Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Blight 5.12a

Lewis - The Blight
The day had finally arrived. I awoke anxious at 4 AM, unable to sleep. Haggle (Whitney Redd, my beloved girlfriend & climbing partner) soundly sleeping next to me. Our dog, Duece, snoring just as soundly, totally unaware of what the day meant for me (I could learn a lesson from his carefree demeanor). W/ the lights off, the dark edges of the world being my world, I muttered about the house, going hither & thither, checking, re-checking my pack & packed gear (months earlier Haggle & I went out for a fun day of climbing, only to hike to & arrive to, the crag, only to realize I hadn’t packed my harness, a magoo mistake I’ve yet to live down). Satisfied (momentarily), I brewed coffee, & relocated to the porch & started smoking a cigarette. The air was warm, overly so for 4:30 in the mourning, & as I smoked I tranced out, thinking of all that was, & all that had been. What had gotten me here? Where had I been? A melancholic air settling awesomely over me…

For the past 10 years, I had been stuck deep inside the cracks of addiction; a hazy life of imbibing & snorting; of lies & deceit. A life meaningless. Cruelty. Mistakes. My mind settled on my uncle, who taught me to climb (he died in an avalanche in 2003) & what he would of thought of my life hithertofore. I feel shame. Guilt. I puff on my cigarette, transitioning my thought. A year ago to the day, I was stuck in a rehab, emaciated, frail, as close to being on a death bed as one can get w/out slipping over to the other side (whatever that other side may be). Months ago, days after release from the rehab, I found myself at a climbing gym, struggling, huffing & puffing up a V2…but now…but now….

All these thoughts raced thru lightening quick. They felt like a movie turned speedily up. Before I knew it, I was holding a smoldering butt, coffee gone cold. The melancholic wave lifted. I felt light. Today was today, & that was all that mattered. The now. I walked quietly back in the house, & into the bedroom. There Haggle was, still sleeping. I watched her for a moment, welcoming her beauty in sleep & the beauty she has brought into my life & climbing. Instantly I knew I wouldn’t be able to do any of this w/out her…

Previously, thru out the week, I had been checking the weather w/ the determination of a crack addict obsessed. It looked promising, warm, & more importantly, crystalline.

Packing up the car, back & forth, back & forth, checking & re-checking everything (the climber’s plight), Haggle stopped me & asked, ‘you nervous?’ no, I told her, calm as hell in winter. It was a lie. Nervous I was. All the what-if's cascading all around me like a colossal avalanche. I had climbed The Blight before, twice, but never cleanly, falling twice at the same clip, & once toward the chains, pumped out & breathless. I knew the sequence of the line, knew it well, but was worried I would some how fuck it up. Sensing this, she said as I pulled the Buddha Beast out of the driveway, ‘it’s just another climb. You got this.’ She was both right & wrong. Right, being that it was just another climb. A wise angle to take. Just another climb. Just another climb, I told myself as we drove toward AF (American Fork). Wrong, in the sense that I had been working so tirelessly for this. That this climb was the gateway & realization of the doability of this goal. A culmination & redemption, for myself. A climb that was to be proof-positive that mentally I could over come anything…or nothing….

The snow pack was low, unlike the previous week. After a short hike, Haggle, Mark, Aiden, & myself arrived at AF’s Hell Wall. The Blight, the line, My Line, was in the sun, dry, & beckoning. Perfect weather. I was racked w/ both blissful fury & mounting trepidation. It wouldn’t get any better then this.

After a brief warm-up, I tied in, Haggle on belay, Mark going thru the sequence w/ me as I narrated them to him, Aiden filming. My first burn was lackluster, falling, yet again, at the second clip. & then there was a 2nd, a 3rd, a 4th, on & on. Falling on each attempt at different places; places that I had worked out, & knew well. It was sloppy climbing, that’s all, & I had nothing or anyone to blame but myself. On my 9th fall, rage boiled up & out, & out came a loud, ‘FUUUUCK!’ Haggle lowered me. I expressed my doubts. My will was broken. I was humbled greatly. Un-tieing, Haggle told me to rest. ‘Let’s eat lunch.’ In the sun, basking & eating a sandwich, no talk of the climb ensued. Haggle & I enjoyed each other's company w/ contented silence, served w/ the occasional joke. It dawned on me then: So what? What more do you want? It is beautiful out, w/ people you love, & at least you aren’t pulling plastic in the gym. Ah, so what if I don’t get it, I told Haggle, if not today, tomorrow, or next week, right? ‘Yes. You’re right. But you will get it, right now.’…

Lewis - The Blight
I stayed calm as I tied in, telling Mark, who was now on belay, giving Haggle a rest, I don’t think I can do this bottom section much more. This may be my last burn. I told him this matter-of-factly, w/out emotion. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘guess you better get it right this time.’ He was right, although I put it out of my head. Restating the mantra of the day to myself. ‘It’s only a climb. It’s only a climb.’ From the get go, this burn felt different. I moved fluidly. Over & thru the rock. The calls & ‘good jobs’ from Haggle & Mark where mere whispers, barely audible for me. I could sense them, but that was it. My own breathing seemed to echo off cosmic canyons, loud & resolute. Each clip came & went w/out notice. As I reached my rest, I shook out for what seemed to be an eternity. & it was then that I realized I was almost done. Almost there. But as soon as that realization hit me, it left me, & the world went black. It was only what I was doing at that very moment, as if every thought, every move was eternity. A snapshot of time lasting, all the usual distractions gone. I snapped a biner, & the world flooded back into me. I had clipped the chains! The hooting & hollering from below broke thru my reverie, concreting for me the fact that I had just redpointed The Blight. I hung there, snug in my harness. ‘Hang for a bit man! Soak it in!’ Mark yelled from below. & I did just that. Never before have I felt such a feeling of accomplishment. I have always known the idea of it, but have never truly experienced it. I soaked it in. Breathed…

For me that climb was the only climb. The only one I cared about. As I was being lowered the other 30 climbs snaked into my mind, but I coiled against it, pushing it back out to the edges of my consciousness. It wasn’t until I was on the ground, packing up, that I allowed thoughts of climbing 30 more in 6 months to enter my train of thought, but even then, it didn’t matter. I now knew that it was possible. That w/ blood, sweat, & tears, it was possible. I felt like giggling. Possibility. It was all possible! I took credence in this fact. For the first time in a long long time, I felt a sense of pride. Humble Pride. On the drive home, a voice from somewhere deep inside me, stated a loud, & emphatic, ‘here we go!’



  1. Something to be proud of to be sure! Your persistence in sending the route and tireless preparation leading up to it were rock-solid!

  2. The sandwich received no praise? ;)

    You sent it beautifully!