27 September 2016


Over Labor Day, J. and I drove down to that One Big State that takes up most of the west coast. We met some friends of his, who drove up from the south to meet us at a great location for climbing.

So, about climbing. I like climbing. If you give me a rock wall with reasonably large variations in it, I will scramble right up it.

Real rock climbing, though, involves walls that do not appear to have anything to hold onto.

I failed. Twice. I kinda choked, because the wall was harder than anything I've ever tried.

It was frustrating for someone who is mostly fearless about heights except for a tiny itty bitty little (small) fear of falling. Also a twinge of perfectionism. 

So I signed myself up for women's climbing clinic out on a big rock formation in the middle of State of Happiness on one of the weekends that J. was in Spain. 

I drove myself out there in my new car, the back full of tent and bedding (the comfy version of camping: foam pad and real sheets). I found a campsite in campground with a creepy name in a national wild land with another creepy name. Turns out the camp manager was also one of those older guys who calls every woman sweetie or honey or darling. So, maybe creepy? It's hard to tell with old men. I reserved judgment.

I went into Central Ski Town for dinner, which was more like 4 pm because I hadn't managed to eat lunch and was dizzy with hunger, and then bought a bunch of (somewhat necessary) stuff at Re!, and then settled into my tent by about 9 pm. 

I laid there in the dark, realizing that I'd never gone camping alone before, not real camping, not with only a tent between nature (cougars! rattlesnakes!) and me. Always before there have been other people around. People I knew, not just the strangers in campsites 50 feet away. I wasn't sure if I would sleep, but I did.

In the morning, we gathered at the climbing supply store, a group of women between 23 and 50. We'd all climbed before, some only inside, and we all wanted to learn.

We did. We learned to build an anchor up at the top of a pitch and to clean the anchor to rappel back down after everyone is done climbing. We climbed.

And then we hit a pitch that I couldn't climb. My confidence was up, because I'd been climbing, but this one didn't seem to have handholds. At all. 

The usual thing that people do when this happens, when they are standing below you, is to yell things like, "Try to the right of your left knee. Can you get a foothold there?" 

These women, though, they knew. They knew that it wasn't just about telling me where to reach. It was about giving me the knowledge that I didn't have to find a perfect handhold to try another step. "You won't find handholds here," one of them said. "Your hands are just for balance. Your feet move you up."

And so I put my hands flat against the wall and did exactly as the climbers say: I trusted my feet. I stood up on the tiniest little bit of incline, on my rubber shoes, and it worked. I climbed the wall like a spider, and at the top I got to undo the entire anchor and re-loop the rope through and do my favorite thing about climbing: I rappelled down the side of the rock, reminding myself to look around at this beautiful place and enjoy every moment.

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