Went to Tuolumne again, set off for Guide Cracks on Sunday with every intention of practicing hand-jams until I broke myself of either the fear or the inclination—or, more plausibly, just plain broke.
Instead we got lost. It took a while to figure out we were on the wrong rock, but less to realize that we ought to walk to the top of it. So we did, and it looked like this:
Gasping for air under the weight of gear I hardly know how to use, I looked around and saw the reasons that I’m trying to learn—which are, oddly, also the reasons that it doesn’t matter whether I ever do. It’s another of the mountains’ tricks of perspective: that the whole world can contract so violently around a single knot or finger or knife-blade edge of rock; and then explode into infinity again on these summits, subsume the memory of the fear in space and light.
There’s a vertigo in the view, something that pulls me out of and over myself so that the scene spins below me even as I’m looking to the shore. The sensation of smallness is a comfort and embrace; I’m at once enveloped and untethered and it’s peace. Why only out here? Why, elsewhere in life, is insignificance a worthlessness, a wound?
Ignore for a moment the writing and fact that in both cases I’d simply walked where I was going; that’s not the point. I think it’s still the reason. I think it’s still enough.
This weekend in Tuolumne: Baby’s First Trad Lead. I wasn’t going to try this for a while longer, but when I found myself sitting with idle hands in front of literally the easiest possible single-pitch climb in the park, equipped with a borrowed rack and an all-girl backup chorus of soothing voices … I had clearly run out of excuses.
Anyway, here I owe some big thanks to Nicole, for spending twelve years with her arms up while I fumbled around with the first piece and for reviewing my placements; verdict: 1) decorative, 2) good, 3) marginal, 4) over-cammed, 5) okay. It’s, uh … just as well I didn’t have to build an anchor.
Other high comedy in Project Be My Own Rope Gun: Freakout-leading easy slab on Sunday I missed the only gear on the route and then, while preoccupied with wondering what 150 feet actually looks like (…), wandered an extra 15 past the anchor. The only reason I even thought to look down for it was that the girl on the route next to me happened to sneeze. Having extricated myself from this situation uninjured, I then ate shit on the walk back to the car after getting a cam stuck in some manzanita.
I have, to put it mildly, a lot to learn. The particular difficulty of this sport, of course, is that while figuratively I may have nowhere to go but up I am literally a lo-o-ong way from the ground. So I will give it a little more of my best effort …
This morning I took a little survey of reviews on SummitPost and Mountain Project. Here is everyone else’s assessment of what I personally would describe as, uh, the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done.
“I was disappointed. Fairly easy climbing and over-bolted.”
“Missed a bunch of bolts on two or three of the pitches, but didn’t need them.”
“Non-strenuous great fun for overweight geriatrics.”
“You can focus on your feet and not worry about the spacing between the bolts.”
“Super easy climbing, great as an intro to slab or to run up at the end of the day.”
Meanwhile, in my world, the route is over-bolted only in the sense that I wouldn’t have tired to lead it in the first place were it not bolted at all. And I can’t imagine I’ll live to be an overweight geriatric when I’m Elvis-legged on a 5.7, negotiating frantically with lizard-brain: Do not start crying, I protest, you’ll get the slab wet and then you’re definitelygoing to fall.
Seriously, I hate this sport. Who wants to go next weekend?