Monday, April 19, 2010

Climbing, or having babies?

So yesterday I got out with my oldest and dearest climbing partner, Bones, the man who taught me how to ice-climb, multi-pitch and take a crap while wearing full winter gear. I was happy to be out of the city, and we fully busted out the politically incorrect shit-talk. No women present and all.

But, since we are both in LTRs, we are talking about babies.

"I can't imagine anything cooler than having a kid," said Bones.

"Hard trad climbing," I said.

"Yeah, climbing is pretty awesome" gushed Bones

"Ok but, climbing can kill you. You can't die from fucking."

We laughed for awhile, and then did a few more routes at the weirdly-utterly-deserted-on-a-perfect-day Penny Lane crag.

At the end of the day, I started up Crime of the Century and got my ass handed to me. Bones and I were laughing about me being as weak as a pre-coffee Napoleon, or a post-Friday Driller, or just me in my natural state, no similes necessary, he mentioned how at least one young Squamish trad climber (and there are many) who shall remain unnamed recently soloed Crime (5.11b) while totally loaded. Young people in bars get beer goggles at closing time, when pretty much every sexual option looks perfect, and climbers apparently get beer goggles too. Except that Crime, whether or not you are well-oiled, is awesome. Even if you woke up the morning after, hung to the gills, you would roll over, look at it, and want to jump right back on it.

We also ran into King Can Al at the base of Crime. Now, this man is legendary in Squamish. Of a Saturday, you will (and I mean WILL) find him cruising around the Bluffs or the Apron, with three things in his hands: shoes, smokes and King cans. He will pull up to a crag, crack one, light up, and then freesolo something.

It's often hard to tell what offends people more: that a climber is smoking and drinking beer at the crag, or that he is freesoloing. I have seen people quite literally freak out when seeing somebody solo-- "HEY MAN! TIE IN! I'LL THROW YOU A ROPE! DON'T DO IT!"-- this sort of thing is standard. But this is NOTHING compared to smoking or, God forbid, having a beer. People take climbing VERY seriously. Which, after even a moment's realisation, is ridiculous. What are you accomplishing when you climb? Well, it's fun, or thrilling, or challenging, or whatever...but you are most certainly not making the world a better place, or helping the poor, or alleviating suffering, yadda yadda yadda. Let's face it, we climbers are selfish thrill-seeking bastards, often with massive egos (which I would have if only I climbed better), and our sport, while kinda cool, is ultimately silly.

OK, fair enough, if there are children at the crag, you might want to lay off discussing Sensitive Topics, like anal sex with animals, or how the poor are responsible for fucking up their own lives, or who is responsible for the recent economic meltdown. But other than that...

Anyway, sorry, I could see immediately that all was not well with Al. He had beer and smokes and shoes, but no chalk, and then he told us-- four days earlier, he'd take a 55-footer off Penny Lane (5.9) while soloing. On his way down, he fell backwards until he was upside down, but then hit his shoulder just above the fingercrack mini-dihedral, which rotated him just enough to land him basically flat on his back. He got four broken ribs, a broken clavicle, some kind of muscle injury in his shoulder, and his bell rung pretty good.

Al chatted away. The poor guy not only wasn't gonna be climbing for awhile, but cos he sounded like a broken record. Classic symptoms of head trauma include short-term memory issues, and it seemed like Al had to repeat things two or three times to make sure he'd remembered them. He ambled off. I wondered about the accident. He's been climbing forever and he's probably soloed Penny Lane a couple of hundred times. Had he been boozing? Was it wet? Was he distracted? Did a foothold break?

So, yeah. Babies. Free-soloing. Beer. Falling. As dusk fell we walked down the trail. I was happy for a great day with a great partner, and oddly glad when my phone beeped, and it was a text from my girlfriend, and I was able to answer.

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