Trip Report
Newbie Chronicles Part II: The Art of Finding “Why”
Wednesday April 24, 2013 4:50pm
So if you were one of the few who read my first trip report, you know I literally just started climbing two months ago with my first outdoor trip in March. You'd also know my trip reports are more about my thoughts while climbing, rather than about climbing technicalities. So as a disclaimer, sorry if my trip reports are personal spray, but I believe writing should be as raw and exposed as the rock we climb on.

Trip Report #2:

Though I originally planned to go for a long training bike ride last Sunday since I have a triathlon in two weeks, when climbing friends from the gym texted with an opportunity to climb on granite rather than plastic, the decision was a no-brainer; the Tri training would have to be deferred...the mountain was calling.

However, on the morning of the trip, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. unable to sleep- partly due to excitement for the trip and partly due to gut wrenching anger…well, let’s be honest, mostly due to gut wrenching anger. With no regard for the present- I was simply angry about the past and future while tossing the question of “why” in my head. First it started with questioning “why” about the past since I was reeling from a week-old fresh wound of confirming that my original climbing "coach" had the character of a man who takes one "girlfriend" to Thanksgiving with his family while he texts and calls another "girlfriend" behind each other's back. Next I started worrying “why” about the future since on Friday afternoon I received word from my doctor that recent blood work indicated possible thyroid cancer and I’d need additional testing to confirm diagnosis. Regardless, after only three hours of sleep, I was hopped up on sleepless adrenaline and full of beta from my former climbing “coach." I was more than ready to exert some excess energy out on the mountain and I met my climbing friends for what would be my first multi-pitch climb and first rappel.

Due to closed roads, we ended up at a Plan B destination at Indian Springs. We planned to spend the morning warming up on some 5.8-5.9 climbs and then do three sport, slab wall pitches to reach the upper-upper tier about 250ft up. Being that I had only climbed single 40 ft jaunts outside once before, I was eager to finally get to climb to the top of something- even if it was infantile in size. I had been warned by "coach" that climbing, like any activity, can have liars, people who are careless with safety and otherwise just derelict as#@&%es. But despite protective warnings about some climbing communities not being welcoming to newbies, I felt blessed to enjoy the company and support of eight more experienced climbers than I: four men, four women; ranging in age, nationalities, and abilities- but all good hearted people who were safe and unpretentious.

On the 5.8 and 5.9 top rope warm-ups, I found myself talking and joking with ease as my big toe managed to find enough nooks and crannies up the 50ft slab. I laughed at the remarkable difference between this second venture on real rock, in comparison to my first time in March. This time, there was no fear of failing which enabled me to truly commit all 130 lbs of me on blind trust. I was climbing as if I had nothing to lose, and I was loving it.

So between my new German climbing partner who loves to watch me push myself and my knack for delusional optimism, for the first pitch I chose a 5.10c slab route. Again I noticed how comfortable I felt flagging, smearing, edging, toeing and all the other fancy footworkisms that my “coach” had once taught. Somewhere between pushing down on tiny crevices with my finger tips and placing my legs in spider-like positions on the wall, I couldn’t help but notice that the pure joy of being on a slab of rock is that it forces you to truly be in the present moment. For years I’ve tried yoga, long hours of running, and meditation, but nothing quite quiets the monkey mind like being mano-a-mano on the rock- ...where nothing in your past can haunt you and nothing yet unknown can hurt you.

But it was during this blissful introspection when I looked up and saw although I was so close to the final ledge, I had nothing left to reach for, nothing left to push off from- nothing left at all. So I called up to my belayer for a break while I figured this thing out. I sat there in my harness in the cool spring breeze staring at the slab of granite before me. A few feet to my right, the route was rated a 5.9 and I could see a few holds I could do if I just traversed over; a few feet to my left, the route was a 5.10 d but was closer to where I was already positioned. Then it dawned on me that even natural formations like this small mountain, had boundaries for a reason. In fact, we all have boundaries of where we give of ourselves and take from others, but sadly sometimes they easily get blurred in painful ways when we don’t stay true to ourselves. And how many times have I succumbed to temptation to take the easier route in life, only to be disappointed; and how many times, especially most recently, have I tried to force a more challenging route to work, just because it’s so close? Things just sometimes aren't always what they seem to be on the surface. In true climbing cliche fashion, one could say we've all been there when our boundaries for one reason or another, went down the proverbial slippery slope. So in the spirit of just staying true to myself and the course I set out upon, I looked again at the 5.10c slab before me, chose to trust a possible hold up above, and did a high heel-hook as if I actually knew what I was doing. As I scrambled on the ledge to the cheshire grin of my German belayer, I chuckled internally that my “coach” would’ve been proud since I once flipped the bird to him for merely suggesting the heel-hook maneuver. And yet, in this moment, it was simply just survival instinct kicking in.

As I waited on the ledge while the next climber was coming up, all I felt was pure, peaceful, unadulterated joy. Looking across the Sierra valley area, with the sun wearing down my sunscreen, it was if the wind easily blew away any left over anger I released from the past, and any excess worry about the “what-ifs” in the future. After all, how could I carry anger forward for someone who not only introduced me to a sport I fell in love with, but who also taught me everything from creating “serene” anchors, cleaning cams and most importantly, raunchy climbing humor. And as for the unknown future, well I’ve learned we all surprise ourselves with what we are capable of handling- after all- who’d a thunk someone as scared as I used to be, would be someone who now uses whatever means necessary to climb onward and upward.

And perhaps that’s the beauty of climbing- ample opportunities for perspective to understand “why.” We all need to take our own routes in life, and if by chance I bump into “coach” on a rock again some day, I’ll just nod and smile, and remember, it’s because of bittersweet experiences in the past, that I get to be a part of the beautiful possibilities in my present. And it’s because of these truly joyful moments in the now, that give me courage to trust whatever comes in the future.

So when it was finally time to leave the ledge in order to move on to the next pitch, I was eagerly ready to climb on for whatever lay ahead….

So climb on my friends...climb on…

Funky camera angle but you get the idea...
Funky camera angle but you get the idea...
Credit: Letting go
The infamous ledge in the trip report- Indian Springs, CA
The infamous ledge in the trip report- Indian Springs, CA
Credit: Letting go

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Letting go
About the Author

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Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Apr 24, 2013 - 04:59pm PT
When I'm really angry, climbing helps.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Apr 24, 2013 - 05:05pm PT
Fabulous! I love it when someone expresses how climbing makes them "feel" rather than spewing about the difficulty. Welcome to the wonderful world of climbing!
It sounds to me that you have the makings of a lifer.
I started after i left the army in late 1965 and am still hard (relatively speaking) at it 47 years later

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Apr 24, 2013 - 05:08pm PT
"it was if the wind easily blew away any left over anger I released from the past, and any excess worry about the “what-ifs” in the future."
Wonderfully put.

I hope good news comes from the physicians in the coming days and that you have the strength, peace and resilience to move onto bigger and more exciting climbs even if the news is not so good. Keep the trip reports coming! Thanks!


Trad climber
  Apr 24, 2013 - 06:40pm PT
Right on! I actually had a thyroid cancer scare a couple years back, climbing helped a lot. Hope good news comes your way too soon! Keep climbing.
Big Mike

Trad climber
  Apr 24, 2013 - 09:39pm PT
Awesome! Usually it's better to climb with a partner than your boyfriend anyways... There isn't any of the angst which we typically have with our significant others, and you can just concentrate on the climbing.

Good luck with your cancer tests!!
Letting go

Sacramento, CA
Author's Reply  Apr 25, 2013 - 10:24am PT
Thank you everyone for being so welcoming to the sport. I grew up a swimmer and basketball player, later got into running and Tris, but I've never been involved with a sport that has such a community feel like climbing.

Donini: I'm in awe of your climbing career and humbled you take the time comment on Trip Reports from a novice. And yeah- you're right- I'm definitely gonna be a lifer:)

Sully: Thanks for the comment but for the record, I'm not baddass enough yet to lead a 10.c outdoors! So far I enjoy following and cleaning, but hey- perhaps leading will be in the next trip report;)

Thank you for everyone's well wishes with the thyroid- it's interesting to see how many others have been in the same situation. I still have an ultrasound and another appointment so it will be another week before I hear results. Until then it's just Tri training and climbing :)
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Apr 25, 2013 - 10:30am PT
Something I wish I'd had a better handle on when I was younger and just getting started climbing... this is with now 40 years of it under my feet:

Climbs will come and go. You won't even remember most of them, toward the end. Their details will fade and merge into a collage of impressions, feelings and experience. You may realize with a sudden start some day, as you're leading a first ascent... 'sh#t, I climbed this thing 20 years ago, hahahahahaha!' (true story)

You know what will endure? Your memories and your love of your best partners. Never forget that, please. Most normal folk cannot climb alone for any length of time, its a partnership, the bond of the rope.

Finding partners with whom you click, kindred spirits on the rock, reliable and attuned to you and you to them?

As precious as gold. More so. You can't buy reliable climbing partners, you can only grow such relationships.

But it is by far and away the BEST aspect of climbing... (for me) - my partners and our love for one another.

We hold each others' lives in our hands, after all, and do it with (mostly) smiles, broad grins if you must know.

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 25, 2013 - 01:22pm PT
Beautiful prose newbie, you'll find many great climbing partners, don't let a few annoying ones drag you down!!!!!

Enjoy the journey!


Letting go

Sacramento, CA
Author's Reply  May 3, 2013 - 08:13pm PT
DMT: I couldn't agree any sport- it's not the feat, the conquest or the achievement you remember- it's the people you shared the moments with. I would have to strain to recall my state section record 100 butterfly time from years ago- yet, I could describe in detail all the pranks we played on fellow team mates at swim meets and training camps. And regardless of how many three pointers or triple doubles I had as a shooting guard- if my team lost- it meant nothing. So it's no surprise to me that climbing is no different in that it's all about the people I'm bound to by the rope- and not about the quest at hand. But then again we could say sport is just like life... it's all about the connections.

Thanks for all the emails and posts for well wishes- I'm happy to say that after two weeks of multiple doctor appointments and a myriad of tests- they've confirmed the nodules on my thyroid appear benign. So with health in hand- I'll be out at the triathlon this weekend...but climbing again soon.

Oh- and love the double mint twin comment;)

Happy thyroid off to a triathlon...back to climbing soon;)
Happy thyroid off to a triathlon...back to climbing soon;)
Credit: Letting go

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
  May 8, 2013 - 01:01pm PT
I wanna climb with u

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
  May 8, 2013 - 01:40pm PT
Your trip report was very enjoyable. We are just switching back to summer sports here, and it feeds the flame to climb more.

Good luck with your health. From one woman to another, be aware of the motivation for offers to climb.....some are not about climbing.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  May 8, 2013 - 02:01pm PT
I'm such a noob. I didn't even know what or where is Indian Springs.


Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
  May 8, 2013 - 02:07pm PT

Climbing partners are more difficult to find than "other partners" nowadays.

We live near one another and I'm a motivated and experienced/safe climber who needs more people to climb with.

We're not all monsters ;)
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
  May 8, 2013 - 02:24pm PT
Good stuff, glad you are enjoying climbing and seams it will become part of your life. CAUTION!! many good times and people/friends to meet ahead :-D
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