I jumped up onto my feet and turned to look for oncoming traffic before dragging my scooter out from under the car’s bumper. After making eye contact I waved off the driver. Took a deep breath. I am fine. Right? Balancing the scooter with one hand, standing in a short stretch of straight road below the hairpin turn I’d just slid out on, I looked down to assess. One blood soaked sock, two broken laces on my approach shoe, a big hole in the sleeve of my puffy jacket. White feathers floating to the ground. A sore hip and elbow and a skinned ankle. A few scratches and a broken mirror on the fluorescent green scooter. Knowing my friends would be wondering where I was, and not knowing what else to do with myself, I got back on the thing and headed towards the crag.
A few minutes later I pulled over under the Grande Grotta cave area and used some climbing tape to patch myself up. Still feeling giddy with adrenaline, I hiked up hill towards the cliff. Jen and Jeremy were in the cave, having just finished a climb, and Anne, Jordan and Alycia were down the way at a neighboring crag. After exchanging greetings I sat on my pack and realized how nauseous I suddenly felt.
Jen and Jeremy had already climbed a few pitches, and Jen was packing up to head over to catch the other girls. I convinced Jeremy to stay and belay me on Ivi, the route I wanted to try, an overhanging tufa jug haul that was a classic for the area. This was our second day at this crag so I wasn’t sure we’d come back before the end of the trip; it was now or never.
Still feeling a bit nauseous, I went slow for the first go, warming up by placing the quick draws, hanging on the rope at each bolt to rest and familiarize myself with the climbing.
Short climbing trips provide lots of little challenges, one being figuring out how everyone in a group can support each other but also attain their own personal goals. We all wanted to climb together each day so we worked hard to find places that catered to our differing abilities, climbing style preferences (tufas only for me, please!) and mental modes. Jeremy is really psyched on on-sighting, or climbing routes on his first go. I was not quite at his on-sighting level, but we were attracted to the same types of climbs, so I was more than happy trying to second-try routes that are right at my second-trying limit.
Having done all the moves on Ivi, I lowered off and was pleased to notice that the nausea was gone. I belayed Jeremy on another climb and then it was my turn to try Ivi again.
A deep breath and I was off, lay backing and stemming through a beautiful set of attached tufas to a tricky crux traverse, and then, feeling a bit far out from the last bolt, mounting up onto a hanging tufa saddle rest to shake out and try to get some power and strength back for the second half. The hard part for me, I knew, would be leaving that rest, as it’s a couple more moves before reaching the next bolt, so there is potential for a pretty big fall. For me, it was a mental crux more than a physical crux.
I sat there, my legs wrapped around the tufa like it was a pony, shaking out and trying to remember the moves above. I was nervous, irrationally so, I realized, since it was perfectly safe for me to fall if I didn’t make it to the next bolt. Then I laughed as I remembered what had happened just an hour before. I had just proven the old maxim that driving to the crag is more dangerous than the climbing itself. I took a deep breath, stood up onto the pony’s back, moved through the next moves, clipped the next draw and continued on through increasingly steep but increasingly juggy terrain. Pumped out of my mind, I clipped the anchors and let out a roar of relief and happiness.
Careful out there, y’all, sport climbing vacations can be dangerous!
Author: MHW athlete Janet Wilkinson