Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day Two - The Mixed Game

The sound of my breath is getting louder. I can hear the guys down below shouting beta which is meaningless to me now. I shift their voices to the background. All I can hear now is my breath. I look up and my arms are outstretched to picks matched on a ledge the width of my pinky. I have no leashes so my hands grasp the handles in a death grip. I look down past my knees that are bent in a monkey hang to see the front points of my crampons. Each is perched on a separate tiny flake of rock that are the size of a raisin.

My muscles are screaming for me to let go, but I hang on. I stand up on the raisin sized rock ledges and pull my hips into the wall. The pain in my feet deepens. I am careful not to move the angle of my right pick for fear of it popping off. I reach up with one long stretch of my left arm and start probing the wall with the end of the pick for anything to hang onto. I'm in a locked out position with my other arm so my time for probing is limited. I desperately scratch the pick up and down to the left and right until it catches in a crack. I give the handle a tug. My placement seems solid.

I look down at my feet again, searching for something to move them up onto. The wall looks bare. It's flat and smooth. It is taunting me and tempting me to let go. There is nothing here for my feet! Look harder. Breathe. My eyes focus in on a ledge that suddenly appears to me. This one is a bit bigger than the last. I move my right foot carefully, quietly and with precision as I place the tiny front point onto the tiny ledge. Amazingly, I stand up on it. It holds.

I pull up again intending to put my right pick directly above the left in the crack, but the crack angles left and I can't reach above. I feel my grip slipping as I try to make a decision quickly. I put my right tool on my left shoulder. Switch hands on the other tool and grab the tool on my shoulder with my left hand. I prepare to hook it into the crack. As I move past the hammer on my right tool, I pull out on the handle and pop! The hammer breezes past my face and I am falling through the air for a second before bouncing at the end of the rope.

Dangling at the end of the rope I stare down at the ground 50 feet below me. And I can't believe I have made it this far. Upon arrival I looked at the bare wall of rock that we were going to climb and laughed. I'm never getting off the ground, I thought. I turn to Harry, the instructor, who is setting up the rope and say, "What grade is this?" He says, "I don't know, it's never been climbed."

And it still hasn't. Well at least not without falling a few times. Harry came the closest with his attempt but fell once, maybe twice before reaching the top. The rest of us struggled to make it as far as we could.

I reach up and stick my pick back into the crack and swing myself onto the wall. I place my front points back onto the tiny raisin ledges. I look up and search for a placement.

I am hooked.

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