My body fights my conscience as blood rushes thru my veins; the rhythm of movement is lost as my personal strength is kamakazied by my core.
Climbing, Kayaking, work or relationships we have all found that point at which you could give no more. In the past few years of my life I have met this point more times then I care to admit too, but I have learned something each time. I have learned that the battle to hold on or change something in your life is not always the answer and that in many situations it prolonged the pain or made things worse. We fight everything in our lives and so it seems natural to only succumb to failure kicking, screaming and bruised as you finally fall at surrenders door.
My battles and fights with my business, relationships and personal challenges have been difficult and life changing at times. I have felt the winds of heaven brush against my face and the devil pulling at my toes and thru these triumphs I have been able to find my soul.
I stared up the pillar like a kid staring into the cookie jar….I knew I shouldn’t but I wanted it. I stood here 2 weeks prior in the same spot pondering the same thoughts and now my body and conscience battle once again. The pillar had grown from a skinny toothpick to a carrot shaped dagger of ice spilling from the roof above our heads. Everything about the pillar looked better then 2 weeks prior other then the shower of water spilling from above. Eighty percent ice twenty percent water is the figure we worked out which normally means walk away. I was reminded of man with long dirty blonde hair and a mustache that would make Mexico proud. Standing on the bridge in Ouray, Colorado many years ago staring into the ice glazed boxed canyon a man approached me and introduced himself as the Ice Farmer. He was very young and looked almost homeless and as we both stared into the lead climbing area he mention a WI3 line that he had been eyeing for weeks. I looked at him with a blank stare rolling my eyes wondering how high this poor lad was because I saw nothing but vertical ice. He looked straight at me with a preachers stare and said, “You have to visualize it man”
When you want something really bad you have to visualize it and sometimes it fools your own reality into believing anything is possible. We have the choice to make the impossible possible and only your determination, strength and vision will break those barriers.
I looked at the pillar and thought maybe I could stay out of the rain of persistent water pouring down. I was reminded it wasn’t just a few drips it was a thunderstorm. I paced back and forth as all my thoughts collided giving me mixed feelings about my decision. I usually have a good feeling about a climb and for some reason the rain of water and warm weather concerned me that the pillar might not be stable.
Just as I was ready to walk away a rush of teenage rebellion came over me and I was ready to tie in and go toe to toe with the pillar. My heart rate raced as the vibrations of each kick and swing swam thru my body. I became intimate with the pillar wrapping my arms and legs around it clinching on like a 2 year old to their dad’s leg. Each tool placement took me further from my safe zone below and committed me to push on. Within seconds I felt like I was at the base of a waterfall with the mist blowing against my face. I tried to tune it all out but the water began working its way down my back and into my boots, before I knew it I was in a shower. Half way thru the climb I felt water running down my legs and I knew that was a bad sign. I pushed on feeling my boots fill with water and each kick looking like a water balloon exploding against the ice. The pillar was unrelenting steep giving little to no rests the entire way while showering you at the same time. I moved with hopes of dryer ground above and trying to keep warm but the conditions were unrelenting.
Just before hitting the roof I swung my tool right into a fracture line 70 feet off the ground and my heart stopped and a daunting silence fell thru my body. At this point I began to feel my core temperature dropping from my hands to my toes. I carefully moved upward trying to stabilize my weight and not make any drastic changes in my motions. I found myself at the roof of the climb feeling like a wet sponge. I felt my body slowly shutting down trying to gain warmth and I tried to reboot my engines and stay confident but my core temperature was dropping to quickly. Within seconds I realized water had consumed every piece of clothing I had on and I was quickly faced with a moment to surrender.
Part 2 coming soon……
All Photos By Matt Steen
Climber Aaron Mulkey