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Shining in a Dark Light


Submitted by roninthorne on 2004-08-22

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It always begins so well.

At first, there is always the faint stirring butterfly of fear and excitement, there below the pumping of your heart and the weight of the harness on your shoulders, the faint brushing of the rope on knees and ankles as you carefully rack the minimal gear, mapping out the moves and stances in your mind; one quickdraw per bolt and gear placement, two for the anchors and two because shit happens. Cams and wires and hexes for where the crack will take it... always more than you want to carry and less than you want when you're strung out to hellangone and whimpering softly in the back of your throat.

But you don't go there, not now. Mosquitos and gnats whine and you slowly shake your head back and forth agains their dopplered screams, stretching the hamstrings as you methodically tighten the laces of your shoes, breathing deep and slow from the diaphram, clearing away all the mental noise now as thought subsides to a tidal pulse of being. And all the while the climb looms up over you like a wave of potential energy, the event horizon suddenly made manifest in this fleeting buffet of the senses.

Your partner is silent, knowing this mood, this creature of the vertical melee; absorbing information through all five senses, reacting with multi-layered logic and instinct unhampered by extraneous input. This is flow, this is perfection, and for just this one timeless moment, all the too-heavy clay of human frailty falls away...

The rock is powdery, but the thought is a pebble that sinks without a ripple in the calm pool of motion and balance and force that you exist in, legs stemmed wide and one hand locked and dismissed in the jam overhead as the first hexes bong into their sentinel spots inside the crack, above the steeply sloped landing with its single, leg-breaking stone. The moves are familiar, sequential, one hold flowing naturally into another, reversing the motion of ten millenia of etching water, the currents of will carrying you up the stone, a cam now, sinking into the crack, the carabiner at the end of its QD snapping crisply in the humid air.

The ledge, shaking it out, now, another wire there somehow below you, placed in passing, lost to memory as your thoughts reached for the holds above. The air is suddenly more dense, and a subsonic rumble hums through your bones. You hear a rising hiss that is not wind, as a strong breeze flurries through the leaves of the thick canopy above.

damn

Okay, okay... Zen is shot, but there is still strategy, and you clip the bolt above the ledge, wishing it were higher, knowing the rock above doesn't really lend itself to bolting. And there's always the marginal gear in the flaring flakey limestone crack....

but it's just so steep

Very. Sixteen feet off the ledge, you're hanging from a killer incut, your last bolt somewhere below, trying to get a cam into the throat of a flaring crack beaded with moisture, as a fine mist begins to shine on the surface of the rock. Another move up, the incut pocket now worked into an undercling, and that's leg-breaking territory. You push all that away and concentrate on getting it right, instead.

The #10 DMM wiggles around a bit, then finds a home, optimistically cammed behind a minimal parallel in the throat of the V. You fight your tangled gear and clip it with a screamer and try not to think about the ledge below. With the overhang angle, you'll probably fall right past it anyway... right?

The rain increases in force as you downclimb to the ledge and shake out again, digging into your clotting chalk for grip and courage. Your partner is out of sight below, tucked up under the overhang. You snort in a mix of laughter, envy, and disgust and call "Climbing!", waiting to see him edge out into the rainshadow, shades protecting his eyes against mist and dirtfall, before you start moving.

Up again, but a hold flakes under your grip, calcine teeth are chewing at your wrist in the crack, then a toe skates, and like that, poof! the ten-ton psyche just isn't there. Suddenly the stiff shoulder you carefully warmed up and stretched feels like wood, the rock is slimey, you're sweating like a pig, your shoes are too tight, and it just isn't happening...

doubledamn

With a few yo-yo's up and down, you clean the gear above the bolt and just stand there on the ledge for a minute while the rain pours down through gaps in the canopy all around you, beginning to run down the upper face as you stand, arms still twitching, hands still impressed with the ghost-images of the holds there, looking up and thinking how CLOSE those last three moves were... if only...

fun, though, wuddnit?

And with that, you smile, lower, accepting burning brass and a grin of sympathy from your partner as you both drop all that heavy gear and rope and harness, to just sit and unwind for a few moments. There is a two-to-four foot overhang running along the base of the cliff, and a thousand variations occur to your mind's eye as you scan the dry holds in its shelter.

Accepting, just being in the moment and taking what is given, you spend the rest of the afternoon bouldering until your arms are quivering and your knees unsteady, climbing farther than one line could ever have carried you.

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