The Waiting Game

Reality can be a harsh mistress. Whoever said that first is a genius. I could probably google it and find out who it was, but I feel too lazy to bother right now. Oh, and as I write this, I don’t have internet. This spring was hard. The Red was cold and wet, then hot and wet, and my elbows are still on fire from the constant lock-offs so typical of that style. My knuckles are the fattest they’ve ever been, and I’m experiencing a painful twinge of a mysterious origin in my left ankle.

We’re back in Maple. There. I said it. For all the talk about avoiding crowded crags and our love of solitude, here we are at one of the most congested climbing areas in the country. The problem is that the reasons we want to climb these routes are the same reasons everyone else wants to. Never mind that the rock quality is truly terrible (beware the self-iterating cobbles!), or that a popular line can queue up nine climbers deep; fantastic, gymnastic movement is magnetic.

Luckily for me, patience is more than a virtue…it’s my greatest strength. I don’t do hard routes in a day. Sometimes I don’t do easy routes in a day. A project can take me weeks, months, or even years. I climb the way some people plan a big event like a wedding, hashing out the details down to the tiniest element, leaving as little as possible to chance. Unlike a wedding, however, if any small component doesn’t go exactly as planned, my entire climbing “event” is likely to fall through. So there’s no hurry, I expect it to take time to get things where they need to be.

February 2018 marked my twentieth year of rock climbing. That’s not all that long when you consider that there are climbers as young as twenty-five who’ve already racked up an equal number of years in the sport, but it feels significant to me nonetheless. I was not a teen prodigy. I wasn’t even a natural athlete, but somehow I’ve managed to stick with this sport and achieve some improbable goals. I didn’t start climbing until I was 28 years old (Chris Sharma was 14 at the time). It took me almost 10 years to climb 5.12 (which I’m guessing Chris did his first or second time sport climbing), and as epic as that sounds, I never lost the drive to keep trying harder. I’m 48 now, with crazy ideas of things I still want to accomplish. The fire keeps burning. I’m fascinated to see what I might be capable of.

The mini-scene on a moderately slow day in the Pipedream.

So, yeah, here I am lounging in my camp chair overlooking the scene at the Pipedream, mentally running beta while I await my burn. Charlie and I are working a project together for only the second time (you can read about the the first time here), but this time he’s got the beta jump on me and is focused on an extension. It’s opened up a whole new aspect of our relationship to be able to commiserate about the same slippery cobble and celebrate small gains with a tangible knowledge of the challenge we’ve both undertaken. The waiting game is on.


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