Finding My Way

We spent yesterday at the New River Gorge, climbing with an old friend who had recently moved back to the east from Oregon. We also camped for the first time with both of the boys (an adventure itself, given that we arrived at the campground around 10:00 PM). I have, in the past few years, settled into a particular cycle in the week preceding a planned trip to the New: first, excitement with the thought of climbing and being outside, then apprehension as the weekend approaches due to the amount of energy and patience that such a trip entails, then dread as the day arrives and we are, as usual, horribly behind the schedule we have set for ourselves. And this was true again this weekend. We left a party on Sunday afternoon far too late, and we paid for it that night. But, when our friend arrived at the campground (at a lovely 7:00 AM), that was all behind us. I was genuinely excited to climb that day, and getting such an early start only stoked the fire.

An advantage of being so far removed from my climbing-centric lifestyle is that I don’t care much what I climb, or how I climb it. After being obsessed with performance and grades for many years (too many, really), I can thoroughly enjoy a day at the crags, falling up classic climbs regardless of their difficulty. Monday was no different. We went to Butcher’s Branch, a comfort zone for us. I wonder how many times we’ve done the warm-up 5.10s, since it’s been 14 years since we started climbing together. Despite having not climbed for well over a month, the warm-up feels good, and easy. On to bigger and better things. I hang the quickdraws on Bicycle Club, a 5.12a just a few routes to the right, for our old friend. This feels harder (as it should), and I hang a few times, pumped the entire time. The smile never leaves my face. From there, it’s on to Lost Souls, another 12a, the first I ever did. Like the warm-up, I’ve probably done the route hundreds of times. And it’s still good fun. I can’t manage to do it cleanly (in fact, I nearly pitch off the final move to the anchor the first time up), even on my second try, but again, it’s okay. In fact, it’s almost better that way. I’m beginning to feel like a climber again. I doubt that I will ever find the motivation that brought me to the gym four and five days a week, but I’m slowly finding my way back.