Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Long Weekend, Part I: Friday

A fine morning finds us once again hiking up the familiar trail to The Lookout. Our packs are pleasantly light; the ropes are stashed at the crag, and our projects are already equipped with draws. It is shaping up to a beautiful day. Who knows, we might not even need a fire to stay warm today.

I go through my usual ritual: a long 5.11on big holds to limber up; a short bouldery 5.11 to warm up the fingers; and a 5.12a that I have wired to get into pulling-down mode. All too soon it is time to get down to work and start doing redpoint burns on my month-old project, Spicy Elephant Extension. The first section to the halfway anchor goes quickly. How many times have I climbed it by now? It must be at least fifteen, maybe twenty. Even though I am not really pumped, I stop at the no-hands rests; I will need the extra energy higher up.

The business begins a couple of bolts above the halfway anchor. I take my time at the stem rest, alternating hands and gripping positions until my breathing and heart rate slow down. A couple of deep breaths to get psyched, and I move into the crux sequence: gaston, crimp, crimp, undercling, a slap to a textured sloper, another undercling, a big sidepull, and then the clip. The clip feels desperate and I fight the temptation to grab the draw. But the rope clicks into the 'biner and I continue: a slap to a good sidepull, a lurch to a poor undercling, highstep left, try to highstep right... and I roar powerlessly in an iron-cross position before dropping into space. I get back on and climb through to the anchor, but as I lower off, the gap between a one-hang ascent and a redpoint looms bigger than ever.

I rest, eat, do belay duty, and try yet again. The crux moves feel much the same as before, but this time the clip seems downright easy. The left foot goes up, then surprisingly so does the right, and I am standing up into the big undercling. Shit! I might just send this thing! I take great care not to rush the remaining ten metres: focusing, breathing, using each foothold and each kneebar just so. And then I am clipping the anchor and lowering off, elated and yet strangely disappointed that the process is over. But of course it is not; Diamonds on the Inside just to the right beckons.

Places and actions have no intrinsic significance; they are only significant if we think they are. Kurt Albert's red dots have invested inert pieces of rock with a significance that has the power to make us scream in frustration and whoop in delight. It is rather funny when you stop to think about it, and yet why not?

Another time, another place, but just as much fun.


  1. Congrats on the send!
    Is that you at maple?

  2. Thanks! And yes, that's me in the cave at Maple. Definitely some of the weirdest rock I have ever climbed on.

  3. For sure, I love Maple Canyon!