A few weeks ago, we ran a contest on Facebook inviting Womenclimbers to submit a piece of writing about climbing. We might not be able to actually go out climbing, but we can still think about it. This is our prize entry, enjoy!
It was a sunny evening in late summer and the Roaches had offered up a cracking day of climbing. I had already conquered ‘Damascus Crack’ and had taken on an expedition into ‘Maude’s Garden’. But I was looking for something different.
As I stood at the bottom of ‘Technical Slab’, I felt a buzz of excitement: this was the one. The guide book warned of sparse gear placements and stated that it was tricky for the short. At five-foot-nothing, I always aim to challenge these statements. Anyone telling me I can’t do something because of my height will be met with an ‘I’ll show you’ attitude… including Rockfax guide books.
As the name suggested, it looked technical and balancey, just my kind of climbing. As I tied on I felt ready, focused.
“Climb when ready”
I balanced my toe on the first foot hold and placed my fingers on the cool rock. Breathe. I began to climb.
It felt flowy and delicate; I was in my element. I placed a cam, calling down to my belayer that it wasn’t ideal but that I supposed it was better than nothing. I continued up the face of the slab, gaining height quickly and smoothly.
“Don’t you want to place any gear?” my belayer called up, struggling to keep a slight hint of worry out of his voice.
I looked around the flat, unfeatured rock, “There isn’t anywhere, it’s ok, I’ll just go a little further, I’ll find somewhere.” I was confident that the rock would deliver what I needed, it always had.
A metre more and still the rock was barren of placements. I’d seen one place but I hadn’t got the right cam. Breathe. Perched on a tiny ledge I explored the rock with my eyes, peering above and below, realising how far I was from the first placement. A fall now would not end well.
As I stood there it began to dawn on me that on this occasion the rock had not delivered. S**t.
I had two options:
1) Continue climbing. The next bit looked reachy and I would essentially be soloing.
2) Admit that I was in need of rescue.
It pained me to admit it, but I was stuck and unless I wanted to chance it for the sake of sustaining my fearless reputation I was going to need assistance.
“Um….. I’m stuck.”
I had attracted the attention of a few other climbers and I expected someone to offer up a solution. Instead a couple of kids yelled back:
“Don’t fall or you’ll die!” Thanks kids.
As those below me began to discuss potential rescue techniques, I took a breath. Turning my head over my shoulder, I could see the sun was beginning to set. Stunning shades of orange and pink radiated out from the horizon, the light stretching out across the fields. It was calm and beautiful and for a moment I was lost in it. I was stuck 15 metres up, but there was no panic, no wishing that I was at the top, only awe and a peacefulness which had washed over me. It was captivating.
I would eventually be rescued, my friends coming to my aid. I feel there should a lesson in all of this such as ‘always take the right gear’, ‘don’t try to show a guide book who’s boss’ or maybe simply ‘be careful’. I guess there is, but what I remember most vividly from that day is not the lessons learned. It is that feeling of peace and surrender, experiencing beauty and calmness in the most unlikely of situations.
Thank you to Becci for sharing that with us.
If you have a climbing story you would like to share with us, keep an eye out on social media for our next writing challenge.