Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Red Rock: The Gift of a Trip

"Dude, name that band, name that band," says the shirtless knit-capped twenty-something climbing gym patron of the post-garageband-1st-world-white-teen-angst rock playing via Pandora on the establishment sound system. His friend first tries planned ignoring, head down, seated at one of the glass tables between roped and bouldering climbing areas, studying a laptop or something. Slowly he looks up, stalling for time, "what?" then acquiescence, "who?"

"Name that band," said with expectation of Holy Communion between individual experiences, with voice loud enough to invite the half dozen of us within eavesdropping range to observe his membership, to invite us to join, or at least to want to join.

Funny, the expectation of communion. You chase your musical whims in the vast field of methodically arranged aural frequency sets to find a particular set that tingles you in old and new regions. You play and replay it. You attach it to your collage of self. You watch for perked up ears among the outside collages when you play it. Then you see someone else get tingled and it's like you're sharing the same parts. You're made of the same stuff. You attain elusive intimacy that well-functioning humans seek.

To observe the musical interfacing from the outside feels perverse, like witnessing PDA, or, in this case, a failed pick up line. "It's...'' I didn't recognize the name. "Oh, really, I didn't know..." I left to complete my session.

I’d been diligent about maintaining a streak of lunchtime sessions during the week. There simply is no other time, and to climb a few boulder problems, strength train a little, and run one mile each day on the treadmill is enough to keep me whole, but now the lunchtime workout was engendered with a sense of mission. My wife's mom and brother were coming to town for the weekend. The kids were covered. I could go climbing.

Alex and I attempted to plan a traverse of the Presidential Range in NH for this weekend weeks ago, but I had no kid coverage.  It fizzled. Then he made plans with Spencer, who has been further hardening his slender man visage to ice monster function between congressional recesses. Now I'm back and crashing the party. Spencer had our sights north so far as Quebec, where there are ice falls the color of sanitary outfall, d'Or as they say, 1000' tall, and where you have to ski, or ski doo, as they say, 10 miles to access the flows. But man, that's a lot to try and pack into a long weekend, and the forecast was for the kind of dense cold that feels like death itself, crystalline yet liquid, curling into your nostrils, frosting nasal hairs to an iced web that cracks as you wrinkle your nose, and there's no good feedback saying that the big poop flows are in condition.

And ice climbing is a rough sport to adopt with home base in DC. As a rock climber you feel that your skills should segue well to climbing ice, but then you encounter the severity of it. You fall off good steep rock and the rope whips through carabiners attached to metal wedged in solid rock substrate till rope tension, gentle swing into wall, and bounce to a stop. You fall off ice, which grows clean only at low, leg breaking angles, and is chandeliered when straight, and your rope whips through carabiners attached to metal in brittle water substrate till rope tension, gentle swing, crampon point catches ice, ankle break, or, worse, chandelier blows up. It defies the casual approach. I used to just get after it, embrace fear. I faked it. Now I don't want to fake it. I want to do it for real as the ice monster with tuned strength and instincts, but you have to have a certain surplus of time to nurture regionally esoteric skills. Anyway. There was doubt in my heart you see. High’s of 70 degrees in Red Rock outside of Vegas? Alex saw it too. Yessiree. Tickets booked. Hotel booked.

The wonderful thing about ice climbing is that it transports you to a crisp, ethereal, brisk world of glinting, refracting light, and sounds all hushed by snow, but, inevitably, after a few bouts of the screaming barfies where blood returns to freezing digits and complains loudly about the whole getting shut out in the first place thing and slugs the same part of your CNS that makes you want to barf after getting hit in the genitals, you start to daydream about the simple life of climbing rock on gear in determinate substrate, birds singing, warm light as around sunrise or sunset, with only the need for thin fabric covering. This time, dead of winter, we're cutting straight to that warm image, and we're going to live it out. We are going to play act the dream. Spencer, I'm afraid, is too tuned up. He refuses the dream. He will roam quarries in PA in search for ice.