It is fall break.
I LOVE fall break!
After a week and a half of conferences after school causing me to be home stupidly late (including two nights of getting home at 8:30 -- ewwwwww), I have a five day weekend. Five days with nothing to do but enjoy the beautiful 70 degree weather with RetiredHubby. We contemplated a few different big trips, but ended up settling on a weekend at home, hanging with the dog and playing in the area.
Wednesday was one of the most pleasant "here" days in recent history. We slept in, ate some pancakes, then ventured to Boulder for a big adventure. Climbing the 3rd flatiron.
For those of you not from Colorado, Boulder is known (among other, less pleasant things) for this view:
Those rocks jutting up out of the mountain are called "The Flatirons." They are numbered from right to left -- the far right being the first flatiron, the middle is the second, and the next tall one is the third flatiron and so on.
I've always looked at the Flatirons, been awed by their beauty, and amazed that people even think about climbing them.
So Wednesday, I found myself at the base of the third flatiron, harness on, uncomfortable rock shoes laced up, looking up at what I always thought to be an impossibility. Only those "crazy" people climb such things.
We were climbing to get to the top so we could see some friends and lend them a rope to get back down. Chris led us up the climb, placing gear along the way, and stopping at the first belay point to allow me to start climbing and catch up. The first five feet were frustrating and I couldn't find a way to get up.
Keep in mind this is the FOURTH time I've climbed. Ever. Inside or out.
Needless to say, I was a bit rusty, nervous, and generally unpracticed. But I found a way up the first little part and then the climbing got a bit easier. I made my way up to Chris, who happened to be up over a little ledge that took some finagling to get over. He tied me into an anchor, made sure I was secure in belaying him up the next pitch, then started to climb. And so I cried. I looked out over the view, and the long way I'd fall if something went wrong, and I freaked out a little. But I'm happy to say that this was my only freak-out of the entire climb. Chris calmed me down, offered that we could turn back, and kept me positive.
Then he headed up to the next belay station. I was kinda awkwardly stationed so I looked up at Chris climbing when I could wrench my neck around, but otherwise I read the tension on the rope and fed it through to him as he flew up the rock like a tiny dancer. More often than not, throughout the entire climb, Chris could climb faster than I could feed the rope through to him. He was careful, as leading up a climb requires some caution, but he moved gracefully. Soon he was setting up the next anchor and calling to me to unhook and start climbing.
So I did.
Each pitch got a little easier and a little quicker. In general I'm a slow climber. I'm happy to admit to that. I would stop, analyze the next few feet, find places to put my feet and hands and plan a route up to Chris. Each time I'd stop to belay Chris, I'd feel a bit more secure. The cool thing about climbing is that after you get used to the initial shock of the exposure, it really doesn't get worse the higher you go. At least in this case.
So I got used to the view -- looking down on the small, hippy town that I spent four years growing myself in. I looked out at the brown haze that crowded the horizon and engulfed Denver. I admired the geographic features and bumps that make up the foothills around us.
At some point we had to cross over a big crack in the surface of the flatiron, which was a little interesting. As I climbed down into the crack and climbed back up the other side, I thought about how amazing it is that any of this even exists.
The climbing on the other side of the crack was my favorite of the day. I'd gotten into a groove and was able to move quicker and more securely. Think of it as you will, but I found that climbing can be an extremely spiritual experience. I got to a point where I had to let go of my own inhibitions and worries. I had to trust that someone out there was looking after me, pushing me a little so that I wouldn't fall. I moved with purpose, moved to places that I knew were secure and would hold my feet, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a little conversation with the man upstairs as I got nervous. It also helped, dramatically, to know that I had Chris up ahead of me, placing secure gear, able to catch me if I happened to get bad footing. He cheered me on, encouraged me, and gave me enough confidence to keep moving.
Eventually we made it to the last ledge, the last rest, before the final grunt to the top. Chris sprung up ahead, warning me of a few sections that didn't have good holds, where I'd have to rely more on the friction from my hands and shoes. I was nervous, as I'd heard that the last 20 feet is the true crux of the entire route.
He made it to the top, bribed me with delicious sandwich, chips, and Butterfinger. Food never fails to motivate me. So I headed up the pitch. I followed a few chalk marks from previous climbers and ended up finding a pretty good route up to the top. It wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. I joined Chris on the summit, we admired the views, and high fived our accomplishment of getting each other up it.
We were soon joined by some new friends, who helped us set up the rappel for the way down. There were two different options -- go one way that required three short rappels, or go the other way which was one big free-hanging rappel to the ground. I wanted to go the three short rappel way, as I've never done a solo rappel outside the rafters in my garage. I was worried about controlling my own speed and somehow falling 60 feet to the ground SOUNDS better than 200 feet. Either way it's not good, obviously, but it sounded better.
I seriously give into peer pressure. There were three guys on top and me. Three Chris's and a Marni -- three who thought I should just do the big rappel and then me who didn't. One Chris was my hubby who I trust my life to. One of the other Chris's happens to be a certified rock instructor. They told me how one Chris could wait at the bottom and be a backup for my rappel, the instructor Chris could be at the top reassuring me that I was doing it right. HubbyChris could rappel down next to me on a different rope and encourage me mid-air. So I gave in. Without freaking out, might I add.
Before I knew it InstructorChris was telling me to step back off the rock. Hubby Chris was a little below me on his own rope. I inched my way off, very much not prettily or gracefully, but there I was, suspended 200 feet off the ground hanging from a rope, controlling my own speed with which I slid down to the ground. Hubby helped me keep going without freaking out. Overall it wasn't that bad. I went pretty slow. I didn't look down until I was within 20 feet of the ground. The scariest part was when the rope twists and I'm no longer facing the rock, but instead facing out at the world. I was high above the trees. That was weird. At some point, after hubby had zoomed to the ground, that the two Chris's at the bottom yelled up: "Are your eyes even open???" Yes, they were open, I was just not going to look down. No matter what.
Eventually, probably the slowest in history, I made it to the ground. I was very happy to touch solid ground again. And very proud of my accomplishment. We hiked around for a bit to find the other Chris making his way down a different way, and then as it turned dark we made our way back to the car.
Dinner afterwards with new and old friends was delicious and fun. These guys can climb that Flatiron in MINUTES while it took me a few hours.
It may have been slow, but I made it.
I stood atop Boulder.
I soared (slowly) to the ground.
I was scared but I found a way to work through it.
I'm now very sore.