The first time I ever led trad was about a year ago. I got a crash course in placing nuts right before. My friend mumbled some stuff to me, patted me on the back, and headed up the pitch with another friend. I would meet them up there. I nervously adjusted the sling containing the alpine draws and nuts. I thumbed through all the cams and started to climb. My first piece was a nut, right off the deck. My second piece was another nut, perfectly slotted into a constriction right before a lieback. I didn’t trust it. I don’t know why. I was afraid of kicking it out. I froze. And then I lowered off it, too unsure of myself and my abilities to continue. The pitch was a 5.4 on low angle slab.
Tag: trad climbing
I was too slow. I was too fat. Maybe my pack was too heavy. I shouldn’t have gone to the gym yesterday. Did I really need to bring my DSLR and tripod? Why couldn’t I keep up? What if he didn’t want to ever go on climbing adventures with me again? My trekking pole got stuck in a crevice. I yanked it out and subsequently knocked the handle into my eye. That was the final straw that broke the frustrated camel’s back. I tried to stop it, but one sniffle led to another. Then I was suddenly bawling on the last half mile section to our campsite for the night.
It’ll be easy, I said. It’s only a few pitches of 5.6, I said. We’ll be in and out with tons of time to frolick and lounge, I said. That’s how I talked my friend, Joe, into spontaneously driving to Tuolumne Meadows with Josh and I to climb Cathedral Peak with us one June weekend.
Friday afternoon, a week before Red Rock Rendezvous, I frantically dialed the number of the dude organizing the entire festival. In the span of an hour, en route to Joe’s Valley, I managed to completely freak out and convince myself that my measly trad skills were too measly for an advanced gear placement and anchors class. I anxiously rifled through the website, hoping for something, or anything, to tell me that I’d be okay. But somehow things looked a little different from when I bought my early bird ticket back in November. And this time around? There were skill levels associated with all the descriptions. Crap.
When Mountain Hardwear asks if you want to party with them in the desert, the only answer is yes! I booked a flight to Ontario, CA (closest “major” airport to Joshua Tree) and told my boyfriend to pick me up. The agenda was a chili cookoff, Ethan Pringle flipping pancakes and climbing with Cliffhanger Guides, aka a good freakin’ time.