Thursday, October 04, 2007

Major Minor Breakthrough(continued)

(This is a continuation of the previous post, so if you haven't read the first part, you might like to start at the beginning.)

So there we were, David, Irina and I, at the belay of Raunchy, with David looking to get started on the second pitch.....

He glances at the sequence, and mentions the massive fir tree that is directly in front of it. Something about being able to get on without backstepping into the it.

He and Irina are discussing that, and I tell them I've heard about one climb where the tree was used by most people, and that maybe this is it.(Though it was me who'd chosen the route, I had done it blindly, and not taken more than a cursory look at the starting description. So - I didn't know the guidebook specifically said it was "okay to use the tree.").

David gave....the impression....that it was a burly start. Not only that, but gear was nonexistent. For several feet. No, make that several meters! He was very careful and focused in his movement, but made his way easily enough.

Of course, David climbs several grades harder than I do.....

Irina went second, and she started out with the tree giving her a leg up too. But she didn't pop to the wall right away, and found getting there more difficult because of that choice.

Watching these two work so hard, and not having checked the book, I did what I am wont to do... Which is - I look at the rock and read the route choices that I see. I am not a stickler for guidebook guidance, actually, and as of yet I haven't had any problems because of it. I use the guide as a route locater, and then - if I am leading, or discussing the line with the leader, I'll read through and see if what I'm reading follows what I see. But that's about it, and once I'm on the route, I let the rock take me where I want to go(up, mostly).

So....I take a look around. And, I see start variations within a few feet. One consists of an easy way onto the face, with a delicate bit of traversing up and back tot the right. Only the first move is easier - much - than what my partners took, and I simply cannot resist taking the path of least resistance.

Once up and in the thick of it, I am making the same sorts of moves David and Irina did, at the same level of difficulty, but I find myself doing the Shawangunk Shuffle, a beautiful dancing sequence back and forth, stepping up and dipping down, for progress. I'm slightly to the left of their route at times, picking away at lichen to uncover holds, and other sections take me through the same path. I am thrilled with the adventure!

Here I am, ecstatic that I'd been able to send the first pitch which, if you read this story's beginning, was a big accomplishment for me. And now I'm "off the book" and discovering marvelous, beautiful movement within the climb.

Then I come to the overhanging section, about two-thirds of the way through the pitch.....

While I was belaying David, I did watch him as he went through that section. I had to - in case he fell, of course. But I noticed something in the rock, a hold that I felt I'd have chosen in lieu of the one he did. I had made a note of it and was looking forward to seeing what I would do when confronted with the reality.

Irina also chose a different way through the overhang, and in her case, I simply watched to see her progress, believing I would not be going that way; it looked more difficult than David's way, and more difficult than what I had envisioned, too.

As I came up to that section, I saw my hold, and it was as good as I'd expected. But there was something that was causing me issue..... David had placed gear right next to and just atop that yardable jug, and of course it needed to come out before I could step up. I'd have preferred, in a perfect world, the gear to be available for my protection, as I'd be heading in a traversing direction, but if it was too close to the move. I'd be struggling into a stance like a little kid crawling into a bed that had been short-sheeted, if I didn't pop the piece.

So, of course I racked the gear, and watched the rope fall into reposition. Unfortunately, the next gear available hadn't set me up for an easy fall. A clean one - as it turned out - and as you can guess, I say that from experience. But before I took that fall, I still had a sequence to figure out and move through.

Seeing the lay of the rope, I fell into old habit. I knew that, if I came off the route, I'd swing. And depending on where I came off, the swing might....hurt. The jug I'd anticipated now was much less an attractive option as the potential for pain in case of fall increased. I didn't even take a look at the sequence to see how difficult it would be. Instead I began a hand traverse in keeping with the rope's line.

On that traverse, my feet encountered...loose rock. Biiiig, rattling loose stones, seemingly sitting on a ledge like glass bottles on the shelf in a curio cabinet.

That was disconcerting.

David had mentioned loose rock, but I wasn't expecting the extent of what my feet had just....moved.

I didn't want to be there, but more certainly I didn't want to add pressure with my legs to gain altitude. I was...uncomfortable. Quickly, I moved back to a stance where I had feet on solid rock to regroup.

The jug step up would have been much safer(for anyone under me!), but it just was no longer viable to me, because I was on auto-pilot and not analyzing my situation clearly. And so I continued on, to make the move I'd seen Irina pull.

Arriving at the section I knew was the meat, I could tell the sequence was going to rely on strength and power, my least developed climbing abilities. But, I went for it. What else could I do? Unfortunately, I wasn't fully in control. I hadn't truly committed to hucking the thing, and as my weight came onto my right arm, I knew I was off my balance. Maybe my right leg was even in air - not sure, but I knew at that moment that I needed an incredible bit of force to propel myself through the move.

I gave it what I had, but I didn't have enough, and off I came.

That was dissapointing, of course, but at least I fell straight down, landing in clean air. Just a few feet below the overhang..... Too far to get back on the route without lowering down to a stance. GRRRRR.

Not that I didn't try, of course, to swing into the face. I did. It was fruitless and I admitted the fact, asking to lower a few feet. Which brought me right to those friggin' loose pieces. Nice.....

I was unhappy.

But I got myself back in line for another attempt. And promptly failed.

Mad at myself for not making the clean move in the first attempt, I decided to prussik and get the hell out of there. I didn't want to waste my partner's time...right back into my old thinking mode.

Unfortunately, something was causing me some fear issues with the prusiking, and I didn't want to stand tall on the leg loop! Actually, what had happened was I made the first step up and was off balance. I fell. Which was a little scary, waiting for that looped accessory cord to catch on the rope..... The damage was done; I didn't want it to happen again, and so I began high-stepping into the foot loop, bending at the knee and sitting on my leg to weight the friction knot.

That gave me an incredibly reduced length available in moving the upper prussik cord. I think I was getting about four to six inches instead of the couple of feet I would have if I was standing on my foot instead of sitting on bent leg.

The added effort was quickly tiring, and after three or four repeats, I looked to check the slack between the prussik knots and my tie in point. It was barely even perceptable! And I had...a go.

That sucked. And I was tired. The adrenaline rush I'd gotten from the original fall, compounded with the second, and more intense, jolt on the prussik, had zapped me. I looked up at my partners, saw the sympathy in their faces and felt I'd let them down.

Then I looked down. And saw the belay we'd been at, directly below.....

The decision was mine. I could continue the prusik - and move my butt - get back on the rock and finish the route. Or lower back to the belay and wait for them, since they'd be coming to it on the rap descent anyway.

To me it seemed a non-choice. I'd fallen off the route; my game had ended. Why draw things out? I lowered.

A strange mixture of feelings swelled within me as David sent me to the ledge below. On the one hand, I'd taken the most efficient choice. They were finished and waiting for me at the top, and I'd been unable to make the climb clean. On the other hand, I was aware that I had given up. Old school says "lower," but I don't think I know anyone who really follows that ethic anymore. I certainly don't climb with them.

The one consolation I came up with during those moments was that, since I'd surrendered at my point of failure, instead of forcing my way through, it would allow me a fresh chance at another time to do the last part of the route with no preview. That has to be worth something.

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Anonymous said...

you are a critical thinker, and that's good. I think you need to read The rock warrior's way by arno if you haven't. If you have, read it again.

happiegrrrl said...

Thanks for the comment. I do have TRWW, and will follow your suggestion of rereading it.