A to Z Challenge

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wildest Moment

Oh, how exciting to participate in the Wildest Moment Bloghop.

I think of thinks that set my blood pulsing, wild adrenaline junky that I am. I love a variety of outdoor activities that involve speed, or heights, or a sense of danger. Dirtbiking, snowboarding, scuba diving, wakeboarding, backpacking out in the middle of nowhere. Of all these sports though, one sets my spirits soaring with more intensity than the others. Rock Climbing.


Years ago, when I first fell in love with scaling great heights, I went on an adventure I will likely never match. Four of us set out to Phantom Spires, huge pillars of granite jutting up into the bright blue skies in the Sierra Nevada's. Climbing late in the season, late-November, the adventure started with the drive up a road thick with snow. The Suburban in 4WD, kept the sliding to a minimum, but each time the car drifted my shoulders tensed and I gripped the dash.

Eventually, we parked and started hiking out across the snow to reach the Spires. My boots punched down through the top layer of ice, and I sank knee deep into the powder below. Snow clumped on my pants and the chill seeped into my skin. Each step required gargantuan effort, but we wouldn't be averted from the Spires, our prize. What seemed an eternity had passed before we finally found ourselves standing in the shadow of the Spire.

Up the first of our group went, anchoring in every 8-10 feet, setting a solid safe track for us to follow. He reached a ledge and anchored in, clearing himself of the rope to allow me to proceed.

I'd spent most of my time climbing indoors at the gym, though I'd top-roped outside before. There's nothing so fine to me as the rough edges of granite against my skin as I cling to the rock defying gravity. I began my ascent, hauling myself up over knobby projections, wedging my toes into little cracks. I could feel the pressure of the granite cramping my toes, augh it hurt! But, the feeling is good, I know I'm secure. My eyes scanned the cliff face above me, searching for the next hold. Reaching, stretching, pushing my limits. My bare hands are moving, I see them grasp an edge. I see my fingers curl, the tendons straining as I pull my body higher and higher, but I don't feel them. Numbness has stripped me of my sense of touch. I see my partner perched under an outcropping above me, like a hobbit peering out of his door. Not much further and I can put my gloves on.

"Tension," I shout down to my belayer below. My husband holds my life in his hands. I feel the rope grow taught. The next move is the crux, I swing my leg out to the side and hook my heel over a nub in the rock. I press down on my leg and lever myself higher, the next handhold is now within my grasp. The delicate dance up the icy rock is near an end. I tie in to the anchor, before releasing myself from the climbing rope.

Sitting on a ledge ninety feet in the chill mountain air, legs dangling over the side fills me with wild delight. I shiver as the wind races past, the afternoon sun cannot compete with the chill, but its worth it.

Two more ascend and the ledge gets cramped. At times, you can top a climb and then walk down the hill along a safe trail. Not on this spire. The exhilaration of the climb has a thrilling counterpart, a rapelling descent.

Taking a step backwards off a cliff face sends my heart racing. I stand on the edge, leaning backwards away from the safety of the stone. I jump backwards, pushing with my feet, the rope slides through my hands, and I drop like a lead balloon. The weight swings me forward back into the wall and I kick off once again, I hear the z-z-z-ing of friction as I grip the rope with just enough pressure to control my descent. Cold hands and rapelling make my nerves flutter, and I land with an ungracious thump on the hard winter ground. Up safe, down safe!

Someday, my grandchildren will sit on my lap, and wonder if the book writing grandma has ever done anything as exciting as the characters in her fantasy adventures. I'll smile a knowing smile, for wildness lives here.

If you enjoyed this tale, take the time to peruse other blog's for wild tales. Stop by here to check out the founder Krystal Wade.

14 comments:

  1. Great entry!! That sounds like an amazing experience. SO cool!

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    1. Thanks Tamara! Rock climbing always fills me with a feeling of power. This trip, however, was maybe just a bit too much!

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  2. You just heightened my fear of heights. My palms are sweating just reading this! Truly a wild moment, one I would NEVER partake in. :-)

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    1. Looking back, I suppose I shouldn't have done it either. Climbing with no feeling in your hands is a bit dangerous...but, in all reality, for me this was a bit like toproping...so even if I fell, I wouldn't fall far : )

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  3. I hope this ends up in a book somewhere! Love the thought of your knowing smile to your grand kids:-)

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    1. I'm guessing they'll already know. I will not go gently into that good night, I will rage, rage against the dying light!!!

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  4. So exciting! I love climbing mountains, but I prefer the more leisure path to the top. You are one wild lady! Love the story and so well told, I think I was there hanging off the edge too!

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    1. Glad you could dangle from Phantom Spires with me. I love backpacking too, it's not as thrilling maybe, but you see sights the majority of people will never get out to see.

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  5. Wow, that is so cool! You are super brave, lady! Great story.

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    1. Thanks so much, and thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Such a cool story!

    Since I'm terrified of heights, I'm more than happy to live vicariously through you...and I felt like I was right there while reading your story!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Natasha. Hope it didn't get your heart racing too much, or your palms too sweaty. Hard to control a mouse with sweaty palms : )

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  7. This is an amazing story. I don't really think I'm afraid of heights that much, but I couldn't do this. No way! well, not unless there was a nice trampoline following me all the way up in case I fell ;)

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    1. The beauty of how we climbed this route, is that it ended up being like a top-rope climb. Except for our lead who set our anchors. What's nice about that, is if you fall, someone takes the slack up from the rope and you don't drop very far. As long as the bloke at the bottom keeps a good hold on the rope, that is!

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