Jaques hails from Switzerland. A 5.12 sport climber,
he sits on a ledge atop "Old 5.10" in Yosemite, California.
He looks down questioningly at Sue, Mike, Inez, and
Sarah who have arrived at the base of the climb.
....."What did he say??"
Desperately clawing a rounded, one-hand side-pull,
my feet scrape loose crystals and scrabble down
detached weathered lichen as I fumble for a quickdraw
and, panicked, snap home into a single, oxidized 1/4"
bolt. (May as well give up climbing.....!) ... The only bolt
for a long, long ways. Left forearm fading I slap the
ramp with my other hand, heel-hook/smear the ramp with
a foot just as my left hand peels off the rock, cramped into
uselessness by the horrid demands of the route. Hurriedly
shake out, chalk up, grab for the ramp with my left hand
just as my foot slides away from the face, reset the
quivereing right foot, now my right forearm cramps and
demands attention. So goes each, desperate move.
I perform a meatbolic juggling act up a loathsome,
unprotected narrow "ramp" slanting sickly up the
vertical, loose prarie. How do I get myself into these
Every once in a great while, a brittle, rounded horn
of corrupt diorite erupts from the ramp like a
festering scab. Way, way above the bolt, with
no crack in sight, I give up hope and drape a sling
over one of these horns (immediately regret the
act, as the sling creates a slippery, squirmy surface
on the only foothold within two miles.)
The ramp continues up the now-slightly-overhanging
wall to the left of the Lunatic Fringe, and so do I,
fastidiously painting each obnoxious little diorite pimple
with the pretty stripe of a hopeful runner: HAPPY FACE's
and "HAVE A NICE DAY's" in a morgue.
At one point, I try to envision the vectors of a
fall-generated force applied to these decorations, these
futile gestures in protection. Colorful thoughts.
I begin shaking uncontrollably with fear. Some things
are best left unthought up here.
Jaques, terrified below on the belay ledge, peers
upward 90 feet to the soles of my shoes, now
directly overhead. A single, upward flip of the rope
at this point will unseat every runner on every horn
between here and the ground. The ground, blue and
hazy in the void beneath my sweating, scrabbling,
Hey. What's this? Somewhere along the useless, mossy
seam at the back of the hand-wide ramp, a 3/4" crack
opens up for a length of five inches.
First I pinch myself, to be sure I'm not dreaming, then
stuff the short opening with every piece of protection
that will fit. I stuff more, draining the rack. The crack
disappears behind a mass of wires, cables, spectra,
carabiners and slings, as I dance up this aesthetic
classic. Wrap my left armpit over another of those
wonderful, solid horns and call for more slings.
Miles away, inconcievably far above, the pitch will end,
after dusk, where a sweet night breeze breathes softly
across the evening walls.