Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The First Time

I reached over the bulge, the last difficulty on the climb. Feeling around blindly, i felt a sharp edge long enough to crimp my fingertips on.

A brief pause: Is it worth it?

I come back to the ledge where there is a set of shiny bolts. The island of safety. I could rappel now, while im safe.

I studied the route below. The exposed traverse over the jagged boulder field that drops away the more you gain height. The easy bit.

I ignored the bolts and step right, off and away from the ledge and commit to the route. The drop was back again. I reach above me and wipe off the dirt and grime that's covering the handhold.

Grip. Mantle. Shit.

My gaze shoots down in alarm, as something is stopping me from progress. I try again to mantle and to be done with the crux, except i can't move any further. Im stuck, arching over the bulge, like a beached whale, with my foot cemented somehow on the foothold i can't see and my hands palming the ledge, slowly seeping with sweat.

Searching, i finally take notice that the loop of rope is under my foot. My eyes then focus downward, fear sucking my feet even more into the void. The rope is tugging at my back with every heave, because i didn't coil it tightly enough on my back and i didn't notice my foot get caught.

After all it's for the rappel back down, not for protection. Idiot.

My heart begins thumping, like a beating drum and i can feel the mounting pressure as it starts to say something different. The consequences of my ambition. My ultimate failure. Fleeting images becoming more vivid by the second, as i'm sure the time bomb of fatigue is ticking away.

Relax for God's sake.

I force my trembling hands back down to the hold and reverse the mantle. The loop is freed as i writhe in panic and finally i breath. I dry my hands out with chalk and swear ill be more mindful with the rope next time. Mantleing once again i see the next sequence of holds that turn from over gripping into a mantra of sublime flowing movement until im crawling from the shadow of the wall, into the loving embrace of the warm sun at the top.

Standing on the cliff, a gentle breeze absorbs all my self inflicted convictions and sends it away into the infinite depth of the blue sky. Only to be replaced with a manic laugh and a smile, for the sheer joy at being alive in that very moment.

I had reached my goal of soloing as many 'easy' routes as i could in a day, for the first time, with this route at it's pinnacle. I tell myself that its for 'training' but i know its really frustration at the fact i couldn't find a partner for the weekend.

So i'm here, alone, proving a point to none but my stubborn self.

But a door had opened and the space between my ears was silent. There was a void where the fear had manifested itself so intensley but had now subsided, back to the dark cave from whence it came, only to be replaced by contentment and the knowledge that climbing will always be my ultimate teacher and the one true way to know myself.

Today i learned a little more was possible. Today im truly happy.

While sorting the rope for the last rappel of the day and the sun setting behind the Monashee mountains with the town slowly illuminating in the valley bottom, there were no tired muscles, no lactic acid built up at all. Only a tired brain, the victor of the battle with my own demon that day. Doubt.

Of course not. It was only 5.8.

14th June, 2011, Revelstoke, BC

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