And, perhaps more importantly, don’t bullshit the people who have entrusted their life to your hands. It sounds harsh, but the title is a phrase we use in the gym a lot. Usually it is said in relation to the integrity of the training done, or when it becomes tempting to believe that you cannot accomplish a task that is well within your capabilities. Sometimes, I think of it in relation to things that I want to do, yet deep in my heart I realize are not yet possible.
I arrived in Yosemite valley on Sunday night, just in time for a spectacular sunset and my first glimpses of this amazing granite playground.
I felt fortunate to reconnect with my friend Barry whom I met in Moab, UT a few weeks ago, and we quickly made plans to climb the Kor-Beck route on Middle Cathedral on Thursday. The route went well, and I felt confident on my first few leads in the valley (yes, this is the same Layton Kor that put up the route on Castleton Tower from a few weeks ago). Despite our success on the route, my foot still commanded enough attention that I wasn’t able to complete the 6 pitches without painkillers.
Friday I linked up with another Australian named Kim for a round of harder single pitch climbing. I was actually more pleased with falling off the crux of “Stone Groove” well above my last nut, and taking 3 whippers before giving the lead up to Kim. Traditionally I’ve had trouble falling on my gear- I have trouble trusting it, but recently I’ve felt much more confident in my placements. That said, I was a bit rattled at the hard start to the day, and Kim was psyched to lead several more hard pitches, so I enjoyed following and working on my crack technique. Still, by the fifth pitch, my left foot was so painful I was unable to jam it into the right facing crack (which typically demands left foot jams), and I suspect Kim was a little bewildered at the trouble I had climbing 3 grades below my limit. I wasn’t interested in more painkillers, and Kim wasn’t interested in watching me suffer. He and I discussed the situation, and took a rest while I soaked my feet in the Merced River. Late in the day Kim and I found one more irresistable 5.11a at Cookie Cliff, which Kim lead brilliantly, and didn’t require more than scant use of my left foot.
This morning Barry, Aaron (a new friend from Bishop, CA), and I went out to a practice crag just next to the campground. My foot was still swollen from the previous exploits, and my hands were cut and bruised from two days of jamming without tape (the best way to build callouses). We top roped a flaring handcrack, and on my second insecure lap, I accidentally dropped in a solid left foot jam. The pain was excruciating and the end of climbing today was obvious.
And so, when Steve-O arrived full of psyche and energy, I knew I could not bullshit myself- or him. I cannot offer any level of reasonable partnership to my friend in going up the Salathe route on El Cap. Were my foot in good health, I would, but as it stands it’s a liability to me, and to Steve-O. It’s been 2 months and 3 days since my surgery, and when he first invited me on the route, I had hoped it would be healed by now. It’s not and despite the tremendous commitment and energy I have put into being here right now, that forces me to reconsider my agenda. It would be irresponsible to myself and my friend to try to “make it happen.” Thanks to my brother for some excellent advice in thinking this through, and to Steve-O for being an incredibly understanding partner. Suddenly, doing the Salathe route becomes a much higher priority for another time in my life.
Some part of me regrets not making this call earlier, regrets not being more honest with myself and my friend, not being more careful about my recovery and about having arranged my trip to this point to be able to be here, now for this event that will not be happening. I’m still squaring with this change in plans, but it feels good to be honest with myself, and to allow Steve-O the option of greater success. I’m resting today, and may climb the next few as I’m able. Stay tuned for more plans.