In the two months since my last post a lot has happened. School kept me very busy till the end like usual and then I got a month off from work so I went on a climbing road trip with a bunch of people: Joey, Chris, Jared, and James, among others. I’m super grateful that everything lined up the way it did and I got to do some awesome climbing by the end of the trip.
Today is May 19th; I’m sitting at the base of a tree, on a ledge, 400 feet off the deck looking out over a sea of trees with a small town below me. I blink and think to myself how exactly did I get here?
May 2nd; I got in a car with my friend Joey Wyckoff and drove 12 hours down to Moab, UT. We met up with my old roommate Chris Ebeling who was down on an extended trip climbing, biking, and living the desert life. After an “adventurous” trip to Mill Creek Canyon in the La Sal Mountains with Joey all of us headed south to Indian Creek for the weekend. Cracks were climbed… albeit slowly and painfully. Joey found out first hand why people use tape gloves before they get gobies.
Having stuffed our hands in splitters until they felt like pieces of tenderized meat we returned to town. Some new friends we had met the day before ran into us and asked what we were going to do while it rained. “Shit… rain?!” We debated over Maple, Joe’s, Ten Sleep, even Rifle was considered. Finally Joey and I decided to go to Lander, WY meanwhile Chris would stay and wait out the rain for his girlfriend to show up. It’s May 5th and we drive through the night to arrive in Lander at 8 am May 6th.
May 7th; We find out there is a contingent* from Bozeman camped up in Sinks Canyon. We climb in the Killer Cave first, Joey’s never climbed at the main wall before. Turns out the routes are still hard in Lander, but some small victories are had. We camped with Jarred, Cory, Fletcher, Alex, Mike, and Dylan that night. We sit around the campfire and drink beers and enjoyed the revelry out in the woods. A day later we were joined by Abbey, Kylee, and Scott. The weather cleared out, and projects fell only just before having to bid farewell to Lander and return to Bozeman.
May 11th; A few hours of hanging with roommates and saying goodbye to Norah’s puppies, I hopped on a plane for New Hampshire. Staying with my parents catching up and talking about plans for the future. I purposely run into my old climbing friends at Joe Kinder’s presentation at Vertical Dreams, followed by the now traditional Tuesday night at the Strange Brew for $2 drafts. I look around, two people are the last remnants of the group I grew up with. 3 or 4 I’ve met in the intervening years while visiting, the remaining 6 or 8 I’ve never met before. Lots of new faces and friends mixed with sadness of old friends who’ve moved on. I’ll be following them soon.
May 15th; James Otey finally has a day off from work at the new climbing gym, Evolution Rock and Fitness in Concord, so we’re heading up to Rumney for the day. James throws himself back on his project, Cold War, for the first time in months. With Otey’s ~40 flawless laps to guide me, I try to flash Suburban, but come up just short falling on the last move of the crux… only to send just as the afternoon storm front moves in. Undefeated, we hike over to Orange Crush and send Flying Monkeys before punting off flash attempts on Tin Monkeys. We make loose plans to get out later in the next two weeks…
May 18th; Instead of driving all the way to the Adirondacks to try Pat Dyess’s Mud Pond Project we meet up at Cannon Cliff to go on a real adventure the route Benedictus. Endless pitches of slab climbing kills the calves but simply beautiful pitches keep psyche high as we raise up out of the notch*. We get lost about halfway up just after our first “fall” on the route. Pat wanders around for a long time before finally finding the lost anchor station. Soon we get to a 3 knifeblade anchor that has to be older than both of us combined! From here either we take a 5.10R/X of the bolted 5.??? as the last pitch before rolling over to the top. Mental fortitude having been used up on the pitches below we opt for something we know better: vertical bolts. Wanting more to top out than to send at this point we both french free the crux, but not without pondering the moves for a moment.
Back at the car we ponder Round two: simul romp up Moby Grape? Nah… I don’t want to hike down that again. I return home stoked and ready to go again the next day and make plans to go to Conway the next afternoon.
May 19th; I roll up to the climbers parking lot below Whitehorse Ledge*. I pick up Jared Heath who just finished a climb on Whitehorse, he hops in and we drive over to cathedral and make a plan on the way. Camber via anything that isn’t busy from the bottom. There is a group on Turner’s Flake, Freedom, and an AMGA single pitch instructor certification taking over the Standard Route, Toe Crack, and Repulsion. Thin Air it is. Jared runs up literally linking 3 pitches with one full traverse in one mega pitch, but it is 5.6 and we need to get out of people’s way. I run up, simuling the first 20 feet and then take most of the rack and rocket up linking two more pitches to the ledge at the bottom of Airation Buttress.
Jared joins me and we reassess. The buttresses namesake, Airation, is right above us. I rerack and start-up. I’m halfway up, thankful we went to the creek, because this feels sooooo much easier with constrictions stopping my fingers now instead of parallel sided cracks for the fingers to slide down uselessly. I clip the “anchor” two rap rings attached to a tree.
I lean against the tree and look at my options. Jared said the top was easier and this would be a crappy belay, I’ll go for [the top]. There are black dirty looking sloping ledges, no pro? and it’s dirty… or this? A clean crack split the head wall above Airation. That looks better, I’ll go that way, 5.10 at worst.
The crack is thinner than I thought and the footholds are slopy… Crap! Well I gotta get through this, then it’ll be done. I placed a small nut having used up all my small cams in the single run we had on Airation and move them up to the front where its easy to get to. I climb up to a horizontal and place another nut hastily and grab an incut gaston. Looking around I see a good flake above my left hand (on the gaston). All I need is a good foot… I can use the horizontal I just need to put my foot inside of my hand.
I suck up into the gaston and lift my foot. Shit, I’m too tired, maybe on the other side of my hand will work. I fight and get my foot up. Shit that won’t work, this isn’t good enough. I decide down climbing is my best option so I can reassess if this is the best way to go. I move my feet down and my left hand but I find I can’t down climb the move to the horizontal. Panic hits the primal side of my brain as I listen to Jared converse with someone else on the ledge. I yell down “Jared watch me here, I’m down climbing.” “OK, I got you.” “Take, I’m going onto you.”
I hop/jump off, the normal let go of the rock… somethings wrong.
I’m facing out away from the cliff and can see the ground.
I feel my glasses with accompanying croakies pull off my head.
Tree branches whir by in a blur past me…
The Rope pulls taught and I swing hard back through the tree and impact the ledge with an audible thud. I immediately scramble up to the tree, clip in and sit down
Today is May 19th, I’m sitting at the base of a tree on a ledge 400 feet off the deck. All around me is green trees and a town. There’s a guy I don’t know on the ledge talking to me. I blink and think to myself how did I get here? The guy is just there it seems like he was always there and always will be.
Slowly it comes back to me, little by little. The town is Conway, NH, I’m on Cathedral. You’re sitting under a tree… there is a nut on a quickdraw in your lap… you were just climbing, THE FALL; it all flashes through my head again, and not for the last time.
Jared ran down to get the car, I told him where the keys were hidden in the bumper before the shock hit me and knocked out my awareness momentarily. The guy I’ve never met before hooks me up to a jumar when I’ve come back around. Triple backed up, I walk a fixed line under my own power off the ledge followed by his partner and one other. Jared speeds up the road picks me up and makes plans for the guy to grab our gear still on the climb. We drive straight for the Hospital, I’m still wearing my climbing shoe’s when I check in.
Jared cracks a couple of jokes to keep the air lite as we wait. I have some pretty bad road rash from my shoulder to the small of my back. Both heals are bruised. Part of my fingernail is hanging on by a thread of skin, with a pebble jammed in its place, and my pinky is wrecked. But beyond it all my elbow hurts. It hurts a lot. When the doctor palates my elbow I almost hop out of the gurney and into the next bay from the searing pain.
The good news: no broken bones, but I’ll need a couple of stitches. I haven’t had anything to eat in about 8 hours and despite the litter of IV fluid in me, I’m very dehydrated. Jared’s worried, I’d be too in his position. We talk so he can keep me awake ’till we get to my parent’s place around midnight, just in case. Jeff picks up Jared so they can drive back up to Lincoln to retrieve Jared’s car. I’m indebted to them both.
Finally I can fall sleep, if only my body would let me.
*I guess Bozeman is becoming famous for traveling in packs now…
* Westerners should think of a “Notch” as the east coast version of a “Pass”
*historically many cliffs in New England are called “Ledges” for some reason
I stopped all climbing for the next three weeks, on week 4, post injury, I was forced to climb for my job guiding. I went to physical therapy and 3 weeks later (as of this post) my elbow is 95% back to the way it was. I’ve started climbing again, though I’m taking it “easy” by comparison to the last three months and doing a lot of injury prevention training to get healthy for the fall.