(Part 5 of 41 in 2014 Colorado Rock Climbing)
900 feet. 6.5 hours of climbing.
It is 6am and I’ve been napping in the front seat of Mike’s van since 3am. I’m pecking this out, stream of consciousness, on my phone, racing the dying charge, with a sore right pointer finger. Other than some apples and oranges, I’ve not eaten a ‘real’ meal in about 20 hours. What we managed to do last evening is the most amazing, most challenging, most focused thing I have ever accomplished. Nothing else I have ever done is even worth *mentioning*.
We started on a whim at about 6pm: spreading gear out of Mike’s van into the parking lot as the the regular mortals stared. “Look! Real climbers!” From the lot we power-hiked up what, I’m guessing, was at least 500 vertical feet of increasingly gnarly wooded trail.
To the base. Of the biggest inclined slab of rock imaginable. We spent a lot of time going over gear, call-n-response stuff, etc.
And on my first day on real rocks, Mike started up the first pitch, dragging the “sharp” end of the rope, and setting hardware for fall protection.
“CLIMBING!” Then I followed.
We did seven pitches, meaning Mike climbed away out of sight, and set up. a belay position as high as our 200ft rope allowed. Then I climbed, picking up gear as I passed it.
Seven pitches. Three before it got dark. Four in the dark. (We’d brought head lamps. ) Oddly, the dark was WAY easier: All I saw was this rock, my hands, my feet, and the infinite piece of rope I was following.
Up, down, around, over. Literally one. Inch. At a time. I covered something approaching 1400 feet along the rope, 3, 4, 5? false summits. Where you scale a thrust of rock – rock sticking up literally into the Milky Way hanging from the sky – an inconceivable puzzle of body and mind, to the top. Only to find a little down climb, over, and up yet again.
Six and one half hours of, “I’ll move my left foot up two inches to that nice looking spot. Now, I wonder what’s up to the right for my hand…”
We reached the summit at 12:30am.
Then rappelled literally down into the inky black off the back. From there we walked down an endless foot trail and back to the van.
At nearly 2am. Where I lay in middle of the parking lot, flat on my back, enjoying the sheer comfort and staring at the exact same stars.
It was transcendental. It was Herculean (for me anyway. )
Now, at 6:30, my legs are a bit tired, my finger tips are sore. I’ve not one bruise. The sun has just popped up on the other side of the world. Climbing is not “my thing.” I’m never going to want to sleep in a park, or live in a van, as Mike does now without a second thought.
My god! It’s full of stars.