Bloody knuckles, Death, and the God light

4/22/10

This morning I did the first ascent of the second route that I bolted here. I called it Bloody Knuckles. In the process of creating it, I cut open all the knuckles on my right hand when the wrench suddenly popped off of one of the bolts that I was tightening. Then, I opened all of the knuckles on my left hand when it slipped off of a wet, muddy hold while working the moves out. The first route, I called Dog Wars as a tribute to all the communal dogs that roam around these hills. Some are friendly…on our very first climbing day, we had one follow us to the crag and stay with us all day long. Some are not…on another climbing day we almost got attacked on two different occasions, and we have routinely heard dogs warring with each other during the night.

Upon rolling to the crag for the evening session to climb in the “God light”…the last light of the day, we arrived to find 3 fallen baby birds struggling on the ground. It quickly became an ordeal. We deduced with our big human brains that they had come from a hand hole(d) on one of the warm-up climbs. But how?…What to do?… What to do?…God damn it! We tripped over ourselves for about a half an hour before making a decision. Finally, I shoveled them into the head pocket of my pack, tied it onto my harness, and then embarked up the climb in my approach shoes. There was noise coming from the hole, so we assumed that there were more babies in there. My only hope was that mama bird wasn’t home to attack my ass when I got up there. I hung on the rope next to the hole, and peered in to see 4 other babies fending for position with mouths wide open ready to be fed. Alright, I thought, time to be done with this ordeal, and get onto climbing. I reached in the head pocket, which was dangling on my harness, and snagged one of the fallen. I put it in my left hand, and kind of stuffed it in. I held my hand over the hole for a second just to make sure it was in there. When I retracted it to look, the fucker was doing the splits, still clinging to my sleeve with one foot and had the other foot in the hole, and before I could stuff it back in, it leapt from it’s gymnastic stance to the rocky abyss below. SHIT! A couple of bounces off of the rocks later, the thing was dead on the ground. Are you fucking kidding me? I was stunned and pissed. I plucked each of the remaining two out of the head pocket and jammed them in the hole a bit more forcefully to ensure that the tragedy wouldn’t occur again. Each joined the group in the hole without any resistance. I returned to the ground, untied from the rope, and crouched over the lifeless chick. It was the stillest still. I felt weird, sad, confused, angry at my lack of understanding. I offered it a proper burial ritual by hucking it off of a cliff into the bushes, and thereby ending the crisis…or so I thought. About an hour later, while belaying in the same zone, I heard a thud on the ground behind me. I looked down, and sure enough…there was a baby bird rolling around in the dirt. FUCK. I realized that nature was playing a cruel joke on me…Some birds just try to fly before they are ready. Unfortunately for them, it results in their own demise, for they cannot fend for themselves upon failure. That is the nature of their nature. For us, however, I think that we can learn many valuable lessons by allowing our fear of meeting expectations and of failure to subside, and simply jumping into the abyss. It is the nature of our nature. A gift really.

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