Leading Pitches

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Throughout my entire life, when I’ve seen tall things, I’ve felt this insatiable desire to be on top of them. My childhood included lots of console TV and refrigerator summits. Growing up in the flat, marshy South meant the only things climbable outdoors were trees. Rock climbing didn’t register as an option. After living in California for a few years surrounded by mountains, I realized that attempting to sate that inner yearning could be a reality. It has been three-and-a-half years since I decided to pursue my interest in rock climbing. Before then, I knew almost nothing about climbing.

In 2010, I took every climbing course I could find, read several books, and harassed any friend with a modicum of interest to go climb with me. I bought gear I needed, gear I thought I needed, and started attending climbing events and outdoor film festivals. I became proficient at setting up top-ropes, bouldered a little, and toyed with leading bolted sport routes. I even went to some indoor gyms a few times, although I still haven’t developed a taste for climbing on plastic under a roof. It was fun and, at times, an obsession. Yet, when I think of climbing I think of big walls stretching into the sky decorated with tiny people a thousand or more feet above the ground being gobbled whole by fractured, hungry rock. I think of trad climbing, I think of big wall climbing.

I knew from the beginning that leading trad routes was not something I could jump into. It was a goal to work towards. Thankfully, I was able to start following on multi-pitch trad routes early last year when I met someone who was willing to take me along. Earlier, this year I took the frightful first steps into leading my own single-pitch routes. At first, it was terrifying. It became a little less so with each subsequent lead. Yesterday was another seminal moment in my climbing pursuits. I led my first multi-pitch trad route on Tahquitz in Idyllwild (home of Erika’s beloved childhood camping memories). It is a low grade route called “The Trough.” It went well, I learned new things, and—best of all—I felt confident during and afterwards.

Big walls are still a ways off into the future, but climbing hundreds of feet up smaller rocks in a single day are pretty damn great in the meantime.

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