Saturday, it being one of the nicest days out in almost two weeks, I decided the best place to be was at a dusty, dirty climbing gym. Anyhoo, I’m climbing with a friend of mine, when a youngish-looking fellow comes in. He’s hanging out for awhile, and wanders over to where D and I are climbing on the lead wall. I strike up a conversation with him, along the lines of “don’t trust the ratings here,” “the trick is to follow the same-coloured holds,” etc. He proceeds to ask if I can give him a belay on the lead wall. Um, sure, but normally you need to have passed a course at the gym. I head over to ask a gym worker if it’s cool for the guy to climb with me, and the gym worker gives me a wry smile, saying something like, “Yeah, we’ll let him climb.”
So the guy, who introduces himself as Nick, ties in and begins to climb the hardest route in the gym. Um, I tell him, maybe that isn’t the best route to warm up on. Doesn’t matter, the guy makes it up a certain distance before peeling off. Yeah, he admits that the route was harder than he expected. He starts off on another climb, and just dances up it. He comes back down, and we get to talking. It turns out that he’s from Halifax, does a bit of low-level climbing around there. Just bought a nice little inexpensive house on the waterfront, where he lives with his wife and toddler. In Montreal to visit family.
I don’t think more about it until D comes up and asks me if I know who the guy is. I don’t really, just that he’s a strong climber. No shit, says D, he’s Nick Sagar, only Canada’s best climber, and one of the best in the world. Okay, that would explain a lot. This is a guy who climbed El Capitan in a day. Who has set routes that haven’t been repeated by anyone else. Whose wife is one the strongest climbers around as well. And me asking him if he knew how to climb on lead and that maybe he should start on an easier route.
Gads, that’s like me telling Jimi Hendrix that perhaps the “Star Spangled Banner” probably wasn’t the best song to improvise on.