Tuesday, November 09, 2004

all decked out... and no where to go!

If you climb, and you hear the word 'decked'... it is not, as Martha would say, a good thing. Essentially, it means you fell, and you hit the ground. This past weekend, while climbing at Smith Rock with Jim, I did just that.

It was a stellar day--beautiful weather, great friends, and uncrowded routes.

We started the day at the dihedrals, scaling cinnamon slab's 2 pitches before rapping down the backside to climb Spiderman.

The first pitch there was dull, but the second pitch rocked. just past the first belay anchor was a tough spot where I really had to wrestle with a nut to get it out. after that I climbed back down to a good foothold to rest up before attempting a layback. Then I took a deep breath, gripped the left side of the crack and used the entire right side of my body in unison with my hands and feet to shimmy up and over the bulge. that felt amazing. The next interesting part was a roof with an undercling that took you out to this bizarre layback move. it took some thinking and
some arms to get around, but I managed to do it smoothly on my first shot.

I was super stoked because I finally felt like I was climbing efficiently. at no point were my arms pumped out or my legs shaky... I didn't hesitate or spend a lot of time looking for the right move. I was just having fun!

Once I got over the crux, Jim told me he'd saved me ‘a little’. I noted that he'd built a trad anchor and left about 15 ft to the bolted anchor at the top of the route. I already had all the ‘big’ gear from cleaning the route below; so after taking a swig of water I took off on my very first trad lead. I placed 2 cams and the biggest hex in the rack before clipping the anchors and belaying Jim the rest of the way.

I was on top of the world!

We did some 4th class scrambling around the top of the buttress before making our way back to the anchors above cinnamon slab and rappelling down to our gear. there were people all over most of the routes there, but one remained empty. I asked Jim to let me lead what turned out to be 'easy reader'. Rated at 5.6, it was a very easy sport climb. it was almost disappointingly easy... at this point we had a little more than an hour of daylight left, and after a bit of discussion, we decided to go to Lion's Jaw.

Now mind you, I was feeling VERY confident... okay, 'over' confident... at first I said I couldn't lead lion's jaw, as it is a trad route. Jim said I could, so I said okay without giving it another thought... had I been thinking, I would have realized that I probably wasn't at the top of my game--tired, hungry, feet sore... but I wasn't thinking. I was jonesing like an addict.

I tied in, placed a cam at the bottom as a directional, and started up the smooth dihedral. at the first solid footing, I placed a second cam and gave it a good yank in every direction. satisfied that it wasn't going anywhere, I clipped the rope and headed up. this is when I first sensed I might be in trouble. it took a while to get the cam into a good spot and my right foot was especially fatigued from holding the position. Jim, concerned that I maintain a good level of protection, was instructing me to place gear. I get a bit literal when I’m tired, so I started trying to place a nut right where I was... my footing was crappy, though, and I knew I wouldn't be able to last there long. I pulled off a 1" nut and tried to slot it in the crack... it was too small... I put it back on the ‘biner… at this point Jim suggested I take the whole carabiner off my gear sling and try slotting until I found one that fit... I started to take the ‘biner off, but realized my foot was going to pop at any minute, so I down climbed to the ledge next to my last piece of gear.

I rested there for a minute then headed back up, but stupidly stopped in the exact same place I was in before... finally, I realized I need to climb up, that I just couldn't stop where I was... unfortunately, I realized it a little too late... sensing my feet were about to go, I jammed both hands into the opposing cracks and scrambled around with my feet looking for anything to stand on... the wall to my left was impossibly smooth--I couldn't even get traction smearing. and then my left foot slipped off the wall entirely. the jolt caused my right foot to pop off the tiny nubbin. the crack was too smoothed out from years of climbing and all at once I was sliding straight down the wall... I don't know when my hands came out of the crack. I do know that I looked down between my feet at one point and saw what looked like high-speed film running backwards... truly bizarre. I waited for Jim to catch me at the second piece, but I don't even remember slowing down. Chances are good I actually kicked the 2nd cam out on my way down... I don't even remember hitting the ground. I remember, albeit vaguely, sitting down. Jim kept telling me I was all right and had his arms around me... I thought, 'what is that sound? who's screaming?'... then, as if waking from a dream, I realized that I was the one screaming bloody murder... and then the full brunt of the pain in my left foot took over... I screamed to have him take the shoe off. I knew in another minute or two the swelling would be so bad that they'd have to cut the shoe off... of course, the slightest touch made me scream louder.

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