Climbing over time becomes more than a sport. It becomes a personal edge of determination and certainty as you stare into the abyss of darkness knowing you will come through. (Sometimes that abyss is quite big and scary)
It becomes the cool steady head of a gun-slinger in the wild west outnumbered ten to one but knowing his hand is faster and aim flawless. I remember when i started climbing, it was just before dawn, the air freezing, crisp and sharp. Staring at a crag my friend was leading me to, wondering how i would climb that seemingly impenetrable fortress of black rock piercing the sky all around me. Did my friend not know gravity worked heavily against me? I felt scared, but i have remembered that day for the past 14 years.
As time went on, i realized if one treads lightly, slowly but surely , there is always a secret corridor nature will permit you to pass through. tens of thousands of years of glaciers, storms and weather creating small flaws of beauty that allow me to pass in the blink of an eye. Seeing it in the fragile delicate state. Knowing eventually it will all be gone, and maybe in a few years the route I climbed will be gone forever. Only lasting in memory.
Today I went out climbing, like most the past week, to Suesca, Colombia. The day started like every other, around half ten Karli and I grabbed a coffee for 30 cent from the local coffee shop. We tried to meet some friends up for a climb on a remote crag, but found only barbed wire and no trespassing signs blocking the way. After two hours of trying and seeing the day slip away we reverted back to the main crag of Suesca. A climb we picked out a few days earlier was on the agenda. Nothing too technical or trying, graded to 5.6(MVS). A three pitch route following some blackish sandstone up a chimney, up a corner, then over some open area.
It looked straight forwards and like an easy afternoon out.
Upon arriving at the base the start of the climb was occupied by a guide and group. Which left us two alternates- 20 meters of 5.7 with no protection, or 20meters of 5.8 with protection. (protection being climbing hardware placed in cracks to arrest a fall). The 5.8 sounding harder I weasled over to the 5.7 a few feet away. We geared up and I started up timidly, so far the trad routes of Suesca have been harder than graded. After 5 meters I stopped and looked at the rock, would it be the same as some of the previous routes with a vicious sting to stump me 10 meters up? I had a quick assessment – full of pockets, small cracks and features. Not that dis-similar to some nice climbs back home. I focused on the rock and forgot about the potential of a fall.
I started climbing.
Its been a while since i felt the same certainty of outcome. I was enjoying each easy move, feeling for good, positive holds or gentle pinches and precisely placing my fett like a doctor might use a scalpel. its a while since i felt at home on a climb. Aftrer linking up with the 5.6 route I made a solid belay and brought up Karli. The next pitch looked ominous. A dark cathedral like corner, vertical and seeming to overhand slightly at the top. Not an average 5.6 but the holds looked good and the conrner offered a perfect fist sized hole every step. I used a single cam which i bumped up a couple of times (due to having only one adequate sized cam) to just over half way, before deciding its security would not be required any higher and climbing straight up would be easy. At the top of the corner the route opened up to great views and a decently large belay ledge.
The final pitch was an entertaining mix of steps. Ledges, small slabs and small roofs from weathered stone but full of pockets. Holes, sculptures of ghouls and gargoyles and fine crisp flakes of sandstone that would snap with the most delicate touch. It was smooth climbing and the odd runner for safety. It was joy. At first I though the final pitch was only 5 meters but it went on for about 40 meters. On the top I chose a solid anchor, sat down and brought up the slack rope.
I was Stoked, I think that is the first time I have used that word. This is what climbing is about. Not the hardest routes, but the beautiful ones.