Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thirty One

I thought we'd try 31 pitches in a day at Seneca for my 31st birthday, then get home in time to enjoy steak and wine for dinner.

What is it about this stage of life that makes me want to inaugurate my years with cute feats of athleticism?  Must I prove something?  Am I satirizing the impulse that I should prove something?  Either way, it's good fun.

Plus, a day of moderate routes has been on my mind for a long time.  We spend so much time pushing the frontiers of our ability that we seldom revel in the hills we've captured.  This would be a chance to enjoy the freedoms of vertical movement we've worked so hard to earn.

"To be home for dinner at 7pm, we need to hit the road by 4pm.  Assume 2 pitches per hour, up and down--that's 15+ hours of climbing, and we'll need to start by midnight."  The calculus was steeped in optimism, but it offered a glimpse of what we were dealing with.

I should note that Seneca is not your typical crag.  It's not a simple junction of vertical and horizontal with a park-like atmosphere, like something out of a Seurat painting.  It's not the Gunks or the New River Gorge.  Seneca is an MC Esher with ledges, ramps, and walls that connect in baffling ways.  These would be 31 rope lengths in a three dimensional labyrinth.  Who knew how this would go?

We armed ourselves with home-made black bean tacos and a trove of addictive cookies baked by Laura,  waded through the Friday rush hour, and exited the highway by the three giant white crosses, two oversized american flags, and municipal water tank--all arranged upon the hill like a still-life representation of the lands were we about to enter.

The steering wheel of Alex's Subaru tugged to the right.  I knew the tires were near bald from seasons of pushing them north, south, west...maybe this was just a warning.

"It's flat."

We pulled to the side of the road, swapped the tire by the light of a kind WV officer who'd come to investigate our hazards, and continued on our way listening to the whine of the front differential compensating for the doughnut.  Our adventure had officially begun.

We could see headlamp beams draped across the distant wall as we pulled into the lot around 11pm.  We met their owners as we silently marched up the darkened stair cases in the woods, and exchanged a few words.  They had their adventure--finally coming to a happy and welcome close, triumphant over stuck ropes and the uncertainty of darkness--and we had ours, just now emerging from belligerent daydream to the conflicting sensations of reality.