“Do you think there’s someday you’ll be content with just going for a hike?” Badger asks me in the midst of our training session yesterday.
by Luke Mehall
I reply that I hope so, but for now, I know I must climb rock for my satisfaction. No other form of physical activity provides “the fix”.
We’ve been in the routine of hitting up the Golf Wall, an overhanging chunk of limestone 15 miles north of Durango, Colorado, for our “birthday challenge” training 2-3 times a week this summer. We’ve altered the rules of the game, our birthdays aren’t until the winter, but for motivation and fun we’ve allowed ourselves to do our challenge this summer, or if summer fades away, the fall. I’m turning 34 and Badger is turning 35, so the plan is to do 35 climbs in day in honor of the age he’s turning.
This notion of training for our made-up game has allowed for a psychological breakthrough, whenever we think we’re done climbing for the day, one of us will mention the challenge and “just one more pitch”. Out of friendly competition, we never say no to that one more, and even if we’re pumped out of our minds, we go for one more.
At dusk, in the Colorado mountains, around 8,000 feet or so, small peaks around us, a translucent sky of silver, this is the moment to just look around and be glad you’re alive. “Climbing is so cool,” I say, as much of a meditation as a realization, I realized climbing was cool an eon ago, but since the climb of the day, the moment is all we have I remind myself again, and really think about it, and bask in that moment.
The one more climb, now by headlamp, I’m tying in, and our friend Cheo, walks around from the corner to ask, “How much longer are you going to climb for?” Rationally it is time for dinner, and he seems to have had enough for the day. “Just one more,” we say.
I tie in, climb the first bolt, and then start the awkward sequence of the beginning, leaning to the left on a solid hold for my left hand, and a loose jug for my right, trying to heel hook with my right foot. Snap! The hold for my right hand breaks, and violently I fall into space. I get back on the rock, continue the dance, and finish the overhanging climb.
It’s really time to go now, we realize. We have draws on a couple of 5.10s, so the plan is to clean them, and then bail. Just as this plan is formulated it starts raining. The Golf Wall is so overhanging the beginning is mostly protected from the rain. Lisa gives me a belay, and Cheo belays Badger on the other route.
“I’ve never climbed at night before,” Lisa says. A new experience, as she belays me up. It’s really raining and it’s dark. “This is awesome,” I say, and I really mean it. Just one more, a little more of a pump, training for “the challenge”.
At the top of the climb all the holds are wet, I know them so well I still try the moves, the dance, eventually resorting to pulling on the quickdraw for safety and progress. It’s just rain, no lightning or thunder yet. With everything cleaned, the climbing day is completed, and the thunder and lightning ensues.
“Just one more,” gets us that extra training, more of a pump, and we hide in the cave until the rainstorm quiets down. Then we hike out, content, with the intoxicating smell of a midsummer rainstorm in the air.