At age 52, and having quit climbing 10 years ago, I had a lot of doubts about climbing again. Had the years of smoking and drinking taken too much of a toll? Was I to old, as a fellow teacher suggested?
So I quit, and I started an exercise program, and six months later I was awake at 4 am drinking a last sip of coffee as I waited for the morning aches and pains to subside as my friend Frank filled his water bottle with coffee, milk and sugar.
I had started climbing 28 years ago after meeting a guy named Terry Ripkyma in of all places the teachers lounge at the high school I teach in. That first climb was with Steve Gardiner, and some guy named Frank. This first climb led to other climbs and eventually lead to 4 first ascents.
As my children grew up I taught them to climb the Tower safely, but when they graduated and went to college and on to life, I quit climbing and grew fearful of death and old age. I forgot the joy of climbing.
As we started the approach I had to pause to catch my breath, and as we scrambled higher I was filled with self doubt. We reached the Leaning Column at 5:30 am and I was still alive.
As I watched Frank lead pitch after pitch I was reminded of watching my daughter dance in her dance company. So smooth, such a flow of energy. Such a joy. When I started climbing the moves started coming back. I easily climbed the crux and then lost focus and almost fell in a simple place. As each successive pitch followed I found that I could still dance. We reached the summit at 7:30 am that morning and talked of old times and old friends.
So I found that which I had lost, the joy of living. I found that morning that age is relative and I found that I could still dance. Most importantly, I found again my friend Frank.
I have been truly blessed.