August 21, 2004

Physical Insanity

I’m slowly tearing this body apart, and I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to last. Last Tuesday I skipped out of work at noon to go bouldering with Mark and Laura out at Skeleton Cave, a beefy lava tube just out of town. We strapped on our chalk bags and climbing shoes, bouldered for a couple hours, and impressed some blind cave people who came scurrying up from the depths. The plan was to spend the afternoon climbing at Smith, but we were tired and burned out so we took naps and went to the Bend Brewing Company and watched the Olympics and peed out of trees, instead.

I took a sanity break from work on Wednesday and finally got out to Smith Rock with Mark and Laura, where we climbed Bunny Face and Lycopodophyta. By afternoon our brains were cooked from the intense heat, so we packed up, slogged out of the river valley and made our way back to Bend.

Thursday I ducked out of work early to go bouldering with Jody down along the Deschutes River. We spent our time sessioning a neat traverse problem and hiding from intermittent hailstorms, and took a couple hours in figuring out a gnarly, gnarly finishing move on the traverse. The move has nothing for hands, nothing for feet, and demands that you stem out right for a smear that isn’t there, reach far right for a hold that doesn’t exist, and stick your left foot in your ear so you can yard up and slap into a bomber hold above your head.

On Friday afternoon I left work early (notice a pattern, here?) to go climbing at Smith with Ned, a fellow who Jody and I met during our session at the Deschutes. Our intent was to hit up White Satin, a sweet three-pitch climb in the Smith Rock Group.

Ultimately we followed the wrong bolt line up some filthy nasty rock, and spent the next couple hours figuring out how we were going to rappel off 100 meters of rock with a 60 meter rope. It took a few false starts, some clever scouting and a bit of ingenuity, but we eventually reached a set of anchors that we could use to rappel back to the ground. Even though we didn’t make White Satin and never got our multi-pitch, it turned out the be an epic session regardless. We celebrated by throwing ourselves up Moonshine, a bomber 5.9 trad climb, in the dark.

This afternoon, Ned and I hit up Smith again, with the intent of finishing off White Satin. Unfortunately, when we arrived there was already a group on White Satin (who would stay there until 8:00 at night, having their own epic session wrought with Challenge and Danger) so we headed towards Sky Ridge, hoping to still cram some multi-pitch into the day. The approach to Sky Ridge is a nasty, exposed, unprotected 5.4 scramble, which we did while getting rocked by winds from a storm ramping up in the Cascades. Once we reached the base of Sky Ridge we decided the wind was bad enough that we didn’t want to attempt a multi-pitch, so we down-climbed the approach.

Down-climbed. A freakin’ sketchy 5.4, with no protection, while wearing a backpack filled with ropes and junk. Ned is a mountaineering guide by trade and profession so he had no trouble getting down, but for the first time in my climbing life I felt sketched by the height and exposure. One false move, a missed hand hold or an unexpected twist from my Chacos, and it was a thirty foot drop to the ground. I simply took my time, told myself that both falling and panicking were not options at this time, and eventually found myself to the solid ground.

We swung over to Testament Slab in the Christian Brothers, and climbed Nightingale’s On Vacation, Revelations and Irreverence. Nightingale’s is supposedly a 5.10b, but it feels more like a solid 5.9 with a 5.10b crux. Revelations is a 5.9 with some of the ballsiest bolt placements you’ll ever see, with a first bolt that is 30 feet off the ground. If Nightingale’s is supposed to be a 5.10b, then Irreverence cannot possibly be a 5.10a, as its sustained moves are far more difficult than those of Nightingale’s. I’d say Irreverence is a sustained 5.10b with a few 5.10c moves, but I suppose it’s not my call.

Ratings aside, as Ned dropped down from Irreverence the sun had dipped low enough to poke out from under the cloud veil of the Cascades, scorching the medieval towers of Smith and igniting a triple rainbow that arched over the entire park. It was very cool and very spiritual, and it took my over-stimulated mind off of how incredibly tired my body has been feeling.

Five straight days of climbing. For tomorrow, I am praying for huge thunderstorms and rainbows galore, as I am supposed to bike thirty-some-odd miles from Mount Bachelor to Bend with my friends Shane and Erin. In the last few weeks I have lost every ounce of my will power to resist pushing my meat body to its breaking point, and I fear now that the only thing that can save me from myself would be an act of god.

Tomorrow can be only biking or thunderstorms. The universe itself has converted to binary notation.