After mantling onto the ledge and clipping in, my partner hands me two nuts. “These both fell out,” he says. I show my teeth behind a grimacing smile of embarrassment. “Thanks for the heads up,” as I re-rack them. Perhaps, it’s time for ground school again.
Matt smoothly walks up the flaring corner, hesitates for a moment as he places a red cam in black rock and then cleanly pulls through a body length of jams in the 5.10 roof. As I follow the crux I struggle to stem and face climb around the gritty jams. Cutting up my hands will put me out of work, massage therapy and climbing aren’t the best mix. A minute and a half of groin stretching and strenuous butt-hole clenching against the high altitude shits brings me over the lip.
“Nice work,” I say at the belay. “I almost crapped my pants back there! No, seriously... I think keeping my bowels under control was as hard as the moves!” We both laugh in agreement. What is it about climbing that turns your stool into a smooth paste anyway? I have now adopted a strict ritual of patiently expelling my breakfast no more than thirty minutes before departure. The only other time I have neglected this habit I ended up in a large crack, half-way up Temple Crag, sacrificing my shirt to clean up after myself. The painful sunburn that lingered for the next few days strongly reinforced my new ethos; crap before you climb, and bring some TP for backup. Failure to do this lowers my climbing ability by a full grade.
I cower up the next pitch of 5.7 corner, veritable belay ledges spaced every seven feet. Fortunately, our partnership was forged from friendship and Matt thinks no less of me, even on my weakest days.
We only linger at the last belay “enjoying” the view for a few minutes before I press Matt to head down. It’s lunch time anyway. When we get back to the base Matt removes his pack from a dead branch stein pulled in a small alcove. “Brilliant,” I think, marveling at the cave man engineering. We share garlic clove bread and sliced chunks of dry Italian sausage. I brought the food, matt the rack. He comments that he likes that about climbing; everyone contributes something. He’s having problems with some girl and my girlfriend’s been a bitch all week. There’s nothing to do about it though, so we shoulder our packs and forget about it. The camaraderie of the mountains will always draw me back. And as long as my partner climbs harder than I do, it will keep me regular as well.