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The Big Fall
I slammed the car door shut and inhaled deeply. The crisp fall air rushed up my
nose tingling my senses. I could barely contain my excitement for the adventure to
come.I circled around to the back of the car and strapped on my large red pack filled to
the brim with cumbersome climbing gear. I took a few unbalanced steps adjusting to the
weight of the pack and then began motoring up the steeply inclined trail to the cliff. After
about thirty yards of progress up the rocky slope, I shouted back to my new friend Erik
“You as stoked for this as I am?”
He replied enthusiastically “man you have no idea, I’ve wanted to climb this route for so
long.” That was the extent of our conversation because I was already huffing and
puffing with fatigue and there was another hundred yards of incline to tackle before the
trail leveled. I kept pushing the pace knowing that we only had a few hours of sunlight
left and we would need every minute of it.
The trail finally flattened out to a worn dirt path that traversed through large
leafless hardwoods below an impressively tall cliff band. Erik and I walked side by side
casually discussing how neither of us knew exactly where we were going. My eyes
jumped back and forth from a small black and white picture in the guidebook of the
route we planed to climb, to the white quartz cliffs overhead.
“There!” Eric shouted, as he aimed his calloused pointer finger in the direction of
a three hundred foot tall slightly overhanging crack that spit the clean rock face in front
of us. I dropped my pack on the ground and looked up at the line in awe. I had been
climbing for just over five years and had never seen a crack so beautiful. I was anxious.
Knowing that this climb would test me both physically and mentally.
We read the description of the route in the guidebook one last time and decided
that Erik would lead the first pitch and establish an anchor about a hundred and fifty feet
up, then I would join him at the anchor and lead the second pitch to the top of the cliff.
Erik chalked his hands, pounded my fist, and began climbing cautiously up the vertical crack. I fed him rope smoothly as he clipped one piece of protection after another. After about fifteen minutes of silent concentration, Erik reached a small ledge where he would build an anchor. He yelled down “Best pitch of climbing I’ve ever done!”
This made my eagerness to climb the route grow even more. I strapped on my tight leather shoes and began to ascend the cliff effortlessly. Move after move I felt calm and coordinated. Before long I pulled up onto the same small ledge erik was perched on and glanced at his anchor. “Not the best anchor I’ve seen but it should hold” I said jokingly.
Erik chuckled and replied “I could have made it better but, I know you like living on the edge.” he paused and then asked “so you ready for this man?”
I Leaned my head back to look at the overhung crack above me. “Got no choice now.” I said with an overwhelming feeling of intimidation. I organized my gear and began visualizing a sequence of moves to my first gear placement. I could barely convince myself to pull off the ledge. After about two minutes of nervous contemplation, I pulled up on some sloping holds and then began to jam my hands into the crack one after another. I Blasted through the first fifty feet with prowess and just before the cliff went back to being vertical fatigue set in. My left leg began shaking uncontrollably. I knew I was going to fall but, I was too far above my last gear placement to do so with confidence. I reached down desperately for a piece of gear I could shove into the crack. My now trembling hand grabbed a piece of gear that felt like the right size. “Watch me here Erik!” I cried out as I reached up to place the gear i had just taken off my harness. It was a perfect fit. I reached down to grab the rope from between my legs and clip when I suddenly detached from the rock. I yelled as wind rushed by my ears. I tightly closed my eyes and waited to feel something other than emptiness. I stopped suddenly, suspended in the air like a spider from a filament of web. I looked up at where I once was and estimated myself to be about 35 feet lower. That was by far the biggest fall I had ever taken. I felt exhilarated and relieved. I rested for a while and thanked erik for catching me, then monkeyed up the rope and finished the climb confidently to the top.
We rappelled off the top of the cliff just as the sun was setting and other than the fall things had gone perfect. In hindsight I’m glad I fell it only added to what was an already an incredible evening of climbing and even though my eyes were closed I will never forget that fall.