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Friday, March 09, 2007


So, there I was, roped up and ready to fumble my way up a heinous multi-pitch 5.11c line that ascended a 1000+ foot granite monolith. The morning air was a perfect 63 degrees with crystal clear skies. Ever breath was so exhilarating as the smell of pine trees, tincture of benzine, and coffee signaled the impending terror that we were thrusting ourselves into. The sound of our precious climbing gear clanking echoed as our hearts pounded with adrenaline. This was life at its best. We chose this route because it was difficult and long, the four stars on the rating only affirmed that we were going to push ourselves to the physical, mental, and emotional limits. Breakfast included coffee, a dose of fear and a sip of pure joy.

As my partner racked his chosen pieces of pro, I noticed another group already starting their accent up a route that paralleled our route. I thought nothing of their choice as it was a mere 5.7 and did not deserve my respect. We gave our equipment one more look and the magic words were said, on belay?, belays on!, climbing! Like kids in a toy store, the cost of the venture never came across our mind, just wishes, and what ifs. Our route starts with a 160 foot, 5.9 pitch that is run out. One must stay focused in such a situation and not become distracted lest one takes a long and painful grounder. Here, in the very beginning of the morning, before the bright and warming rays of the sun ever cleared the tall pines is where our trouble started.

The group climbing next us turned out to be more of a problem for us than we had ever imagined. The lead climber, who I named "zippy" was engaged in what would appear to be one of the most terrifying experience of his life. Has he ascended the simple 5.7 vertical crack fear had hijacked his normal body functions. As he verbalized his terror and stitched up the crack, his terror spread across the cold granite like a disease. The distraction become almost unbearable to my partner who could not afford fear to take over his body. My partner had no place to put a piece of pro in even if he wanted to. He was committed to vertical ascent no matter how scared he may become. His run out 5.9 pitch had just become a night mare that was not going to go away. If you have never experienced paralyzing fear it is one of those moments that feel like you are out of your body watching bad things happen to you. Zippy continued his verbal dance with fear as he zipped up almost an entire pitch. I watch this situation unfold as I thought to myself, How can anyone carry that much equipment? I noticed my partner swift and stable movement become struggled and hesitant. I soon realized that the course of the days events were already changing.

Here is where the moral of this event comes to life. How many times have we had to change our life course due to someone else's fears? Fears that spread throughout a group and stunt possibilities of greatness. How can we stay focused amongst the most challenging moments in life while those around us fall victim to panic and failure? Stay tuned, there is more to come.


Barrett, M said...

Who was your climbing partner that day? I know it wasn't me cause I don't think we ever did a 5.11 together.

Talking Bear said...

My partner for that day, and for a period of time, was Bill Pappas. We were training to do a route up El Cap which would have been Bills third time up El Cap. We were doing a lot of multi pitch climbing, and speed climbing. Bill taught me a lot about continuos movement on lead. Anyway, I have climbed with a lot of guys and gals, some ranked national. It has been a great sport for me. TB

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