Sunday, May 22, 2011

Backyard Friction

My first Sandias climb of the season was in February. I took a fall wearing boots on 5.6 terrain when my foot unexpectedly popped (it was clean). Today, the stellar crux pitch of Mountain Momma (III 5.10c) is behind me and I'm breathing easy. In rock shoes, I understood friction properly and employed physics well.

In the mountains, with light and fast as the creed, I tend to slide down the scale to light and slow. That's never a good thing, but today I don't mind it. Today I find myself ignoring my watch. At belays I stare idly across the canyon at The Thumb, and try to keep my eye trained on swallows as they swoop the wall in and out of nest (I think one flew into the upper crux crack with Micah just below). I want the granite to inflate to the size of the day and displace everything else. We often scheme tactics to compress a big objective into a day, so why not stretch a small one to the same end?

At the top we banter on cruxes while looking down on the city. We feel lucky but valid in our position; we also feel sorry for the people driving the matchbox cars on the distant roads, knowing full well that tomorrow will have us equally trapped. Were it not for this craggy hill outside of town, Albuquerque would be just barely tolerable. But we do have the foothills and the crest and the option of projecting hard trad after work, and I can run off for a quiet and contrived mission when I hanker. The Sandias may well be the dirty old cowboy bar of the alpine world -- a brawl is always an option if you're asking, or tuck yourself in the corner and no one will bother you.

I can't identify my house, but what's the difference from up here? Our position on the Torreon has done its job as a filter, stripping away so much of our culture to yield a simple existence, at least for a while. On Monday I will stare out my office window and the mountains will appear as a TV image. I'll be working towards an end I'll never see nor feel, which started in a place I will never really understand. Contrarily, I understand each step I took today as elements of scree and sticks and soil, and I can almost hear the ring of pins being pounded in 1977. Tomorrow, I will be thankful for the cuts on my knuckles.

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