The obsessive life of a climbing addict
Like the pretty girl who always promised to call back and never did, climbing at Rifle is ruining my life.By midseason I can hardly focus on anything else. I talk about rocks at parties. I talk about rocks with family. I talk about rocks at work and I talk about rocks to the waitresses at Rosi’s cafe. But it’s not so much about rocks as it is the “Beta” – that’s climber lingo for the exact sequence of moves a human body can do to pull itself to the top of a rock.I think about Beta in my sleep … I mean, if I could sleep I would be thinking about Beta, but I can’t get any shut-eye because I’m thinking about Beta. Which makes my muscles tense and twitchy. And my hands start to sweat, because I know I can stick that move I’ve fallen on 20 times before, if I only just visualize it a little more, imagine the feel and texture …Lying in bed, my heart rate picks up as I fantasize about cranking through the crux. I’m going to do it! I know I can! Tomorrow I’m going to crush … wait, I haven’t slept a wink and I’m planning to be in the car in two hours. Crap!By the time my alarm goes off, I’m too tired to remember what I set it for. Wait – oh, yeah. Climbing. Crushing. Right.
I slip into my standard Rifle outfit – camo pants and a ripped-up, blood-stained T-shirt (they call me “Operation Derek Storm” for a reason), pound some oatmeal and I’m out the door, still half sleeping.Why the army pants? I dunno. It’s my thing. For crushing “projects” (those are routes I have yet to climb without falling). Plus, I feel like I fit in better with those people who drive the big, jacked-up trucks through the narrow canyon.A little boy once asked what I was hunting. Me? I’m hunting for sends – redpoints, or if I’m lucky maybe a flash or onsight. Like I’m doing this morning. I have three hours before work, so a quick dispatch of “the knar” is imperative.The air smells so sweet and fresh, though, so I don’t mind lingering a few moments. The creek babbles in the stillness with a chorus of chirping birds, and I suddenly feel quite awake. Beams of sun stream through the corridor of steep, pink- and grey-streaked walls. A fluttery feeling sinks into me like dew on the ground, and I simply have to hop and skip down the road.On my way to the Project Wall I run into my friend Eric and his girlfriend eating breakfast out of the back of their car. Leading the life of a sponsored climber, he’s pretty much on a never-ending climbing trip, and I let myself live through him a little bit. We chat until I remember that I will soon have to go to work. Precious climbing time wanes with each heartbeat, so I move along.
Sure enough, there are more friends at the Project Wall, warming up. Smiles and greetings are exchanged, and we get down to business.I soon find myself roping up for one of my nemesis projects. It’s only 5.12d, but I’m not the only 5.13 climber to have been reduced to screaming fits of frustration here.The opening moves are automatic, and before I can think, I’m thrutching into the sharp fingerlock that always gouges my left index finger … right foot high, backstep … lock off and “fffa!” reach for the jug … clip. Breathe. Chalk. Gets a little harder, now. Ready? Go. Reach … “umph” all the way out … get … it … and then that … Now, here it is. But I’m so flamed. Never mind that … Skip the clip, don’t worry about the long fall … crank! Come on, crank! Get the pocket … get … it … But gravity suddenly feels like it’s pulling harder, like mud clumping on a shoe, and the hold I’m pinching seems to shrink as I fight to stay on. The two-finger pocket is getting farther away, like a dream sliding out of reach … In a split second, my gas runs out and I pitch into space.”OFF!”
Bitch. Now I have to go to work, and once again all my obsessive practice, all my sweat, has been met with failure. My skin has been shredded for nothing, and in my despair it feels like a waste to have come up here.However, as I leave and wave goodbye, I’m already thinking my next burn will be The One. Saturday – yeah, it’ll go down.Like the pretty girl who will talk to me but never return calls, there’s always hope that next time will be different. And sometimes, it is, which is why endurance for heartbreak is a key part of the game.In the meantime, at least I have my friends.”De-rock” Franz is a copy editor for the Post Independent. He realizes that his love life might improve if he could talk about something other than rocks.
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