Proud. Tall. Hard. The project. A single polished golden streak rakes down the wall and glows with the afternoon light. Green, black and yellow lichen cling to the granite, as if stippled across the wall, stopping suddenly on either side of the golden band. Beneath the lichen appear patches of white, bullet-hard granite, lending what may be just enough to call a hold. Rappelling off the top of the rock, I carefully examine the moves, one by one, from the last move to the first. What I discover is that this climb is on an entirely different level than I have ever attempted before. At 30 feet tall, it would be questionable whether you would walk away from a slip on the upper slab moves. At mid-height is the only good hold on the climb. I dub it “The Ear.” It marks the decision point where you can safely let go, or choose to venture higher. What I was soon to discover, however, is that climbing above “The Ear” is not a venture, but an instant commitment to an irreversible sequence where falling is not an option. But, first things first: I have to get through the bottom crux.
The climb begins in the middle of the golden streak, with big moves between small, slick edges. The crux involves generating momentum to move right off of two terrible holds. As you make this move out of the golden streak and around into the white bullet granite, you have to stop the momentum of your hips falling away from the wall by a three finger patch of rock angled only slightly more favorably than everything around it. Time after time, I would tear away from this hold until I caught it with a little better position than the other attempts. Five moves later and I was at “The Ear”, with the slick, golden streak dropping away on my left, and the lichen-covered white granite resembling the static channel rising above me on the right. I knew I had to keep going. At this point, the climb became less about climbing at my limit and more about executing the moves perfectly, for I could not afford to fall. With my left hand on “The Ear,” I stood up, locked my right leg and left arm straight for maximum extension, and caught the next set of granite granules with the tip of my index finger, on the edge of balance and flight. Readjusting in order to get three fingers on the edge, I shuffled my feet, high-stepped “The Ear,” and again locked off as far as I could.
I will never forget the last move of this climb. There I am. Perched with my toes at the 20 foot level, locked off, staring at the last knob. For five seconds I remained there, safe for the moment. Down-climbing was impossible. I knew that somewhere out of sight on that sloping knob was a seam that would allow my fingers purchase. I also knew that as soon as I released my left hand to make the reach, my body would start peeling backwards. The only way out of my current situation was to stick this move. I could hear myself breathing. Fingertips numb. No choice but to move. Staring at the knob, I begin to reach and I feel my balance shifting. Just in time, my fingers slide down the knob and stop in the seam. I can’t feel my fingertips, but they are holding, so I bring my thumb over my index finger into full crimp position, raise my right foot, and quickly stand up to the last hold, and safety. I scream in relief, joy, fear, and astonishment. A dream line had become a reality. I felt privileged to have had such a challenge, fulfilled to have completed it, and lucky that I did so without testing our crash pad arrangement.