Thursday, 12 April 2007

My First Lead


'twas a frosty morning and we'd been pottering for many-a-year, but climbing properly and consistently, for but a few months. Park Nab was the place. The overhanging buttress of Lion King was prominent on the Skyline. I felt experienced - until I gazed upon the obvious, but unconquerable looking crack of Parallel lines. It was an eliminate, although I didn't know what that meant. I assumed it was to do with being killed. I forget how old I was - perhaps my sixteenth summer; perhaps my last. I wished not to indulge in this half-understood game of leading, but the all-piercing eyes of the clan of which I was a part, pushed me on. The gear I started to amass; looking at it so thoughtfully; was gathered in a haze - thinking only of a way to escape the peril of the almost inevitable doom that awaited me.

I started to scramble up to the base, then the hauling of the mass of shiny friends behind me. The weight was like nothing that I had felt before. If these did hold me they truly would be my greatest friends. Better than that menacing belayer at the bottom. The cold sandstone pieced my skin, giving it the friction it required. Before I knew it I was eight feet up, and it was time to place the first bit of gear. A size 2.5 friend I believe, locked me to the rock. I continued placing gear frequently. Then what had been described as the crux move came.

The crack steepened until I looked up more than ninety degrees; this truly was severe. Another piece of gear was placed. The awe grew; a shiver of determination, summoned by unadulterated fear, rushed through my body like morphine (something I would later experience due to my appendicitis). The move pulled me so my head protruded above my arms. The gear was by my feet. Would it hold? I was certain of a fall; I was imagining the description of the route in the next guide book - follow the trail of brown. This pushed me further, then the clasping hand of an infant was seen to grasp the summit of the monumental line. Then another hand, followed by a head and a mantle-shelf. A foot, and then the entire body, was on the rock above. It was over. But this: the fear, the torment, the closeness to death, was only the beginning.

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