stories about climbing

Reflections in the Black Mirror

Feb 21 • The Black Canyon • 9012 Views • No Comments on Reflections in the Black Mirror

In the Black Canyon there are two kinds of free climbing routes: the casual shorter routes that offer a fun day out with friends, and the big routes, lines that stretch from the river to the rim and take a full day’s commitment.

by Drew Thayer


Climbing big routes in the Black Canyon is an essentially unique experience. There are numerous beautiful climbing venues spread across the southwest, yet I continue to return to this dark hole; I cannot resist its pull for long. Beneath the rim of this vast chasm I’ve learned the pit-of-the stomach seethe of dread followed by the blossoming joy of relief.


Despite the physical prowess required to scale these massive walls, a climber in this place needs to be more than a honed athlete; he need a grittiness of soul, the ability to grimace in spite of despair and cling desperately to the audacious belief that he will prevail despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Climbing here defies the complexities of glory and ego and is refined to something essential: a simple act of survival.


We climbers pride ourselves in our strength and stamina; we soar in body and soul to great heights on towers and spires above the earth, but something changes when we descend beneath the rim of this canyon. We are seasoned in exertion and conditioned to hardship, our minds are stalwart in their resistance of fear, but after hanging from the walls of this dark place long enough, the darkness inevitably seeps in. The mind is weak; it can only resist for so long.


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