The next few days on the wall were, in a way, unstressed. I had already aided the Monster Offwidth and the burden of “failure” had been removed. I could focus more on climbing and on where I was. It was uplifting to find the moves on both the .13a “Boulder Problem” pitch and the .12 “Enduro Corner” less stout than I had imagined. The spectacular .12b/c exit roof onto the Headwall captured me and put me into a globe where I could see everything: the exposure, the granite, and I felt here, more than anywhere else on the wall, the freedom that Big Wall Climbing produces.
On the Headwall I took a good whipper as three pieces popped out of the first, hard-to-protect section. I was left dangling at the lip of the roof, but oddly felt little in the way of fear. Maybe my dehydrated mind was too focused on summiting. Maybe I was too tired. Either way, I worked back up the Headwall, this time on aid, and inspected the long, flaring crack for a future free climb attempt. The wall soon burned into that brilliant orange of evening granite and the wind, still warm and dry, picked up. The last section of the Headwall is a right leaning seam, with smears and tiny crimps. I envisioned myself on this, exiting the flared pod, and firing for the anchors. For me, this section is enough to bring me back.
I realize now the mistakes I made in planning for my ascent. The weather of course played a significant role, but going ground up, hauling everything, trying to onsight the route…these were unrealistic for many reasons. In retrospect, I can see myself working the pitches top down and stashing important supplies along the way before making a push from 3,600 feet below.
As Dustin and I topped out an odd feeling seemed to overcome both of us. It is so sudden, stepping onto a summit, and it is so little (in meaning, and in reality) when compared to the entirety of the route. You think so much about the summit along the way that all of the significance of a climb can be lost - the trials of each pitch stacked on top of one another, the thirst, the fear, the hauling, the intimate dialogue between partners about life. These things make up a climb and on the summit I realized how fleeting and momentary the “top” is and how eternal and important the rest of our climb was…