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Time to Face the Music


 

by Jeff

March 23, 2004

I can hear her calling to me as I approach the door to my apartment. Her voice is such that it penetrates through walls, doors, and time-space. There is no escaping the forthcoming wrath... I know this, and I accept it. I've been gone for the better part of two days, and I left her at home alone. I was climbing, and even though I told her my plans, she's not happy about it. She didn't say anything when I left, but she's damn sure letting me know about it now.

With my pack and rope on my back, a worn, tired, and satisfied look on my face, I dig deep for the resolve to make it through this. Before I grab the door knob, I sigh, close my eyes, and think back.

The problem, as I see it, is that I can't find the words to tell her how important climbing is to me. She's not a climber, so she can't fathom the joy and happiness from a hard day or two of climbing. I've tried to rationalize with her. I've tried to describe the sensation. I've tried to say "Look, this is what I do... deal with it!"

(None of these approaches have worked, by the way.)

This time, I was running laps in the canyon, and sleeping under the stars. I had a solid partner in Heath, who was insightful enough to bring extra coffee and a stove, else we'd have been eating our Ramen noodles dry and uncooked. As usual, I brought my rack (I've got more trad gear than he does,) and he brought the ropes (a pair of 9.8's.)

The first route, a fun 5.8 line, was the perfect warm-up. I nearly slipped and was too close to a 20 footer onto a red Tri-Cam for comfort, but managed to hang on. I ran the last part out a bit, due to a dearth of draws and slings, but the top slab is easy 5.5 stuff, and I had good feet.

Those moments... the exhiliration of near-falls, the satisfaction of a properly slotted stopper, the feel of a -just-the-right-size cam... those are the things she'd never understand.

Next in line was a quirky 5.9 line that starts with fist jams, has a short section of face work, then has a bomber horizontal crack before moving into a finger-crack. At the horizontal, I drop in a #3 Friend and a 2.5 Tri-cam, equalize them, and move into the finger stuff. Akward moves get me up slowly, and I take a moment to slot a blindly placed nut ("Hmmm.... feels about this size...") Heath later tells me the nut was "Fair," but not the best.

Calculated risk, a part of every climber's life, has no place in her life. She's a quiet, stay at home type, who rarely ventures beyond the safety of four walls, and then only to the front yard. Safety is her way, and she's quite happy with that. She'd never understand the thrill of a little danger.

Heath is warmed up, has his head in place, and leads the next line, a smooth and polished 5.7 route that wanders back and forth to follow a broken crack system. I'm patient as I belay him, for several reasons: first, he's patient when he belays me; second, I was *there* at one time -- a new trad climber still learning; and third, I'm enjoying the sun, breeze, and sound of birds. This moment, alone with the creations of nature, has a calming effect on my troubled mind. Lately, I've been over-stressed with concerns about work (or a lack thereof,) money, a forthcoming job interview that might take me away from my beloved Colorado, and a myriad of other things.

When I get overwhelmed, I take time off to climb. She never seems overwhelmed, because I have been tasked with taking care of such issues. Oh, to have a life such as hers...

The rest of the trip went along the same trend... Climb, rest, climb. In the evening, we sat and drank a few cold beers, talked about stuff, and generally enjoyed the camaraderie so commonly known amongst climbers. In the eve of the second day, I drove home, listening to a Boz Scaggs tape and sipping a cup of over-heated, burnt, and bitter truck-stop coffee.

Then I made it to the door...

I took that deep breath, turned the knob, and faced the music:

MEOW! MEOW MEOW!

"I know... I'm sorry."

Reprinted by permission.


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