We spent our final semester in New Zealand. There were only eight of us kids by that point, the school limping towards towards the cliff of its unsettling demise. We were six boys and two girls, and by this point in the year, the boys had turned mean.
One week we did a trek in the Southern Alps. It rained all day, every day. We camped the second night on a hilltop overlooking a massive blue and white glacier. A fierce storm blew in that evening, kicking up wild winds so strong they ripped my English teacher's tent in half. She staked the shredded corners to the ground and to her ankles, and lay splayed on the ground for the duration of the night, a human anchor.
That night, I was not content sleeping alone in my tent. I was tired and almost frightened and everything was soaking wet. I remember that the splendor of the storm, the adventurous thrill that should have consumed me at the moment, was lost in a dismal sort of loneliness. The howling winds made it sound like I was the only one on the planet.
What a completely different situation it would be if I had a girlfriend lying next to me, and the two of us were trying to hold down the tent, and if we went sailing over the cliff into the ice, at least we'd be shrieking together. Sleep was out of the question, so I tried to write in my journal. With all the melodrama of the sixteen year old girl I was, I wrote "I'd give my right eye to have a friend with me right now."
I was thinking about that night last week, when Amber and I were falling asleep at the climber's camp beneath the grand wall in Squamish, BC. Our two dogs were curled up at opposite ends of the tent. The climbing that day had been phenomenal, perfect cracks and clean faces, but I'd been fighting off thoughts of Andrew the entire time. The sight of the big walls he'd told me so much about made my stomach flip with the memories of our multi pitch days together. That part of me, the part still tethered to him in my mind, is a real fucking bother.
But finally, after a very lively evening, I lay in the tent next to Amber and the memory of that night in New Zealand came bubbling up. We'd been talking for about an hour in the dark, and I felt a sudden stab of affection for her, of pure, almost giddy gratitude. The connection between old boyfriends (and all the rejection and unworthiness that comes with them) and climbing is dissolving, and once again the sport is starting to belong to me and my friends and the girls I would have, apparently, traded my eyes for twelve years ago.
::::We went to Squamish! Four people, three dogs, three crash pads and one car. We left on Thursday night at 8:00pm, were hopelessly lost in Vancouver by midnight on the dot, passed out at the camp site by two in the morning.
Four days gave us just a taste of the unending sport and trad routes of that little town on the road to Whistler. We even spent a half day engaged in the insufferable sport of bouldering. I'm really not into it, it's too hard and tedious for me, but my friends are obsessed, I don't know, they're crazy. But I will say they look good doing it.
|This never happened.|
|Amber Jackson Photo|
|Amber leading the 5.11d we thought was a 5.9|
|Sunshine taking a stab at the crux|
|Me leading a 5.10d we thought was a 5.8|
|Amber lent me her tights.|
I've been climbing for seventeen years now, in nine countries, and Squamish was some of the best rock I've ever put my hands on.
As for everything else. Bolt by bolt it gets easier. That long night when I was 16 did not end up with me being swept alone into the blue glacier, and neither will this one.