The sun spills into the small dining/sitting area as it rises above the distant mesa. The sky is void of clouds and blends seamlessly from grays to periwinkles and salmons and oranges.
Morning Edition plays on an old radio, the silver, analog, battery operated, fork-stuck-in-for-the-broken-antenna kind while tea steam curls lazily upward from my mug.
I am balled up, arms pulling my knees to my chest. It is warm but I shiver in my two puffy jackets. Outside, shadows creep down the spires, crags, and trees among which the little white trailer is parked.
I am happy in this place. It feels right. But I am sad. I am not sure why, but I am conscious of tears and swallow deeply to pull them back. Maybe I now realize these moments are fleeting, dear.
“Where should we climb?” Anna asks. She sits opposite me, the rising sun coming through the glass edges her sideways away from the bright rays. Right now it is just the two of us; days prior had seen other old friends and the days to come will bring more. Days ago, some random chance had three of my friends, two of whom were once my closest, converge upon this landscape. The four of us swapped belays, ate burritos, and drank beers and it felt fitting and right. Sharing belays with Sydney and Matt would prove to be like riding a bicycle. Nobody had anything to prove and at least for me, I know I had settled into my own skin. Memories and stories were tossed about like empty Coors cans from a van. My heart was full and it still hurts.
Today though, the Broken Tooth will be our goal. So we have a leisurely morning of tea and sun and coffee and repacking; the routes we want are further around a prow that acts as a giant sundial. While they get later sun, they hold the sun longer and we can climb later into the day. Yesterday’s crag faced east and we were back at the car by four, having been chased out by shade and a light breeze.
The rutted, rocky road leads to an empty parking lot. Summer monsoons and recent heavy rains have washed out the trail and we navigate the resulting water grooves. Sun diverters us toward Rock Lobster and after a brief reprieve, Anna racks up for the lead while I prep the rope. After a few top rope laps and some sun sitting, we pack up and migrate left. There, in the sun, perched above steep talus, Golden Crown lords imposingly over us with all sorts of hands and small roofs in a mostly right facing corner. We poke into the corner at the base and back up to take a better look.
“Well, any thoughts?” I ask.
“It is your lead” Anna responds.
Yep, she just tried hard (enough), now I have to. I look up at the gently overhanging hand crack and know she is right, heck I knew it before I asked the question…sack up Spaulding. What was once touted as the best 5.11- at Indian Creek with out a name, has been retro-named. They call it Golden Crown, but I think it should be called Golden Skirt.
The yellow Camalots create a hula skirt off my harness, though there are a few other sizes in there too. Climbing hasn’t been in my regular repertoire as late, much less long, strenuous climbing and, as to be expected, up high I fight rope drag and pump. Of course it happens in a fist crack, though I know on this five star crack that a hand jam is never very far away. I stick in a number four and power through the move, but not without a slip that slots my fist onto the cam. In classic thrutch fashion, I move quickly out of the inadvertent french free, breathing quickly before gaining another hand jam. My heart beats hard as I clip the chains.
The day ends with Anna sending 42 meters of climbing on the Dental Floss Tycoon in good style. We eke out a lower with an eighty meter but have to down climb through some boulder terrain. Today, we had the crag to ourselves and climbed three lines, each over 115 feet. Nothing too pretty and nothing too proud, but we tried hard and pushed ourselves and we traipse down the trail under high cirrus clouds to the truck, some beers, and buriitos at the trailer.
The day typifies the Indian creek story. Beautiful skies, some trying hard, no crowds, long routes, and someone with whom to share the silence.