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Two Years Comin’ January 22, 2009

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
Tags: , , ,

Last night was spent re-learning an old ritual:

Which tools work to disassemble these things?  Where are my allen wrenches?  Are these metric or English?

Rube Goldberg meets Frankenstein as the frames of Frau Biergut’s old crampons come apart, get drastically shortened.  Their front points come off, feel the persuasion of a file, the strokes long and slow, and get set aside as I struggle to cannibalize the spacers from my old beater pair.  My ancient bolts won’t budge, despite bending hand tools trying; a grinding wheel is impressed into service.  Off With Their Socket-Heads!

The monsters materialize, morphed into the mono-points I prefer, eccentrically positioned between my big and second toes by the judicious employment of carefully counted #6 washers.  It all gets fitted to my dusty boots, then tightened down as though my life depended on it.

The axes are another trial, their spent picks welded by time to their pitted heads.  Once they were cutting-edge, as futuristic as 1984.

Now, they’re just 1984.

But they’re what I have, and they’re comfortable in my hands, balanced to my swing, the leashes adjusted just right to accommodate my Cloudveil gloves.

The nested bolts are stubborn, but they’ve met their match, and yield with banshee shrieks.  New picks are unwrapped and seated, their wicked droops eliciting a wicked smile.  Trotsky never saw this coming.


Tonight, after work, it all takes a short ride with me, to a forty foot wall draped in fat, blue possibility.

Boot laces are tightened, cinched down with come-along conviction; it’s hard to over-do it, and nothing sucks quite like heel-lift on a vertical pillar.  Welts slip into bales, heel levers snap up with a satisfying click.  A “found” helmet assumes it’s rightful place.  Leashes are tightened on scrawny wrists, and suddenly the reality of the situation comes into sharp focus: it’s been two long, sedentary years.

I exhale slowly, inhale, exhale again, and step forward to caress the glistening surface.

It starts with the feet, a precise, crisp swing from the knee, a satisfying impact, and suddenly I’m flowing upward , scanning the surface for concavities, the smooth fossas where vertical drops down onto less than vertical, where the free water pools, where the brittle becomes plastic, where my pick finds paydirt.  Not with the lightness, the poetry of Frau B’s precise swing, but rather with the ferocity of a testosterone poisoned boy, gone all agro on a blameless, inanimate thing.  I’ve always had a tendency to over-drive, especially since I gave up on ropes.

The tool sticks, and I relax into the rhythm: three steps, center, level, stand, set the next tool.  Relax, knees straight, hands soft, forehead unfurrowed.  Breathe, slowly, deeply.  Do it again.

Two years.  Two years without this, the mind-over-matter game of stilling the heart, narrowing the focus, folding the fear into a glass-topped box, fragile, transparent, to be studied, appreciated, respected.  Dangerously close, comfortably controlled.

I used to live here; now I’m a visitor, an interloper, just passing through, testing my wings, soaring in slow motion.

And the wings, though tremblingly weak, feel guardedly good.  I see the necessary adjustments, to the equipment, to my technique, to my ambitions.  To the New Fear On The Block, that my shoulders won’t like it, won’t handle it.

And I’m ok with that, because tonight I’m flying.

And not everyone gets to fly.


1. Frau Biergut - January 23, 2009

“then tightened down as though my life depended on it”
Ummm….your life DOES depend on it. Glad to see you out there again.


2. sherry - January 23, 2009

that’s wonderful!!!

3. Jennifer - January 23, 2009

I’m glad it was one of those short, finite “never agains.” But too? A little scared for you.

4. littlebangtheory - January 23, 2009

Me too, Jen. Me too.

5. Lisa - January 23, 2009

I’m so excited for you! (Be careful.)

6. FranIam - January 24, 2009

Oh my – this made me get weepy, I loved reading it. Be careful but enjoy, live, breath, climb.

And fly.

7. littlebangtheory - January 25, 2009

Fran, yes, thank you. I’m glad to hear from you, despite my slackage.

And hey, weep with tears of joy – its all good.

Lisa, hi, and yes, I’m careful. Follows naturally from being a pansy!

8. Steve - January 26, 2009

So climbing is about forcing that clarity? At least in part? It’s a situation where the risk is real enough, the need compelling enough, that you lose all distractions. Like any other form of playing for keeps. I’m glad you have the skills, gear, and the physical condition to do this.

9. Spartacus - January 26, 2009

What? No pictures? Sheesh…. Nice descriptive piece here. No weepyness… just sheer exhilaration. Sounds like you had a blast.

10. littlebangtheory - January 26, 2009

Spart, I did, I’ve been out three times in the last three days, and it just keeps getting better. I took some serious time off after my shoulder surgery, and suddenly I feel ready to go back at it.

As for pictures, my rebirth into climbing was unwitnessed. But on Saturday Frau Biergut caught me playin’, and she just sent me the photo, so there’s another post o’ low hangin’ fruit!

And Steve, that’s very astute of you. It’s the “playing for keeps” which elicits the focus and the clarity.

As for my physical condition, it’s only my rusty but trusty skills which are in play here; I remember what strong, working shoulders felt like, and this isn’t it. I’m pretty physically gone by, but really digging the cerebral aspect of thinking things through in a less brutish way.

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