Sunday, April 1, 2018

Feeling Young Climbing "The Old Woman" in Joshua Tree

It was a crisp December day and winter break had just started for me.  Christmas was just two days away and I was looking most forward to spending time with my family this year.  We planned no trips, so that we could be ready to do anything on a moment's notice.  So... when my sister suggested rock climbing in Joshua Tree the day after my brother's return from Mississippi, we were all up for it.

Alas, my brother's flight ended up arriving at 2:15 AM due to a delay and we were planning on leaving at 7:00 that day.  We didn't let that stop us, though.  Despite having only slept three or four hours each, we all dragged ourselves out the door and two hours down the highway bright and early.  We were probably all delirious from lack of sleep, but it was so worth it.  I thought that it was lots of fun clambering over boulders and watching the pros scale these huge cliff faces... until I put a helmet on my head and clipped into a harness.  I didn't think that I'd make it very far, but we were all surprised that I actually inched myself all the way up to the top of "The Old Woman."  It was a grueling slog up a long, vertical crack, involving fist and hand jamming and a LOT of deep breathing.  The official name of this route is called the Double Cross, and I can proudly say that I conquered it on my first outdoor climb ever!

Wes wasn't able to try climbing, but he avidly documented the day's events in these photos.  We stayed out until the sun set and really had a good time with my sister's friends, who were all like monkeys on these walls.  I am so grateful that she invited us along and so in awe of what climbers can do when they are released outdoors.  I am also grateful for the perspective that I gained from this climb--literally (it was a grand view from up there!) and figuratively.

So first, Andrew had to set the route for us by lead climbing straight up the rock face without any anchors.  He seriously made it look so quick and easy...but how crazy is that?!

Three-year-old Emma was there too.  She was clambering up on all of the boulders that she could without hesitation with her grippy little feet and hands.  Good thing her mommy got her a harness and her own pair of climbing shoes!

Margaret went up next.  Climbing means so much to her and it was personally fulfilling to watch her own that crack.  She seemed really comfortable on the rock, and she wasn't even wearing a helmet or any specialized gear, really.  I think I was happy enough just watching her do it.

Wesley's (my brother) turn!  He bought his own pair of climbing shoes while studying abroad in Singapore two years ago, where he got into the sport of indoor climbing himself.  I think it's really cool that he is literally willing to attempt anything - climbing like Margaret, snowboarding like me, and a whole slew of other interesting things that he does, like singing, social dancing, cycling, coding, lego-building, jumping out of planes, you name it.

And then it was my turn.  Surely, I didn't wake up this morning thinking that I'd even be attempting anything today, but I definitely felt the itch to try when watching three people before me go up.  Plus, Margaret and I wear the same shoe size!  So, I slipped on her climbing shoes, just as I'd steal her cute Keds or sandals in high school.  But this time, I would literally know how it feels like to be "in her shoes."

Wes backed up to get some perspective on how freaking tall this rock was!  I think he had time to back up also because I took soooo long to make it even halfway.  But every time I doubted myself, I took a breath, asked for advice from my supporters down below, and told myself (or fooled myself) that I was almost there.  I mentally doubted myself a ton and physically my body was hurting in weird places, but I somehow found some weird inner confidence to press on.

Excuse all the photos, but I think that Wes was equally as shocked as I was that I was able to make it all the way up to the very top...and he knew that he'd never hear the end of it if he didn't document this once-in-a-lifetime moment in full!  Heehee, thanks Wes.

I realized that I had my phone in my pocket during the climb, so I turned around and took these photos!

The sense of accomplishment after so much self-doubt and hard work is something I'm sure that everyone goes through in real life, over extended periods of time, in various environments at home, work, the gym, etc.  But in this little episode on the Double Cross, all of these mixed feelings--small triumphs, annoyance, embarrassment, hopefulness, and desperation--were compressed into the span of twenty (or maybe more) minutes.  It was an emotional rollercoaster that I would give nothing to have never experienced.  I can't help but think now, that if life throws me a big fat crack to climb, I just need to apply all of the same tricks and mindset.  Sometimes in real life, the "top" isn't visible or even understandable, but it's there, and the feeling of reaching that point is totally worth the struggle.

I couldn't have done it without them!  Thanks so much to you guys!

We just relaxed on some giant rocks watching the others boulder for the rest of the afternoon, which went by quickly.  Wes and I took a walk and sort of soaked in what had just happened while taking some additional photos of how scenic this place was.

Gosh, I don't know what he is doing here.

We had a great day with Margaret and Andrew's crew, and Wesley!  We'd totally back here to camp sometime this year and probably hike among these awesome geological formations.  It would also be awesome to try going vertically again if Margaret and Andrew come with us and bring all of their shiny toys and ropes :)

We said bye to everybody and then scrambled up some huge rocks to watch the sunset.  Wesley and Andrew had a couple of beers - I think that Wesley was very happy that somebody brought alcohol.

We finally drove back in the dark and had a very big dinner at Sun Nong Dan!  Then, everyone crashed in our apartment and we cooked a big breakfast (with Schat's Bakery bread, Guatemalan tamales, and Wes's soft-scrambled eggs) the next morning.  It was the perfect ending to this mini trip, and a perfect beginning of mine/Wesley's winter break!  I'm glad that I finally got around to blogging it.

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