Exponential Challenge… Day 4

I decided that The Power of Two at this point seemed a little off-key.  The title doesn’t really matter that much… but by Day 4 the power was out of the equation for me… and it turned into just challenging!  Without further explanation for the title change let the saga continue:


                OOOWWWW… Holy Cow!  Is that blood… oh man… that’s blood… where the hell is that coming from?  Ah… that’s right everywhere…   

This is how I woke up on day 4.  6:30 in the morning I slugged out of bed (It could not be considered a roll or a crawl).  Breathing hurt at this point… air seemed important, but to be blunt if I could have gotten away with not having to inhale or exhale for a few hours I would have been more than happy.  As I dragged my blood crusted and cut riddled body to the bathroom to splash some water on my face I reflected on how incredibly screwed I was going to be for the next few days.

However; there was still a smile somewhere inside of me because deep down this was a test and I always enjoy a good challenge.  So as I felt the cool refreshing liquid splash upon my gristled skin I smiled at the prospect of Piz and me having a rest day of only 8 pitches.  The quicker I motivated the quicker I would be able to rest for the next day.

7:00 I sat in the usual meeting place to wait for the “Smoke-Wagon” to come barreling down the hillside.   Taking a mental check of what hurt and what didn’t; I decided that today was going to be a good day to make sure I had coffee.  That amazing black liquid that somehow made me feel a little more motivated, a little sharper, and a little less grumpy (no one likes a grumpy Ben).  As I exited the coffee shop I saw Piz cruise in.  Loaded with caffeine and gear we headed out to Escalante to go get in our 8 pitches for the challenge.


We decided on climbing the Zappa Wall.  It would offer us a plethora of good routes and also give me a chance to try a route that I had not been on for a while.  We crushed the first three routes in less than an hour… which was awesome considering that we really wanted to be done with this part of the challenge quickly and efficiently.  Then I decided to try Zappa Appreciation Society a 5.13+, an over hanging-ring lock campusing nightmare.  I felt pretty good sitting at the base of the route; but I knew it would be a fight.  As I prepared mentally for the onslaught, I took mental note again of how my tendons and muscles felt.  I can sum it up in one word; fatigued.

As I climbed into the first crux section of the pitch I began to question the validity of my being on the route, but figured, “Why the heck not?”  I was psyched and besides I knew the moves right?  Well it turned out that at least for the first crux section (which went rather smooth all things considered) I was correct; but once I hit the second rest underneath the roof crack I realized that something was wrong; I was pumped… like really pumped.

Damn… this can’t be good, “I’m going to take my time up here!” said the guy who is going to fall.

“Sure no problem,” Rob said, “Do what you need to do.”

What I need to do is learn how to climb, “Cool no worries,” I think…?

The crux pitch of Zappa Appreciation Society is a series of under clinging campus moves on a horizontal roof (you can try to smear your feet on the perfectly blank stone).  Once in position a climber gains an incredible drop knee- core twisting- body position that allows you to get completely stretched out into ring-locks.  Step three requires you to campus around an overhang to lock into a finger crack and then clip the chains.  As I sat underneath that roof I dreaded what was to come, but I tried to posture as much composure as I could; placed my two pieces of gear and began the tricky under cling sequence.

                 I know your pumped… I know this sucks… left hand high… right hand next….oh crap… crap! Your pumped… AHHH… deal with it you’re almost to the ring lock… kick the wall… kick the wall… KICK THE WALL!!! ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!

“Dammit!”  I yelled down to Piz, “The hell is wrong with me…?”

“Uh… what did you expect? This is your fourth day of the challenge, you’re tired, and you haven’t been on Zappa in a while!”

            Wisdom always sucks… shut up with your rationalism and smartness…”Yeah but I felt so good!”

“Not from here, you looked tired and scattered!” was the reply the wind carried to me.

            Ok well I felt tired and scattered, “Fine, I am going to just get to the chains… yarding up!”

Foolishness and youth thought that I was going to pull through this route easy; but as I began to crank into the ring-locks I experienced a whole new level of fatigue.  I literally could not find the body position, tension, or magic that would allow me to even move past the first ring-lock.  My core was useless… utterly shattered.

This is a strange analogy but I felt like I did when I got an ‘F’ in one of my classes; a sinking sensation that can only come from disappointment; words like feeble, failure, flailing, all surfaced into my brain for a second or so; until I remembered, this was not my type of stone, not my type of climbing, and definitely not what I was strong at… so what was I worried about!?  F&*k it!  It was time to have fun!!

So I just played with the moves and tried to re-sync with my body and eventually made it to the chains, tired, exhausted, dirty, but smiling.  Given all of the circumstances that stacked against me I made it up with a new psych that I have not had in a while.  It may have been foolish, but I was happy to have tried the route, and even more happy to have clipped the chains.

As I came down off the pitch, it was time for the fifth route of the day, we had four more to go and it wasn’t even noon yet!  We decided to do some 5.11’s that were both lay-backing and pump fests.  These became rather humorous routes in that I was so freaking tired from the previous climbs something that I felt should have been easy was actually much more difficult… that and as I climbed in the new Stoneland slippers from 5.10 I would hear Rob’s voice wilting an Eagle’s song Desperado on the breeze:

What the…?  What is that noise?

“Desperado… Why don’t you come to your senses…”

You have to be kidding me…

                “Desperado… You been out ridin’ fences so long now…”

Crap… here it comes… and I’m pumped! But I am not going to fall!

                “DESPERADO! WHOOWHOO WHOO…”


Not sure whether to laugh or take it as an insult to how desperate I was actually climbing towards the end there… the only thing I could do was join in…  I had no idea what the lyrics to the song were so I basically scream-sang the word Desperado when I felt it was appropriate.  We made a good duo.

As we packed up at noon and high-tailed it back to the car I realized that we now had about 20 hours of rest between the time that I sat down in the car and when we would be pulling on the limestone cliffs of Rifle– one thought crossed my mind…

Oh sweet, sweet sport climbing… how I love thy curves…        


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