Touching the hands of angels

September 26, 2005 at 9:19 pm (Climbing)

Preparing for a trip down in Bar Harbor last week (you may have read about it), I was looking forward to getting on a climb called “A Dare by the Sea,” a difficult but short 5.10C. I finally got my chance on Friday, when the milliner gave herself up to be my belay slave. So off we go, stopping off at a beach first to enjoy the sun and throw (awfully in my case) a frisbee around. Set up the ropes, and off I rappel down to the base, about 10 feet away from the ocean at high tide. Being somewhat smart, I also brought down my ascenders with me, in case I couldn’t get up the climb.
Yell up to the belayer, above the sound of waves, that I’m about to begin climbing, and get going. And, oh gawd, how absolutely amazing was the climb. Hard, difficult to reach holds, high-stepping, just perfectly flowing. Until, that is, I reached the crux, a thin left-facing crack where I couldn’t even stick in my fingertips for purchase. I just flailed and flailed, until I gave up and resorted to ascending the rope past the difficult part.
The whole point about this? This climb was first ascended over 20 years ago, by a guy called Jim Adair who would die in a rockfall a couple weeks later. And to me, that’s the greatest appeal to climbing. Not dying in a rockfall, mind you, but to find myself climbing stuff that was previously done 20 to 80 years ago, by balls-to-the-wall women and men who didn’t know what the next several metres would yield, scoping out a line that is completely aesthetic. They’ve mostly all passed on now, but I am constantly amazed at what they did.
Oh, and the week itself was pretty fun as well.

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