Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


One Isabelita was kind enough to drop by and post a comment. After a few days, I found a moment to stop by her site. She is, it seems, a middle-aged climber of some substantial experience and skill. She writes most recently of a trip to Joshua Tree that sounds lovely. In my one non-climbing trip to Joshua Tree, I was captivated by its spare beauty. I wanted to return with climbing equipment and explore its classic climbing areas. I still haven't.

In any case, in commenting on one affecting post, the following rumination just sort of happened, and I decided to cross-post it.


I climbed with great dedication for five years, from one end of my time in law school to the other, through a relationship so powerful it made me feel immortal at its pinnacle and then almost ended me in its demise. I climbed sport on occasion, but over time focused ever more intently on bouldering. I loved its simplicity, the lack of equipment, the purity of its movement and the elegant singularity of its each new challenge. I used "project" as a transitive verb.

I never climbed trad, however, and still have not. My forays on TR and sport reminded me just how unreliable I feel in dealing with height. Familiarity breeds ease, but it always seemed all too imminent that I would freeze up on trad. My climbing friends are capable, experienced. Even were I to freeze utterly halfway up a second pitch in West Virginia, I know they'd find a safe way to bring me down. But I never wanted to be a burden in a setting so dangerous, and so I demurred countless times until my friends stopped asking and the jokes wore thin. I was a strong boulderer. My climbing in that context earned respect. That was enough.

Now after a climbing hiatus that has, with one brief month-long exception, lasted nearly two years, I contemplate returning for the spring bouldering season, resuming regular gym workouts in February until my skin thickens and my drive returns in time for March's beautiful climbing weather, the rock desiccate with winter's chill, the sky a shade of blue with a cutting edge. And at the mere hint of that, my friends have resumed the gentle chiding.

Maybe this year: One simple 5.4. No roof. A route I could climb in my current state of non-fitness. Something I can rationally believe I might climb without any protection at all.

Everything is a question of risk. The cliches about leaving the house don't even cut it. In some ways, staying home is the most dangerous thing of all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gotcha! I've got the conversation that spawned this post burned into my memory; the route is chosen, the exposure not too extreme. No overhangs. Your words are here.

8:50 PM  

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