Thursday, July 19, 2012



Before a climb, especially before a Redpoint attempt, I get curiously nervous. Today is no different.

I awake w/ a knot in my stomach the size & weight of a wedding ring. It sits unflinchingly in my gut like something dead. I don’t feel like eating. Nothing sounds palletable enuf for the energy it is going to require to prepare something this early in the mourning. It is 4 am. Sloggishly, I throw my feet over the edge of the bed & onto the floor. I turn slightly & stare at Haggle still fast sleeping in reverence & perfection. Her demeanor is what I wish upon myself, but I know that is as much as an impossibility as meeting my deadline for Project 31: it just won’t happen. I give a little sigh, arise, grab my robe, & wobblingly march to the porch for a cigarette.

The air is cool. Much cooler then it has been. It is comfortably cold. My eyes are heavy & pull down…open…down. My head bobbing about as if on a broken spindle. I begin to remember a particular night in rehab, sitting out by the pool, much later then I was allowed to be out of my room, sitting in shadows, unseen; It was comfortably cold that night as well, much like this mourning, when a familiar voice breaks my train of reverie. 
Ferguson Canyon, Condor 5.12a
“Condor? I’ve climbed that. Fun route, but I wouldn’t really call it a .12” I know the voice, but can’t put a name to it. This voice had said this earlier in the week while I was at the gym. Well, I had said, smirking a little at what I truly wanted to say, it is a .12 in the guide, so I’ll take it.

I speculate as to why this statement was bothering me so much. Was it as simple as the annoyance of un-wanted beta spewing? Could I chalk it up that perhaps, somewhere w/in me, I agreed & didn’t want to yield to that disheartening possible fact? Or was it something else?

W/ my cigarette smoldering between index & middle, an awareness flashes before me, not so un-like all the sententious cognitions of the past whilst writing poetry, painting, high on lines & lines of Cocaine & rivers of Booze w/ one difference: this was a shot-blast of clairty. An awakening of the senses.

This statement wasn’t bothering me for any of the reasons I initially thought (patience should be practiced by listening to anyone’s beta, what if it wasn’t a .12, or even, a soft .12? So what. Who cares?), it has its barbs in me because I am afraid of failure. This, it occurrs, is also the cause of my nervousness. Not because the route(s) is too hard for me, but because I’ve yet to learn to master the reality & art of failure. I don’t want to fail…soberly.

I snub out my cigarette, stand up & give a good yawning stretch.

The lump in my stomach has dwindled to a pebble. I figure that the only way to learn & grow, is to accept failure for what it is, & what it is, is everyday. It is as much of ourselves as success. It is, in fact, the machine that lays the groundwork for our future successes & who we will be at any given Present.

If addiction is a disease, so is the innability to accept failure proudly…

The Great Salt Lake, view from Ferguson Canyon

The sky is ignited into a glowing stretch of magenta devilry: Fingers aflame by the descent of the sun. Dusk is upon us. The brilliance of the colours create a hushed pastoral; we are driving home from Ferguson canyon in a comfortable silence. Haggle, tired from a hard day at work, exhausted by hunger, languidly stares out the window. As for myself, well, something else is bothering me, & as I navigate the vehicle onto 2-15, I struggle w/ what that something actually is.

The excitement of the day, the build up of the possibility of another Redpoint success for Project 31 (Condor, 5.12a) quickly gave way to a tickle of a worry as we pulled into the parking area for Ferguson Canyon hours earlier. All the parking stalls were full. Haggle looked at me as we managed to park & jokingly asked, ‘it’s a Wensday afternoon, right? Jesus!’

Mark was there already, waiting for our arrival. ‘We might not be able to get on the climbs we came here to do,’ he said. Staying optimistic, I responded by saying I have never seen anyone on the routes we came to do, & that I thought we would be just fine. I was wrong.
Hiking into Ferguson Canyon

The hike in was as pleasant as always. It is enough of an approach to get your heart rate up, but pretty enuf to make you forget about it. As we drew closer & closer to The Watchtowers, it audibly became apparent we would be sharing the area w/ quite a few climbers. As we arrived, the apparent of the situation solidified itself. Climbers littered the area. Most of whom were much too rowdy in the noise pollution arena then any one of us enjoyed. Also becoming apparent was the lack of prowess most of these climbers possessed. A feeling of imminent disaster washed over me. Almost as a precursor or psychic sign, we had to step over & then under a rope belonging to the first group we came upon, like entering a gate into a hellish, mistake ridden realm. There was a guy, scraggled beard & all, guitar in his lap, eying us suspiciously as we past, making sure we didn’t step on their life line, as if it were our fault their gear had exploded all over the middle of the trail. From then on it only got more & more foreboding & more & more noisy. A group above us, hooting & hollering, constantly let fly rocks down the steep trail, at one point one bouncing & hopping down only to slam into a dog resting near her masters. She learned quickly & painfully & sought out shelter underneath some brush. The group climbing next to us, obviously new to the game, dropped one of their climbers a good 15-20 ft while lowering, their saving grace was the grigri auto locking when the belayer didn’t know what to do & let go of the device. It would have been much worse had she been using an ATC. Far too often had Mark, Haggle, & I been present at certain crags (most oft times being anywhere low in Big Cottonwood) where climbers w/ little know how practiced their craft of nearly dropping someone, tieing their knots wrongly, figuring out the belays for the first time. Like the time we all were up for a quick climb at The Challenge Buttress climbing next to a man & woman, the woman belaying, the man leading. Finishing the climb, the man yelled, “Ok, you got me?” “I don’t know,” responded the woman. Mark & I looked over at her. Around her feet coiled a tangled mess of rope. My sight went from the coil on up to her belay device. The man hadn’t been on belay the entire climb! ‘Jesus,’ Mark said, ‘Lewi, help her out! Now!’ I ran over to the woman, Yelled up to her partner, do not lean back! You are NOT on belay! I unhooked her belay device, re-threaded the rope & clipped it back onto her harness, where I belayed off her from behind, teaching her how as we lowered the man down. Something he should have done before taking her to the crag. The man’s hubris was appalling to us. He thanked us as if nothing out of the norm had happened, packed up their rope, & sauntered off. Such people are destined for Darwin’s demise. Today had that same feel of foreboding imminence.

Lewis 3/4 of the way up Grommet 5.11-
Right off we could see that the two routes (Uncensored Society, 5.10a & Condor, 5.12a – they share anchors) that we had come to do were taken. There were draws on the first route, & the group was ‘climbing’ Condor, altho it was evident they couldn’t do but one, maybe two moves at a time. They spent time swinging back & forth, laughing, obviously oblivious to anyone but themselves. I knew this would make Mark angry, sensitive he is to such callous insensitivity. What is this route? I asked quickly, attempting to distract his acrimonious glower, pointing to a line right in front of us, already unpacking the rope. Let’s do it. It was the first route we came upon. I didn’t want to waste day light scouting for other routes. 

Lewis leading Grommet 5.11-
Grommet, 5.11- & Total Ramon, 5.11c, were the lines we ended up doing. It wasn’t ideal by far, so high were my hopes for leading Condor, but I tried, over & over, to tell myself, it is what it is. Take advantage of it!. Grommet, a cool line, w/ a great crux was a fun lead. I ended up taking a few times due to my natural fears I have a hard time controlling. I ended up redpointing it, which made me feel a little better. Mark, at the anchors of Grommet, traversed right to reach the Anchors of Total Ramon so we could TR it. No amount of prodding could instill desire in me enuf to lead the R (should be X) rated route. Haggle, who climbed it twice, TR’ed it beautifully. Mark stated it perfectly: ‘while we monkeyed up it, Haggle climbed it.’ & it was true. She climbed w/ the flow of herself. It made me proud to watch her elegant movements, & her deciphering of the crux - bouldery moves which proved too difficult for Mark or me to piece together correctly. While she watered over & thru the crux, I struggled. Finally, while gripping crimps & thinking desperately, I asked for a little slack in the rope, steadied myself & launched into a dyno. Sticking it, I effectively bypassed the section she so easily & beautifully climbed. 

Haggle flowing up Total Ramon 5.11c
In a sense, I think as we pull into our driveway, the night was a failure. In another, it was the complete opposite. I have a decision to make. Let a failure completely out of my control bring me down, or rise to it, & take it for what it is & learn from it? & what did I learn, I ask myself? 

Lewis sticking a dyno on Total Ramon 5.11c
That by being open to all possibilities, to any & all out comes, you are sure never to miss the importance of every second, every minute. Each moment can become an eternal moment in our finite lives never to be forgotten. Condor, or any of my other projects, will be there tomorrow, & the next & the next. Watching Haggle or Mark climb a specific route in a specific time, however, will not be, unless I choose the eternal nature of the present in the present.

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