So I know this is a nutrition blog about food, fitness and lifestyle type things, but today was quite a scary day for me, so I felt compelled to write about it. So here it is, the scariest day of my life. It goes something like this…..
I woke up this morning just like any other morning, excited for what was in store for the day. I had some work to do but was going to start the day out by doing a rock climb I have been wanting to try for quite sometime. Up until this point, I did not feel as if I was strong enough to get on this climb, but I have been training extremely hard so I thought now is a good a time as any. The climb consists of four pitches of 5.12. Each pitch is stout and relentless. Once you get on the thing, there is no rest or good hold until you top out on pitch 4 about 400 feet above the ground where you started.
We got an early start only to get to the base of the cliff in howling winds and freezing temps. It’s ironic how it has been hot and sunny for the last week but the day we go to climb this multi-pitch monstrosity it’s less than ideal. Despite the weather not really being “good climbing weather”, we decided to go for it. The climbing was intense, very exposed and harder than anything I have ever climbed before. Each pitch was super balancy and technical, to the point where your face is smashed up against the wall for most of the moves. I have never really gotten to smell what rocks “smell like” until today! To top things off, the wind was so crazy (gusts up to 60 mph) that several times I felt like I was going to be blown off the wall and into the river several hundred feet below.
After completing pitch one on top rope following my partner, I led pitch 2 onto a spooky/ balancy ledge. With nothing but thin air below me and my belayer out of sight to communicate with, I decided to take a fall. Now, it wasnt just any fall, but a whipping sideways catastrophe about 140 feet off the deck. It was scary. I have taken many falls before but never one like that given the circumstances. I was about to just say “fuck this” (pardon my french) and just give up on this thing but I am not usually one to back down from something, especially when it comes to sports. So I got back on and struggled my way up to the top, sniffing rock the entire way for fear of taking another fall off the near blank granite.
At the top of the 2nd pitch (and 2 more to go), I watched my partner(who is stronger than me) struggle to do most of the moves. At that point, I wondered what we got ourselves into. I felt like I was on El Capitan with massive exposure and incredibly difficult climbing. At that exact moment when I was thinking this may have not been such a great idea, I looked over from my hanging belay about 180 ft off the ground and realized there was a massive forest fire above us on the ridge!
After discussing the situation with my climbing partner, we decided to back down and rap the route instead of finishing the next 2 pitches. We quickly hiked out not knowing if our car was going to be on fire when we got back to it. This fire was HUGE and close enough that the smoke made you cough and ashes were floating in the sky like snow flakes in a December snow storm. We jumped in our car not knowing if we were even going to make it back to the paved roads several miles away. We did make it back to the road although once we got there it was complete mayhem. Cops and fire fighters were out in full force evacuating people from their homes. There were cars pulled over on the side of the road everywhere, including ones parked in the middle of the road. It turns out that when people are nervous and excited they do stupid things like park their cars in the middle of the road! As we drove up the road and closer to the fire, a lady pulled right in front of my car screaming that we had to turn around because it was an emergency. She is handling herself well I thought to myself.
We knew it was serious when we drove by a house and the people who lived there were running to their cars with stacks of clothes and food in their hands. In a matter of about 5 minutes, the road was so black with smoke you couldn’t see 50 feet in front of you. Then we saw the flames on all of the surrounding hillsides. Then we saw all the other people in the area start to panic and it made us panic. All of the sudden I turned from an intrigued motorist trying to help to a nervous passerby just trying to get the hell out of there and to safety.
In the end of it all, it made me start thinking about the beginning. I first thought that I was getting in over my head on the climb. Then when I discovered the earth was on fire around us, I thought my car was going to be melted in the parking lot. Then I thought we wouldn’t be able to get back to the paved road due to the flames. Then I thought that we wouldn’t get off the road with the black smoke. Anyway, long story short, the lesson that I learned is to not let my mind wander into things beyond my control. Just do what needs to be done and everything will work out the way it was supposed to.
Hey, I think I just learned a valuable life lesson here……….