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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  

 

Monday, August 15, 2011

River Song

Last days in West Virginia-


Cindy is laughing, watching tiny minks dart out of cover towards her floating line, as dragonflies hunt the shadows and shallows and gannets chase their own reflections over the flat surface of the South Branch. Huge catfish and an assortment of trout, minnows and perch cruise in solitary splendor and swift-moving schools beneath the huge boulders from which a dozen generations of Smoke Hole teens have dived and cannonballed, where more innocence has been lost and experienced gained than the most jaded nightclubs of the city. Broken glass winks like lost gems in the sunshine atop the biggest of these as I clear the dust from the last bolt hole at the top of our latest Entrance Wall route, Cindy's long-awaited River Song.

The last weeks have been a series of revelations and epiphanies; old friends who seem to have forgotten our names and faces, new friends with more gifts and kindness than we deserve or can quite grasp. Long-delayed projects completed or abandoned, explorations of a few places that have always been "somedays", and the not-so-surprising realization that, as expected, many of the most famous climbing spots here in the East have become so infatuated with their own "scene" that they have strangled the essence of what made them magical and rare.

Lessons learned, questions answered, hard truths faced, new opportunities embraced and unfinished business laid to rest.

It is in service of the last concept that I find myself hanging sixty feet above the ground, pounding in the last bolt, after having the previous two attempts on this particular placement fail in a particularly frustrating fashion. I eye the last hole and bolt, my depleted drill battery still arm against my ribs, and murmur to the 3/8" bolt in my hand.

"You screw me this time, and I'll put the damned thing up mixed." I grin and set the bolt in the hole, leashed hammer poised to swing. "I've done it before."

The bolt apparently heeds my warning and, just to be perverse, sets smoothly and cleanly in the hole with a half-dozen sharp blows. I position the hanger and give the nut three complete rotations, continuing to crank to the approximately 30 pounds of torque that is industry standard and is a feeling I know in my bones. I zip the ratchet back into my work pouch and brush drill powder off the nearby holds. With a Elvis-like pump of my hips, I release the Shunt backing up my rappel and slid earthward, as a raucous chorus of ravens fill the canyon with their squabbling croaks.