Monday, July 1, 2013

Close Call on Venusian Blind

"Oh no...Loose rock"  Reed shouted.

"Jared, quickly move out the way...move quick to your right, there is a giant loose block that's about to blow."

I nervously looked up and saw Reed stemmed across the dihedral with his chest pressing and holding a television sized rock.

I anxiously shifted five feet to the right, which was as much as my tether would allow.

"Its slipping" Reed says.  "Are you clear?"  "I'm going to let it go."

Reed opened up his body and a giant rock came plummeting down.  It crushed atop the ledge where I had just been standing.  It shattered into several pieces and thundered down the gully.

I wiped the sweat form my forehead and took a deep breath.  Once Reed was secured, I continued climbing.

We were high up in the Sierras on a route called Venusian Blind.  It was a long route and the guidebook had recommend a full day, but for our skill level and experience we thought we could cruise it.  We had strayed off route and were in some challenging and loose terrain, where a single slip could or miscalculation could lead to serious consequences.

It is crazy how a single event could alter or even end your life.  I think back on so many close calls that I have had in my life and think what would have happened if something went wrong.

1.  Slipping on a thin icy ridge on Mount Baldy and sliding into the only patch of snow before a drop off.

2.  Being the passenger in a car going 55mph that flipped three times and landed into oncoming traffic

3.  Getting off route and having to down climb slabs while free soloing Tenya Peak

4.  Free climbing a difficult loose pitch on Mount Watkins in Yosemite with 20 pounds of aid gear on my waist and placing only one camalot

5.  Climbing dangerous avalanche prone mountains in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru

6.  Soloing an 18,800 foot glaciated peak

7.  Penduluming on a rope on Spaceshot that became frayed from the friction and impact.

8.  Rope jumping 100 feet off the Monkey Face in Smith Rock

9.  Sky diving over the swiss alps and Bungee jumping off the Bridge to Nowhere

The list goes on...

You wonder if you have nine lives.  If you are invincible.  Or if you are just getting lucky.  And there is a stage when you have to be realistic and realize that you are playing a numbers game.  You ask yourself if it is only a matter of time until you have a true accident.

Climbing has taken a lot away from me.  It has stolen time, crushed relationships and taken friends from this earth.  Although climbing has taken from me, it has also given so much back.  It has filled my life with passion, taught me valuable lessons and has fostered amazing connections with people, the mountains and myself.  It has taught me the power of living in the moment and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world. 

I topped out Venusian Blind with Reed, snapped a photo and began our descent down the back side.   It was one of those rare times that I was fully present.  I wasn't thinking about pressures from work or stresses from life. All I knew was that when it came down to it; the moment was all that I had.

I looked at the beautiful sky with the sun setting on the summer solstice and the deep blue lakes that contrasted color against the towering granite cliffs.  I curled up in my sleeping bag stared into the stars and thought how lucky I am to be on this earth.

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