It’s February 12th, I’ve been home sick from work for the past few days, and unable to completely concentrate on just about anything. Random thoughts keep passing through my mind, climbing, ORshow, gear reviews… Not to mention my day job and the pending skills review test I have up coming.
Climbing is the way I choose to clear my mind normally, but with the current Black Lung of Death cough and my wrist injury, I haven’t been able to climb in almost 2 weeks. When I suddenly realize, it was 20 years ago that I started climbing. Flash back to winter 1994 – A young, skinny wrestler embarks on a relatively new sport called Rock Climbing. A love was born. I quit wrestling, and began climbing as much as possible. Though life became more important at times, I’ve climbed an accumulation of many routes, in many different places. But not nearly as much as I would have liked. Here is a list of my 10 worst climbing experiences.
10- Jump starting the car all the way home – In the summer 1994, my friends and I wanted to go climbing so bad, we drove a car to the canyon that had a bad battery. Once the car was started, we were able to get to the crag. But then needed to get jump started in the parking area, again at the red light we got stopped at getting onto the freeway and getting off the freeway. About a 4 blocks from my house, the car died one more time, Sean and I just pushed it home while Daniel steered. This was an act of desperation from some young, stupid climbers.
9- A friend quits climbing after frustration – During the same summer, my friend Tom quit climbing pretty much all together after being upset, or should I say really pissed off. His inability to send a route and another friend releasing frustration that he would now “have to clean the route in the dark”, led directly to him quitting climbing. Sean came pretty unglued that Tommy chose to give the route a go in the dimming day light hours and failed to succeed. After we descended the trail back to the car, Tom offered to sell his climbing gear to our friend Jason, and has never since really resumed climbing. Kind of a bummer considering he is like a brother to me.
8- Falling clipping the Anchors on 5.12A – On my second trip to Mount Charleston near Las Vegas, Nevada. I was going for a send on my 3rd 5.12A Short Dog. A smooth bulging face with that flows from crimps to deep pockets to a series of shallow 2 and 3 finger pocket and a pinch that you clip the anchors from. After a few goes, I had the moves dialed and decided this was my time to send. I sail through the start crux V4 boulder problem, stopping to rest on the JUGS. A few good shakes, catch my breath and onward I go, powering through the shallow pockets and the tenuous hand foot match and bump hard to the final pinch. I drag the slack up and reach for the anchors, the death shake protruding through my ankles. My grip loosens as I struggle to secure the rope in the through anchor hooks… TAAAAAKE!!!! I hurl towards the ground and the slack tightens as I begin to swing, spinning like a top. And Sean says “That counts”.
7- Food poisoning at Wild Iris – A few summers ago in 2009, my friend Sean and I went on a climbing trip to Wild Iris. On the way up there, we stopped at the Taco Time in Rock Springs, Wyoming for food and I got poisoned. It must have been the “meat” product I ate, as Sean doesn’t eat meat and did not get sick. Needless to say, I had to visit the Port-o-John before taking the long hike out to W.I. Seemingly ok, I began climbing. But between routes, I ran back and forth from the crag to the woods, doing my best to bury the traceable evidence. After my last go, and sending my first 5.12A, it hit me and my gut plunged. I darted back to woods, getting out of sight just in time as I lowered my shorts and unintentionally “sprayed” the boulder I was hiding behind. I returned flush and a bit dehydrated, Sean asked if I was ok? My send had been a little over-shadowed by my situation. The worst part was that the International Climbing Festival was happening that weekend.
6- Infected zombie toe at Moes – Last February, I made a trip down to Moes Valley in StG to do some bouldering with Sean. Meeting up with now friends Cody, Bryan (the Professor) & Danielle, the trip started well. We began working on Underwhelmed, a steep roof problem rated V6. Doing almost every move under the roof, I was feeling pretty good about the next few days. That night, I removed an ingrown toe-nail and by morning, it was oozing pus and to painful to put weight on. I tried warming up, but could not even stand on my right foot, not too mention wearing my 1 size smaller climbing shoes. Hitting a low when my foot popped on a V3 slab and my toe kicked forward smacking the hard sandstone. I had to spot all day and watch everyone else send. Hard thing to do for a climber. I did however send a V4 the following day and 2 V5’s two weeks later.
5- Falling and nearly decking on right pile – Two summers ago in 2012, I started climbing with a new partner. Steve and I did quite a bit of climbing that summer, sending a lot and getting know one anothers climbing abilities. Late in August, I took him up to the Dog Pile to give my long time nemesis route a go. After 2 warm-up goes on Dog Pile (I swear, the worlds hardest 5.10b), I felt good to get on Right Pile 5.11D. I had climbed this route more than any other route ever. I powered through the first 2 bolts trying to climb quickly to the JUG rest at the 4th clip. As I reached down to grab a length of rope and make a smooth 3rd clip, I missed the biner and draw began to swing. With a handful of rope in my left hand, my right hand popped off the hold. Being only 20′-25′ up my immediate thought was “DON’T DECK! DON’T DECK!” Luckily my belayer did an awesome job reading the mishap and the rope tightened with me landing around his shoulder height. Clearly I was shaken, and still had to make my way backup the route to finish and clean it. I had never felt so nervous on a climb before, but was able to finish after hanging on pretty much every clip ground to top. I still haven’t sent Right Pile.
4- Dropping Kale Berg in the gym – I started climbing in the winter time, so we were limited with the weather how much we could get out. One day we decided to check out a brand new climbing gym in the valley ‘The Wasatch Front Rock Gym’. I was relatively new to the sport, and still a little intimidated. I just met Kale Berg that day, he was the responsible for starting Sean in the sport. Kale roped up and handed me the belay and told me to belay him on lead in the cave. I had never lead belayed before, and should have said so at this point. But not wanting to feel stupid, I accepted the challenge. As he made his way up the wall, each tugging for slack at each clip. He tore off at the anchors yelling yeeehaaw as he took a 20′ whipper in the gym. I caught him about 5′ from the deck, clearly surprised by what had just happened. I stood there in awe, Kale just smiling and laughing. When Dan (the guy who was working the gym that night) said “WHOA! What? Are you the shittiest belayer in the world?” That really stuck with me.
3- Watching my youngest son struggle with heights on a descent – I took my boys climbing in Maple Canyon about 2 years ago, and both of them were natural at ascending up the rock. They were just on a 5.6, but Kemry literally crushed it, and Caelan was doing really good. I told him to just go up as far as he wanted and then he could come back down. He got about 20′ and said “Ok, I’m ready to come back down”. When I told him to let go of the rock and I would lower him, he had a death grip on the cobbles. Poor kid wouldn’t let go, he was scared to trust the rope to hold his 65lbs. It took me, Jeremy and my other son Kemry about 20 minutes to get him talked into coming all the way to the ground. It was really sad watching my child suffer because of his fear. And he hasn’t been climbing since… But he has let me lower him on a rappel.
2- Seeing Kale Berg fall and hit a tree – The first summer that I was climbing, we advanced rather quickly through the grades. In just 6 months time, we were already pushing 5.12’s. Young kids with nothing better to do than hit the crag 4-5 days a week. One day while climbing in American Fork Canyon, Kale decided to lead a route called The Premise 5.11C. I wanted to try to get a good pic of him sending, so I chose to hike around the back and take some top shots. When suddenly, I heard a loud thump. And I thought to myself, ‘Did he just hit that tree?’ I ran back to the base of the crag to find Kale screaming, and his leg covered in blood. A tree branch had protruded his calf when he came off the rock. We loaded him into the car and Eric drove him to the hospital as Sean and I recovered the gear. I asked Sean what had happened? He told me Kale was clipping the 5th bolt, had a lot of slack pulled up and was super pumped. When suddenly the hold he was clutching to broke off. Rope in one hand, rock in the other, he came crashing down into the tree full force. When brought firmly to the ground, he was still clutching the rock. Kale was ok, but was never the same climber again. Sean and I went back and sent that route years later after shock had worn off. In the new guide-book it is now rated 5.11C/D… I wonder why?
1- Get A Grip – I had only been climbing about 7 months. Our group within the group decided to do some climbing at the upper S-curve area that day. After a few quick warm up routes, we thought we would do some laps on the areas best 5.11A’s. First one we got on was Get a Grip, a short 3 bolt bulgy slope session. After clipping the 3rd bolt, I had the long run out to the chains. Long enough were you could deck if you fell at the anchors. As I began to move upward, I froze… Down climbed. Rested. continued up, couldn’t work my way past the slopers. Down climbed. Rested. Shook, tried to regain my composer. I started my final try, my arms were done. Still I couldn’t make it through. I released my grip and the rope didn’t tighten… I looked to the ground as I fell, my mind flooding with thoughts. I’m going to hit the F*CKING ground. It was like slow motion. Suddenly, I was spinning like a top, my feet dangling 3′ from the deck, my blood boiling, heart pounding. I had just fallen over 20′, and my belayers eyes were as wide as two $.50 cent pieces. His break hand holding firmly on the down side of the rope. Not understanding what just happened.? After my feet touched firmly to the ground, I removed my harness and learned that I had hit a boulder when I fell. My favorite 5.10 shirt was shredded and I had blood coming from a large cut on my left rib. Sean and Jeremy asked me if I wanted to go home? I decided to stay and watch them climb another route and just relax. A few things went wrong that day. I should have communicated better with my belayer. And he should have noticed my discomfort. Not to mention having control of his break hand. We were lucky that day, I was lucky that day. I didn’t break any bones, but was left with a permanent scar and ruined shirt. The following year I went back and crushed Get a Grip… Though I’ve had some bad experiences climbing rocks, I’ve had so many more amazingly awesome experiences. I’ve dodged some bullets, both mentally and physically. But one thing has always been a constant… I love climbing.