It was an early morning start. Leaving the house by 5 am by the bedroom window so our overly anxious golden, Ashley, did not know she was alone in the apartment. My then ex-boyfriend, Nick, and I were off to do a long multi-pitch climb on the Chief in Squamish. Nick and I had been in a relationship and had spent months travelling and climbing together, to arrive in BC and began planning a wedding. We then broke up. He was unhappy, not feeling challenged or content with his life. We were still living together since the break-up was new and we hadn't made all the necessary changes. I was writing my thesis and looking to see what would happen next and still hurt and confused and had suggested he try trad climbing to ignite his passion for climbing.
For Nick, then climbing 5.13's handily, the climbing had seemed effortless. It just did not seem that these 5.10 and 5.11 pitches were challenging. For me, it was a different story. I was climbing many sections of this route with a great deal of difficulty.
The sun was up and it was hot. We had left the parking lot at 6 am and as the day progressed, the sun was in full force on the face. As the person climbing second, I was carrying all the gear while I climbed. I know, not the best plan.
We came to the Sword pitch A0 - this is an aid climbing pitch where you use the bolt ladder to get through it, This may sound easy, however, there is a great deal of challenge to pulling on some bolts and yarding oneself up the rock face devoid of holds, especially when I had trouble just reaching the slings from the last bolt.
This pumpy section is followed by Perry's Layback, where I truly pondered the sanity of this adventure. As the second, my job was to climb this layback section pulling out with my arms, while my feet created opposition on the face and unclip the bolts, retrieving the gear as I climbed. I got to the top and only wanted to rap off the entire route and call it a day. I was done.
With a refusal to give in to my request to just give up, Nick cajoled me to the end; the only thing left to do was to cross "bellygood ledge" and then the descent from the wall. Now this ledge is called "bellygood ledge" because of the method in which many climbers have traversed it... on their bellies.
As I lay on my belly, scared out of my mind by the shear potential swing, I suddenly lost my mind. I don't mean a little, I mean I began hysterically laughing and was immobilized.
"When we sense that our escalating sadness or joy is reaching an unmanageable limit—that our bodies are about to be overwhelmed physiologically—this perception triggers an incongruous emotion to balance things out." This according to Yale University psychological scientist, Oriana Aragon.
Maybe this is true, I was most likely truly physiological overwhelmed by the many hours of climbing hard in the hot sun. But something else happened.
I stopped trying to be safe. Not in the sense of not taking care of myself, but I stopped believing in only myself. I started to truly rely on my partner and some Divine force. I didn't HAVE to make it, I would make it or I wouldn't, I would just do my best to put my foot in front of the other. Or in this case wriggle a little closer to the other side of the ledge. I felt free. I relaxed.
Even more oddly, I didn't care anymore if Nick and I would be boyfriend and girlfriend again. And yet as we silently drove back to our anxious Ashley, I was light in my heart and had never felt closer to Nick.