I sat at the second bolt on a route in Wild Iris, Wyoming last weekend. I was leading a harder 5.10, it would be my fifth of the weekend, something I had never thought would happen and I stared at the blank looking section of limestone in front of me. The holds were small, sharp, and the feet were small divots or edges barely enough to push off of. I looked down at my belayer.
“I’m just going to take a fall.”
He nodded, and gave me slack as I eased onto the holds. Every part of me shook as I shifted my body further above the bolt and finally let go of the rock. It was over in two seconds. Less time than it took me to get my nose pierced. I was fine. I was alive. I did it four more times before finally committing to the moves.
This summer I have done many things that scare me. I’ve gone on overnight climbing trips with people I’ve know for fewer than 12 hours. I’ve led more routes than I’ve climbed boulders outside. I talked to a guy I thought was so beautiful that he couldn’t possibly find me interesting (because obviously looks are everything). I’ve bouldered by myself outside. I got my nose pierced. I went up several multi-pitch routes without having a total meltdown. I moved across the country and fell in love with a whole state, all over again, all on my own.
The first time I was out here, I was in a bubble. This wonderful bubble of desert sandstone cracks and a boyfriend more in love with climbing than he ever would be with me. This time it’s just me and let me tell you how much I’ve fallen in love with myself and this state.
When I first started climbing I dreamed of taking whips like Sasha DiGiulian, falling off beautiful routes in Europe or Kentucky. I wanted to be a climber. When I met my ex I let my fears and anxiety settle, periodically trying to fight them off, but never with enough determination. We were a stereotype. He led the routes and I would clean the easy ones, the ones that didn’t scare me. He took charge of where we climbed and what we did, and I followed him along, happily supporting his goals and trying to just enjoy the act of climbing itself. I had enough other hobbies that I never felt that I was missing out on “being a climber”, I was trying to build a life with someone I loved.
After our break up, I got back on the sharp end for the first time in a very long time and I meant business. I discovered that being high on the wall meant I wasn’t thinking about how quickly everything I had known had fallen apart. I wasn’t thinking about the lies, the insults, the screaming and crying, the manipulation. It was simply me, moving. I was focused entirely on the present.
While in Utah I have bouldered outside about four times, only twice with much seriousness. I have gone on seven trips where I have led routes. I have spent more time on the sharp end of the rope than I have doing anything else outside. I have spent my days at the gym throwing myself at hard boulders and working vigorously to get stronger. I have actively sought out people to climb with every free chance I could, not wanting to spend my time sitting around inside when I had so much to explore. I have not been this satisfied with myself, as a person and with my body, in a very long time.
A change took place this summer. I noticed it, after a weekend of crying before my birthday, when I looked around the bar at my friends, some old, some mostly new, and realized that I was ok, that I was settling into precisely the person I had been working to be. I was still the confident, out spoken, sassy person I had always loved being, but I was also, despite all the tears I cried, a vulnerable and caring human being. I wasn’t bitter and devoid of those warm fuzzy feelings after having my heartbroken, in fact, I am more determined to be just as honest with my own complicated emotions as I am with my desire to tell men spraying me with beta to kindly close their noise hole. It didn’t take revisiting the desert by myself. It took slowly, forcefully, letting go of my perceptions of the future I had with someone else, and the sad, hard realization that I was better off with the future I was making for myself.
When I finally saw the chains on what I later discovered was a 10d I was leading, I let out an odd screech/sob/gasp/hiccup(?). My belayer shouted up asking if I was ok, confused since I was on the extremely easy, upper portion of the route. I squeaked confirmation and choked back tears. It has been a very long time since I have cried from joy, and I am so grateful for the joy that this state and it’s remarkable people have brought me. See you again real soon, Utah. LYICID.
Here’s a slideshow of some of my favorite memories while in Utah. Thank you everyone who made my summer here memorable and heart-achingly perfect. I truly don’t know how I am going to leave this place again.