Last Wednesday was Independence Day in the U.S. I had the day off work and I decided I wanted to climb. My two close friends whom I usually climb with were taking off that Wednesday morning for Joe’s Valley to boulder through the weekend. While thinking of my options, the Climbfind site popped into my head. I had never used the site before but I found it through a friend on Facebook and decided to at least sign up for it since the majority of her posts are always intriguing, useful, or just awesome.
Once I learned out how to navigate the site, which was pretty easy to figure out, I found 3 posts for Boulder, CO. I read each excerpt and looked at the pictures. The most interesting and attractive photo was posted by Luca De Giorgi. So, after some debate with myself about the different ways the situation could go, I decided to reply to this Luca character. Now, let’s get the definition of attractive down here; the photograph wasn’t just some action portrait. No. It was a black and white image of a man with a huge hand covering his face. I enjoyed the artistry, the aesthetically pleasing aspects of the image, and the fact that you simply couldn’t know what was behind that hand. I decided to pass judgement on the photo alone and go with the unknown.
His email response detailed: easier than a 5.11d, jet-lagged, harness, shoes, no gear. In the day or so it took for the response, I immediately began to analyze the situation. I had never taken someone out climbing before per se nor had I done much climbing up Boulder Canyon without people who knew the rocks (and their climbing skills) like the back of their hand. In my head I had an idea that this random person might know a little bit about the Canyon. When Luca called me, I was driving with Alyssa to a friend’s house. I quickly lost track of listening to Alyssa’s directions as my ear was immediately ambushed by a thick Italian accent. The dude was straight out of Italy. I thought back to his Climbfind post and I am not exactly sure what part of me wasn’t immediately triggered into thinking he was actually Italian.
“Hello, i’m a passionate italian climber on holidays in boulder. And i’m desperate to climb on these amazing rocks. I’m very experienced, also on trad climbing and happy to do every kind of climbing.”
I immediately knew that Luca was not going to know anything about the Canyon, let alone Colorado. It was actually his first time visiting the States all together. After informing him I was borrowing gear and that I had never really done this sort of thing before, I entered my detective mode and asked: “Do you know how to lead?”, “How long have you been climbing for?”, and “How old are you?” He informed he could lead, he had been climbing for just under 14 years, and he was 25. After a short back and forth of figuring out a next-step game plan, we hung up and Alyssa promptly informed me that it was possibly the sketchiest way I could have handled the situation. She said I probably seemed like someone who was unsure of everything. We laughed about it and decided to just hope everything would work out.
I met him at 8 a.m. the next morning in front of the Prana store on Pearl Street. Because I am an addict of warm drinks, I took him to Trident so that I could get my favourite Vanilla Latte in town and so that he could see a coffee shop in Boulder. Besides, what better way to break the ice?
And then, onward.
I received some beta from Travis and Alyssa, a rope, quickdraws, and a guide book. I was taking Luca to Avalon Wall. He was excited and seemed pretty legit. I enjoyed his good energy but was still nervous as I was in a completely new territory. I was in charge. We parked. We prepared. We forged the river – Luca barefoot, me tyroleaning. Scampered up boulders. Unpacked the gear. We were ready.
We chose to start with a route named Sword in the Stone (5.9+). At this point, I knew I was in the thick of it. I breathed and prepared to lead. I haven’t done much leading as it is a completely different head space. In fact, the prospect of falling terrifies me a little bit. I told myself I knew what I was doing and remembered the words from some of my climbing mentors. One deep breath and I was off. Everything went smoothly and I made it to the top. Luca prepared to clean the route on lead after me, “I am really excited to feel the rock here.” First route: complete success.
Mists of Avalon (5.10a) was next on the list. It had a tiny roof to get over before finishing the last few bolts to the anchors. It was Luca’s turn to lead first. He did it so gracefully I decided I was going to lead it as well. Success number two was in the bag.
We hiked up to the Second Tier where we met up with one of my friends and his buddy for a climb: Dominator (5.10b). We decided that I would climb first so that I could perch on the ledge up top in order to take pictures. The climb was beautiful with an awesome finger crack just before the anchors (however, the last bolt didn’t have a hanger). My head was a little chattery at times. At those points, I decided to take, breathe, and climb on.
While Luca and I discussed what to do next, we watched and cheered on a random climber who was on a route we were considering.
I decided I wanted to lead Supernatural (5.10d). It felt pretty ballsy, but looked fun. Luca decided he wanted to lead Stranger Science (5.11d). After snacking, we set out on our mission. I asked for some quick beta from the random climber chic and she ended up giving me a few small cams to take up on the route with me in order to protect a few areas if I should want to. It was the first lead route that I have done setting my own trad gear instead of cleaning it. I was stoked. My belay partner cheered me on and encouraged me. I topped out a bulge and before I knew it, the anchors were practically staring down my nostrils. I did it. Yes. I truly did know what I was doing and I was pushing my boundaries to a new-founded progress.
Afterward, Luca tied his knot in preparation for battling a Stranger Science. I learned in Italy an 11d is equivalent to a 7a. The Italian climbed his way to the crux and cruised past it, grunting in full combat mode. “Come on Luca, breathe. You got this. Breathe.” And he did. He sent the route and had the brightest, most energetic smile on his face. It was the kind of smile that displayed a true in the moment happiness.
…to be continued.
© /skin/ /ˈpōətrē/