Accepting failure is not easy, choosing to back off and surrender is even harder but I knew it was the right choice and perhaps my only choice given that my body’s core temperature was dropping fast. As Dillon lowered me down and my feet hit the ground I was infused with disappointment. Although I knew I didn’t have the power left in me to pull thru the roof of the climb I knew I could do it and that settled in mind as I walked away with a new nemesis in my life.
I don’t take failure very well, perhaps nobody does but I think it’s also a learning process. As my friends would tell you I don’t give up and failing consumes me like the plague. I have learned you have to loose the emotions of failure and concentrate on how to move forward in life. The failure of my marriage taught me so many things but unfortunately the process and emotions of the situation consumed me and it took time to except the situation and learn from it. As I continued down the mountain I reminded myself of these lessons and found myself looking back every few moments catching one last look of deprivation.
The damn pillar drove me nuts I think my friends were sick of hearing about it but I was determined to go back for a second try. The temperatures over the next week were super warm and I started thinking that my chances for another go were melting away. Since daylight savings got me an extra hour of light after work I decided to drive up the valley to see if my secret stick of ice was still standing. As I got closer my heart started to race like I was going on a first date with a smoking hot sexy girl but I reminded myself I live Cody, Wyoming and this pillar was the sexiest thing in my life. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I came around the corner to see it still standing and I was instantly fired up to get a second date with it.
My text message to partners “The Cow Is Fat….Its Time To Slaughter”
Within a few hours I had a crew together for the assault and everybody was fired up and ready to go. I decided getting to the pillar early in the morning was going to be a key factor in our success so Kenny Gasch and Dan Miller and I got set to leave town at 5:30.
Hiking up in the moonlight was relaxing and tranquil; the peaks towered above our heads glowing with snow like flashlights guiding our way. The valley temperature was only 30 but a cool breeze was felt rushing off the alpine slopes above us as we climbed the lower pitches below our objective. A rising sun hit our backs as we climbed the last pitch and Kenny and Dan were able to get their first look at the looming pillar above.
I stood at the base apprehensive and nervous especially after seeing the horizontal fracture line all the way across the top of the pillar had gotten bigger since my last visit. I quickly tied in ready and willing to take the risks of climbing the pillar. My biggest concern was the fracture line and the free hanging pillars hanging above that I would have to climb.
The lower part of the pillar sounded like an empty milk jug as I kicked my way up and finding protection was like looking for a date in Cody…the odds are good but the goods are odd!
Once I reached the roof my heart rate jumped, I carefully threw a tool into the free hanging pillar wondering if it was just going to explode and plummet to the ground like the one did last week on My Morning Glory. I think Kenny and Dan were both worried about this as well since they were scrambling below like mice in a box trying to escape the claws of ice falling from above. Each move was unique and it was like no other climbing I had ever done before, I had to figure out the sequence of movements like the cha cha each step was important and led me to progress to the next tool or foot placement. There is nothing nonchalant about swinging into a free hanging dagger of ice and as I moved on to the last one I could barely hold on to my tools. My arms were pumped out and I was concentrating every ounce of power left to hang on. If you have ever been this pumped you know exactly what I mean, someone could hand you a bottle of water and you just cant hold on no matter how much you try. Falling was not an option and it would be a huge ride with definite consequences not to mention marginal gear and a fractured pillar. I held on with everything I had and was completely afraid of dropping a tool but somehow I managed to climb as fast as I could to the top without failure.
Needless to say I was psyched and yelled at the top of my lungs throughout the valley. I felt like I had just escaped from the biggest whipper of my life. The hardest part was done and I held on with every ounce of energy and muscle I had. My muscles were instantly sore so I knew I pushed myself hard, I guess the thought of falling and possible serious injury allows you to push your limits!
The Gambler is now the name of one of Cody’s hardest ice routes