Friday, October 8, 2010

"If this is 5.10c, I don't know about the 5.11a pitch." -Lindsay Fixmer

"But hey, Jeremy wants to take it, so he can figure it out." This is Lindsay's self described thought process while leading the first pitch of 'Caught Up in the Air' at Cedar Rock in Western North Carolina. I followed the pitch, tip toeing eyebrows and grasping holds that weren't quite the 'laser cut crimpers' I had promised my climbing partner. I had rappelled the route the day before and seen an amazing finish to the second pitch. I didn't pay as close attention to the lower section as I should have, and it proved to be more technical than I expected.

About thirty feet up the shadow of the trees diminished and a surprisingly warm sun beat down on our backs. The day before Lindsay had been at The Nose with every stitch of warm clothing available, and even that morning we were wearing puffy jackets while belaying a group of clients. With a low the night before of 34 degrees and then a high of 75 degrees during the day, you could say I was surprised to be dripping sweat from my face at the belay ledge while swapping gear.

I looked up at a blank face of granite emanating a warm orange brown hue in the intense light. "Where do I put my ...(fill in the blank)" was what I thought of the forty feet above me. All I saw was two bolts that I'd have to levitate to in order to clip. I stepped up on some flakes while holding a nice half-finger rail to clip the first bolt. And what now? "What about that little thing up to the left" Lindsay said. O yes, the 2 millimeter crystal of granite I seemed to miss. Although it was miniscule, it really was my only option. I worked my left foot up onto a small edge and reached. A couple inches out of grasp. I stepped down and surveyed options, finding a desperate right foot edge to work onto and get a little higher for a better reach. I breathed, chalked up, and pulled up on the rail, moving my feet into the new-found position. SO WARM. I reached, touched the hold and tried to make a good first impression. "Hello hold, my name is Jeremy. Pleased to meet you. Will you be kind enough to provide enough balance so I can move my right foot onto this half-inch rail I'm holding?" The response was an immediate NO. So I stepped down and called it a day.

I thanked Lindsay for the free top rope session on the challenging face climb below us. Discounting the nuclear fission produced heat pouring down from the sun, I tried to surmise why this 5.11a seems so much more difficult then the pair of 5.11b's that I sent a few weeks earlier on the same wall? One of them was a sport route I had onsighted, feeling super pleased with such a solid showing. All I can say is that Clarence Hickman and Mark Pell are some great climbers. First-ascenting this hard route in ground-up style while placing such precariously clipped bolts is a thing of my dreams. My hat goes off to these gentlemen.

However, this back-off doesn't discourage me in the least. Just brings me back to earth a little. I'll wait for some cooler temps, or some free chilly morning to get back on this route and pull down on that microscopic crystal.

I won't be thwarted.

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