworks. After catching up on crag gossip, we claimed Frosted Flakes, a sport route with some interesting friction moves to tenuously attached flakes. We each took a turn. It felt good to be leading. We moved to Ladybugs and Gentlemen with its crimpy start. After Stephen led it, making crimping on ladybug-sized holds look easy, he set up an anchor for those that had let their lead-heads melt.

We took a break from climbing and relaxed with our friends, discussing ropes, gear and climbing ambitions. The group voted to abandon the dome, but Stephen stood there studying Little Sherman. I knew he wanted me to do it, but I didn’t feel it. Undaunted by my lack of courage, he quietly racked up. While most activity was focused on packing up, Stephen was heading up a granite fin.

I was on belay. My hands cautiously let out enough rope, fearful of giving too much above that fin. Stephen climbed confidently, setting his first and second pieces of gear in the lower crack, arriving at the crux with ease. Everyone paused to watch. Someone tore down the anchor on Ladybugs and jokingly shouted to Stephen that his anchor sucked — a thoughtless taunt that caused a noticeable shift in demeanor. Now Stephen was hesitating. He fumbled with gear and then decided to run it out to find a higher spot for gear. His shimmying legs displayed doubt. I was about to call someone over to anchor me when I realized it was too late. With only one way to take up enough slack quickly, I dove backwards off the slab as Stephen went airborne.

It was a textbook lead fall. Initially people were concerned that I was injured, with a seriously rope-burned neck, and might let go of the rope. I was grateful to see Stephen dangling midair and calmly asked if he was ready to lower. Once grounded, he inspected his feet and facial expressions showed rare signs of extreme pain, fear, and heartbreak. He was met by two of the guys, who immediately went into rescue mode. Stephen attempted to stand but neither foot functioned.

As I overloaded my pack to prevent burdening friends, Stephen and I exchanged a knowing look, both aware the Alps dissolved in that instant of gravitational fury, but our focus was on getting out. Stephen was heroically carried down slippery granite boulders and across muddy meadows. At the stream we removed Stephen’s muiras hoping the cool water would provide some momentary relief and wanting to prevent their wanton destruction by an ER nurse in Oklahoma City. Loading him into the car, our friends wished us well with shell-shocked looks. Then we were left to ourselves and our fears.

We asked the ER doctor the question but we knew the answer. Wondering if I’d been strangled in a holiday domestic dispute instead of a “climbing accident,” he said the only way we were hiking was if I could carry Stephen. X-rays revealed a shattered calcaneous. Two days later an orthopedic surgeon repaired the damage, restructuring bones with three long screws. We wondered if the heel would ever be comfortable in a climbing shoe again.

Stephen was determined this was a small set-back. After weeks of slowly adding weight to the foot, he’d built tolerance for 100 lbs of pressure. Tired of being my belay slave and eager to see if his foot would function, he tied into a rope on a juggy gym route. With a tight belay he made the long slog doing pull-ups and quick hops onto his stronger foot. As he gently landed, we both felt hope that normalcy was creeping back into our life.

Not long after Stephen was given a green light to resume normal activities. I doubt the orthopedic surgeon contemplated what “normal” meant for a mountaineer. The next day Stephen was climbing in the gym at full throttle and training for Christmas ice climbing.

We were ready to reemerge into the outdoor climbing scene and sought sandstone therapy. Neither of us had led since July 4th. I was unreasonably squeamish despite easy and familiar terrain, quashing demons to finish the route. Then Stephen announced his idea to lead a 5.6. I went first, leaving quickdraws hung to lessen his stress, and back-clipping the rope at the first bolt to reduce mine. He was confident tying in and eagerly jumped on the wall. With the second bolt clipped I let myself breathe. He grew hesitant partway then regained confidence and finished with style. He didn’t yelp or slap the rock at the anchor, he just grinned. The doctor said he wouldn’t walk for twelve weeks. He was on the sharp-end at ten.

We didn’t trek the Alps that summer. We did learn to cherish friends and the tremendous capacity of climbers to have each other’s back. One of us learned to walk again. Life is fragile and arbitrary, so get out there and play.

The Beckoning Boots

Posted on: July 1, 2008

When I am far from the mountains, I can close my eyes, and see their mighty walls towering high above. My eyes gaze upwards, until I cannot bend my head back enough to see the point at which the summits meet the sky. A blanket of snow drapes over each precipice and peak, as cornices hug the highest shelves and threaten to collapse into swift and sudden avalanches. The sun hits the mountainside with a beautiful alpine glow, highlighting nature’s rocky statues and leaving the deep cracks and caves and canyons in a mysterious darkness. With eyes closed, I can trace the outline of the most familiar peaks with my index finger " dipping and raising my imaginary pencil with every changing feature.

When I am in the mountains, I need not dream about them, but they somehow still manage to invade my dreams. The line between dream and reality may fade into oblivion, but the line to the summit is clear as day. I hike over that final summit ridge and see, with a sense of relief, that I can go no higher. I have been here many, many times before. The view expands to peaks a hundred miles away and swirls around me as though, for just a moment, I am at the center of the universe. I relish in the sunshine at the top, the stillness of the wind, and the awe and excitement of the views around me. Eventually, though, I look below " I look to where I have come from " and I am quickly reminded of the minuteness of me.

I am just a tiny ant crawling up a massive anthill and thoughts of being at the centre of the universe are rendered tenuous and void considering how quickly my existence could be erased. Threats of a boulder cascading down a steep rock face, a storm blowing in without notice, or a fall despite the most careful footing are ever-present and inevitable when a climber sets foot on a mountain’s mighty slopes.

Upon reaching the bottom, knees and toes aching from the impact, I whisper a thank you to...what? I do not know, exactly. Perhaps I sense the urge to thank the mountain for the chance to step upon it, and climb its shoulder all the way to the top. I thank my body for staying strong, for persevering, and bringing me back to the place I started. I think I also thank God that I am still alive.

After a successful ascent the prospect of climbing again becomes an order too tall to even attempt. The mountain, and its inherent threats, have frayed the nerves I worked so hard to build up. My gear is dirty and needs washing and repair. My body is tired, bruised, and sore. And so I spend my days below the towering peaks " taking awe in their splendour and steadfast presence, their immovability and their domination of the landscape. For a time the mountains stand in the background; they are a perfect canvas, though secondary to the immediacy of my day-to-day life. I take a fleeting look at them every once in awhile, always admiring them for their magnificence, but maintaining my distance nonetheless.

Inevitably the moment arrives where I take a glance upwards and a shiver goes through my spine. I start looking for routes up the mountain’s mighty face instead of looking at it as only a piece of art. I take one look at my boots " worn, faded, scratched, and... beckoning me to put them on yet again!

There is something I am seeking that can only be found on a mountaintop. I find it there and I lose it again when I descend. But I can always find it so long as I am willing to climb.

I fill my lungs with a deep, deep breath, take one last look at the summit, then take my first step towards the top once more.

Climbing Karma

Posted on: July 1, 2008

At the end of a day spent climbing well below our skill level for the benefit of two less experienced climbers, my husband used the phrase “climbing karma” to express his satisfaction with the experience. We recently started yoga practice as an attempt to boost our core strength, balance and flexibility for climbing. The meditative moments suit our nature loving, play passionately lifestyle, and perhaps through the spiritual reflection and learning to breathe through adversity we are aligning the nonphysical components of climbing along with our spines. I am not sure if there is such a thing as climbing karma, but if there is, this is how I envision it.

Climbing usually feels like a personal experience but truly is a community sport. We go to the crags or our gyms and we build a web of like-minded, albeit diverse, individuals that understand why we allow our hands to be shredded and calloused or our knees bruised with a rainbow of colors. We crave a cluster of pals to witness our triumph over a crux, or even better, to hear exactly HOW we conquered the crux. At a bare minimum there is always at least one other human to which we owe our life and attention, unless, of course, you’re one of those wacky free soloists. While we like to believe the climb is all about the moment of Zen between our spirit and the rock, we’re really managing personal relationships.

So then, we make accommodations to our own personal goals to build our utopian climbing community. Karma, like basic Sunday school dogma, dictates that we act in accordance with the “Golden Rule” — we must do good things in order to expect good things to happen to us. Or, as I was reared, we treat others as we expect to be treated. If I am to take advantage of the gracious dull end of the rope of a more experienced and gifted climber, then I should also offer up a rope end and a route for someone.

That’s how I found myself in a sport climbing paradise leading 5.6 on jugs and bizarre chickenhead formations when I really wanted to be ruining my fingertips on 5.11 crimps. We had offered to take two 60-somethings out for a day of good-old Ozark climbing. They don’t lead, or hadn’t until that day, and infrequently are on rock, but both are very active at our gym and frequently grace the local newspapers as climbing phenoms, if for no other reason than their dogged-determinism to keep going despite their age and well-established positions in the community. They have no gear, other than shoes and harness, and rely on others to take them to new climbing locations. When they expressed interest, it was without hesitation that we packed our ropes and quickdraws and took them to the grippy cliffs of Arkansas. We spent a gorgeous day climbing at their level rather than ours. Forced to climb easier terrain we took the opportunity to work on precision and flowing, an enjoyable retreat from pulling hard and valuable for skill improvement.

In poetic parallel, we are fortunate to have friends take us to our local granite and push our sorry selves onto tough lines that we’d never attempt without someone tying us in and telling us to climb. Off-width flesh-eating cracks just aren’t the sort of thing I’d normally select for a casual ascent. But in karmic-perfection, my rope-gun and good friend finds patience within himself to take me to new routes and new experiences, and doesn’t mind when he gets stuck at the top of a cliff, baking in the blistering Oklahoma sun for a few extra minutes while I flail and dangle at the end of the rope connecting us. His sacrifice"including skin left in that monster crack"makes me a better climber and I’m deeply grateful.

Each of us has the chance to do the karmically-correct thing on a regular basis at our gyms or crags when someone ties in incorrectly or belays in an utterly reckless manner and we step in to correct the problem and stop potential disaster. We check our partners to make sure knots are finished or carabiners properly locked. But we also need to do the right thing and build the community by helping each other improve. Pushing new grades is exciting, and I sure would have liked to try a 5.11 onsight rather than hang ropes on 5.7s I’ve previously climbed. But there was equal joy in being a part of two old guys finding the nerve to do their first-ever leads and share the buzz of a climber high I helped create. Maybe it’s the part of me that lives in my alternate dream reality as a guide, or maybe it’s just the right alignment of the universe to have other people’s triumphs"simple or epic"be the yardstick for personal success.

It seems climbing karma does exist as something to strive for. On a recent trip to Yosemite Valley I witnessed one of the most gifted climbers in the country ask a more technically versed rope guru how to efficiently back up a rappel. That gracious quick lesson can be the difference that keeps that climber alive to astound us with a new route. If we can all keep humility and generosity as virtues of climbing along with accomplishment, then we’ll all climb happier and stronger.

On Something and Nothing

Posted on: July 1, 2008

A clap of thunder, Lightning skies, We sit and wait for Sun to rise, Beneath the moonlit mountainsides, And breathe

I chance a look at my second, the movement in this position is almost enough to dislodge me from my perch. My ropes play carelessly in the breeze, carving their gentle path downwards, and slightly rightwards to her stance. Each piece of metalwork winks at me in turn, lending mental strength, while at the same time affording me an uneasy opportunity to estimate their distances, and relative worth. They glint in their tiny abodes, safe in the knowledge that they have found their vocation - I don’t share their confidence.

From this position I can only contemplate. I console myself with the three square inches of rock that balance me between failure and the sweet possibility of success. I know that the stalemate can’t last forever, yet I’m also aware that I can see no prospect of victory from here. I spy my next target, distant and small, yet welcomingly positive. I picture myself arranging fingers on it, anchoring myself, but I see no path that can lead me there. From my small foot ledge the only control I have seems to be whether I am defeated in mind, or body.

Can’t wait forever; Calves cramping, cold and surprised. I arrange my fingers on crystals, each finger crucial, like the keys of a piano chord; but I’m no Dawes, no concert pianist. The thought of his electric route disrupts me, and I’m back, not wanting to risk a faulty connection. Dawes was dancing on the tracks of the underground, but I am playing with toy trains. Any spark from these will shock me, but ultimately I am safe.

It is this thought that I replay in my mind at I commit; distracted from fear. Fingers fumble crystal smears, sweating tips and sliding feet I’m on and up. My last runner smiles, fifteen moves lower. Feet pressed hard my calves begin to shake like a prayer flag in the wind, I snatch at an edge, tantalisingly close, but I’m off. Swooping, sliding and grazing and fumbling, my world tumbles around me and then halts abruptly. Damage is superficial, and I wait awhile to watch the world.

Back at my three square inch home, calves cramping again, it occurs to me how trivial all of this is. How trivial everything is. That I cannot explain the desire for this, and that while I am here I wish I wasn’t, and when I’m not I wish I was. Maybe this is all there is? Contrast: Something and nothing, identity and difference, a measure of extremes.

The line between this world and, and what? Without knowing the line becomes both exhilarating and terrifying. Like the red button you mustn’t press - yet you can’t resist. We know no good can come of it, but still we persist.

Self reliance and camaraderie: Single minded, yet never alone. We are seeking solitude, yet inviting others to join us. We want to be the author of our own destiny, but we take a friend for proof reading.

The effort of it; mentally and physically exhausting! We strive to see how far we can push those boundaries, and at the same time we try to ignore them to achieve this. Muscles crying out, minds inhibited, and then the release; success or failure the release is easy. The sum total of our efforts laughed upon in a few brief seconds. All of the wasted energy! But the release is sweet. For three glorious seconds I am free, and fate is my author. In these moments I seek my place, my purpose, my ego. I do not wish to leave an indelible mark on the world, but rather for it to mark me.

Everything is transient with flux of time. We concern ourselves with our impact, with collapsing peaks and altered routes, yet it is this very same process which gives those peaks their identity in the first place. We seek adventure, and then thwart our own search by trying to make that adventure convenient, and accessible. We argue over the difficulty of a line, when we should be arguing over the experience it affords, or maybe just accepting.

As those routes are defined by their relationship with others, so are we. Our ultimate impact in the world may be minimal, but its impact on us is profound. The sum total of the energy in the universe is zero, no energy is ever wasted. Success or failure is not what counts, it’s the experience afforded.

Meaning is not what you make it; it’s what it makes you.

Fresh Paint

Posted on: July 1, 2008

He has been a mentor, a model, an example to emulate. He’s strong in a thick way " thick arms and thick legs attached to a thick trunk that has size without fat. His face and hands are weathered from years in the mountains. He has earned it all, a guide’s badge and a company. And a marriage. He has everything every guide hopes for.

Today he looks broken and for the first time in memory he seems smaller, beaten down. His wide shoulders slump, his eyes hide in hollows, and his whole countenance is overshadowed despite the clear morning in front of the coffee house.

He’s moved into the old apartment attached to his company’s office. Memory pictures three small rooms in an old house full of cobwebs and dust, storage boxes and files and old retired climbing equipment.

“It’s not so bad”, he says, sipping his coffee and not meeting your eyes. “I installed a wood stove, resealed the windows, and put up a fresh coat of paint.”

You can’t help but wonder if he’s still talking about the apartment.

Consolation Prize

Posted on: July 1, 2008

At four pitches up I’m miserable, the Fruit-Cup wall is a water fall and I’m a sitting duck. It’s not raining but it’s so windy that the water cascading down the overhang below me is arcing out and over me making me pull my hood over my helmet and duck down in a feeble attempt to keep the water out.

I look up squinting my eyes; Ryan’s up there somewhere but the fog blinds my view 20 feet up. I see the rope jump around in the mist and I pay out more slack. The wind is so fierce that it makes talking pointless so I pull out my hand crank radio and turn up the volume; George Thorogood chimes in singing about more whiskey and I couldn’t agree more, but looking down I realize the whiskey is well out of reach in our haul-bag and just turn the volume up some more and try to tune out my surroundings.

I slosh around in my stance and laugh about our situation: we’re perfectly miserable but perfectly safe; our anchor is bombproof and our haul-bag is stocked but Cannon Cliff is dishing out another brutal beating and we’ve casually parked ourselves on the worst part of the cliff.

The wind picks up so I crank the radio some more and turn the volume up, but it doesn’t help. My jacket snaps with each gust and I look around; from 600ft bus sized boulders in the talus field look like treasure chests, but the darkening clouds farther up the cliff look as big as ever. I feel real insecure hanging here but it’s all mental, I try thinking about other things to get my mind off of the exposure but all I can think about is the first time Ryan and I climbed on Cannon.

At that point three years ago trad Climbing was totally new to me; Cannon Cliff was nothing more than a mountain but the ominous wall looming over you when you start is hard to ignore. I had never done a climb over 100 feet let alone 1000 but before I knew it we were five pitches up looking at the remnants of the old man of the mountain. Up to tat point the climbing had been easy but spectacular.

After pitch five that things began to fall apart. Ryan left the anchor and didn’t stop until the rope ran out; when he finally gave the tug signally me up the sun had set, the wind picked up and clouds moved in like clockwork. I gingerly worked my way up the face noticing the rock quality deteriorate at each passing foot. When I got to Ryan’s stance I noticed he seemed uneasy. “What ever you do don’t weight the anchor,” he said. I look around speechless. Ryan explained that the anchor wasn’t worth a damn and that we were off route.

“The Old Man must have torn the upper pitches off,” he says pulling the gear off my harness, re-racking.

“We’ll just have to keep climbing.” Ryan stepped off the belay ledge and onto unknown territory. “We’re bound to run into another route.”

I continue to let out slack as Ryan climbs, above him is a series of ledges each about 4 feet high. Ryan manages to mantle over the first ledge and places his first piece of protection; he clips the rope and quickly gets over the second ledge. At the third ledge he pauses, at this point he’s 20ft above his last piece of gear and 50ft from the anchor. I shiver in my stance as Ryan shakes off and moves up to tackle the third step. He pulls up on the ledge trying to swing his right foot over, but just as his foot leaves the ground a refrigerator sized block crumbles under his weight. Ryan screams as he rides the block down the second step and I duck into the fetal position and grab onto the crack the anchors set in to shield myself.

The sound of microwave sized blocks skidding off the rock above my head makes me faint, but seconds later the barrage ends and I’m still on the ledge. I look up as the dust clears and see Ryan getting back on his feet, his eyes are wide and as he steady’s himself I can see his hands shaking violently, he notices it too but does nothing to hide it. It’s while I’m looking at Ryan that I realize something’s wrong with our anchor; the crack the gear was placed in crumpled as I gripped it and the gear had fallen out. I looked up at Ryan and decided not to tell him figuring he had enough to deal with and decided to replace the gear myself. I slotted the two friends and looked up towards the clouds praying Ryan wouldn’t fall because all the held us from the harsh realities of gravity was a crapping red tri-cam and two horribly placed friends (the first two trad placements of my career).

The minutes dragged on and I shivered some more, constantly looking down at the cannon parking lot where Ryan’s Jeep was in plain sight. All I wanted to do was sit in that junk car, but here I was stuck on this terrifying position. I thought we were doomed, but as my hopes dwindled I heard I triumphant scream from above; Ryan had made it to solid ground.

Looking back up the Fruit Cup wall I no longer felt as miserable, I’m soaked to the bone and the ropes are gushing water, but at least I’m clipped into a bomber anchor. I crank the radio some more and turn the volume up, smiling; “Free Bird” is playing and for a brief second the sun peaks out from behind the menacing clouds. I let out a sigh of relief and thank god for Cannon Cliff, because if it weren’t for it, I’d still be a boy.