The price of sending. Worth it every time.
My timeline for the last three days breaks down like this:
Tuesday - Photographed 12 weddings over 16 hours, from 8:00 AM to midnight.
Wednesday - Drove to Mt. Charleston at 10:30 AM. Parked at 11:00. Made it to the cave around 11:30. Warmed up at noon. Sent Crown of Swords second go of the day. Hiked back down. Showered. Went into work until 12:30 AM.
Thursday - Woke up at 6:30 AM. Left for work by 7:00. Drove into work to finish editing photos. Drove home. Began writing this post.
I thought about resting, taking some time to think, but all would be lost. There is something fervent and jittery ricocheting inside my head that won't last long. No, this is exactly the time to share a few thoughts on a huge personal breakthrough in hopes that the psych will infect, spread, and motivate others. Even one makes it all worthwhile.
Tuesday night was not supposed to be. Maybe it was a test, but I was only scheduled to work until 5:00 PM. No photographer for the night shift? A fat midwestern couple and a mail order bride from Siberia and it's midnight. I can hardly think at the wheel. The project is on my mind, in thoughts as I wind up in bed, unsure how I got there or if things that need to be locked are left unsatisfied.
The next morning I feel light. Too light. Dehydrated, sore from wearing a camera all night like a necklace. Eat, drink. I don't harbor much confidence for this session, but I have to go. How could I stand up Mt. Charleston? The drive seems easier, as if I am solidifying. Good tunes and air conditioning. Half an hour in the car. Time to clear my head.
Stepping out of the car the trees and the wind embrace me once as I start the half hour march up the trail. Right around the first corner two old thin men in sweat-stained bandanas and long muddy white beards share a joint and smile as I walk up.
"G'Morning." I offer up.
"Getting better by the minute," one of them smiles back in that way old men have that put you at ease as a kid.
The trail is familiar to me now. I see a few bigger rocks out of place, a new cigarette butt, a worn patch where someone rested. Before long the cave comes into view. My nerves are stretched. Sweating, I can all but run up the hill, as if the problem might have disappeared.
Still there. Good.
I am too impatient to warm up, but too cautious not to. Relax. Let the muscles remember everything. I warmed up on the exit. The movements I had fallen off 8 times before from the start. They are not easy, but powerful and precise. The rock feels inviting, still cool from the night before.
It's time for the first burn. Doubts, intimidation, pressure all swirling around. Once the start holds are in my hand they all melt away. Just focus and movement. Coming up to the final crux I hit a hold slightly off, keep going. I hit the next one a bit off as well. That's all it takes. The next sensation is the crashpad under my feet. Make that 9 times from the start.
Being alone, I've found that the second go is the hardest. It is hard to gauge when you feel rested versus when you are rested. The volatile emotion of your first botched attempt is a fresh brand on the brain. Heart racing. Self inflicted pressure comes with the realization of diminishing returns. This is probably your last good go.
I never know when it's time, but it comes. Almost as if I am waiting on hold, drifting, until something answers. The second go feels worse than the first. The holds feel smaller and the pump sets in quicker. Just keep going. I hit the same hold just a bit off again, but the bump caught three fingers just right. Bumped again to make an even four, and found myself robotically executing the exit. Autopilot is not always a good thing however, and I almost blew it, grabbing a non-hold before lurching to the right one, and overgripping to the top.
All alone, not a soul in sight or sound, I cheered and screamed and listened to my voice echo off the limestone walls.
Regardless of grades, of scorecards, of sandbagging or inflating and even regardless of personal blogs like this, the feeling of finishing something you have worked so hard for, and carrying that progress inside yourself is something universal to climbers of all abilities and disciplines. This is what it's all about.