Oh, sure, you exchange a couple of emails with another climber, make plans to hook up and do some high routes over the long weekend. You figure, her having a user name inspired by a flower and having only been climbing for a year, that it’ll be a nice, relaxing weekend. Some moderate link-ups, slight fear factor, but nothing overwhelming.
So, you drive out of the city on Friday night, head down to the relative wilderness of New Hampshire, park your car by the side of the road and throw down your sleeping bag in the woods. You wake up early the next morning and realise you only have 10 minutes before your meeting time. No coffee, no bagels, no nothing. You drive off, and meet. She’s a dainty thing, so you figure, “ah, relaxing weekend.” Um, no. She’s got her pack on in a split second and heading up the trail. The steep trail. (Have I mentioned no coffee?)
By the time we get to the cliff, she’s geared up: I’m sucking wind. Catch my breath, and wait for her to climb. She breezes through it, and I follow. Rappel back down, switch leads, and I start up another climb. This goes on from about 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. In the sun. I’m dripping. I’m dehydrated. I’m still sucking wind. Can’t forget about the sucking wind. “Well, we’re done here,” she finally admits. I breathe a sign of relief.
We head off to a lake, dowse ourselves, and relax on the beach for a while. “Okay, let’s go climbing again,” she declares. “Aw fuck,” I say to myself. Back for another hike up to another cliff, and another difficult route. The day over, we set up camp, and I get the cooking duties. Stumble into my tent, but not before being told, “we should try to get an earlier start tomorrow.” Huh?
Roll out the next morning to a distant peak. No one around, it’s chilly. After hiking for a mile or so, head up a trail to the cliff. My turn to go first. Nothing too difficult, but a leg-breaking fall potential. She grabs the lead for the next part, pulls a roof and keeps hiking up this cliff. I follow and get the next lead, 190 feet of what amounts to free soloing. Okay, I was able to put in one piece of protection after about 120 feet, but besides that… Finish off with leading a slightly difficult pitch, again with major bone-breaking fall potential. We finish the climb, head down and I’m thinking that we’re probably done for the day. No such luck. This girl still wants to climb. Head back to another cliff. I’m dying. We do a few more climbs, I’m dead.
What have I gotten myself into? This was supposed to be an easy weekend. I could be back home, scoping out all the innocent young girls newly arrived in town for university. The milliner’s out of town, I could be sitting around in my underwear, drinking beer, belching, and scratching myself indiscriminately. But noooo. Instead, I’m lagging behind some unknown Ukranian dynamo who’s kicking my tired old ass. I’m hating her. And I’m hoping for rain. No such luck. After another day of the same sort of torture, I’m as beat as a rug. Two days later, and my legs are still screaming.