This year I was happily joined by my best climbing buddies Katie, Dan, George and Patrick, and our new friend Phil - who all arrived early and made me feel like this was MY party after all.
After a night of corn hole and ladder ball (if you don't know what these games are, I will gladly explain them. I'll just need one of those cheap beers first,) we said goodbye to Katie and Dan and the rest of us set off for Seneca Rocks in West Virginia. Did I mention it was 93 degrees outside? Mmm, superheated trad climbing...
We had no plan really, just to find an empty line and climb it. We chose the shady east face to start. George and I went off with John, a friend from DC and did three pitches of what we later discovered was a 5.9. A Seneca 5.9 is nothing to be trifled with, in fact, if I had known what it was before I started I wouldn't have even tried. But try I did, and after a hanging belay-threesome (awkward) and a roof, I found myself at the third pitch.
Anxiety had won that round, and it wasn't pretty.
That night we were treated to the first meal produced by George's new dutch oven: Cubed chicken in an onion soup mix/french dressing/pineapple preserves and beer sauce, served with egg noodles. (Mix well and set on coals for an hour.) ((Longest hour of my life.)) We lay back in the grass to watch the stars as fireworks back lit the camp ground. I've never seen the sky that black. The milky way sat blurry on the horizon, the shadow of my nemesis in the foreground.
God I love this place...
Patrick and Phill went first making good time. George led next and I followed, grunting a swearing at his expert gear placement. (Read: Impossible to remove.) Every so often I'd hear Patrick yell "WHoooo!" or "Expooooosuree!" and I'd pause and wonder if I could make it. The first pitch is a piece of cake. The second starts in an awkward corner and heads up to an even more awkward flake/chimney.
It took a bit, but I got it. I silently thanked God that no one was around to see me flopping around like a fish. It was at the top of that pitch that I felt the fatigue set in and the anxiety creep up. I wasn't even sure if I could make it off the belay ledge, let alone clean the anchor and gear.
It strikes me as odd how much I love following trad climbing, but how reliably I seem to hit this roof. I'm reliving the feelings now as I type, and I'm still not sure what I can do in the future to fix things. I often find myself back on that third pitch. The place where I'm questioning my ability, exhausted, and in need of encouragement. Am I alone there? I've felt like that in work and my personal life as well as climbing. How do you muster the guts to keep going?
I'd gladly take suggestions by the way.
Another long weekend spent well with friends.