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


Friday, May 17, 2013

Cudmudgeon Protocols

Tired of the backchatter.

Fed up with the endless questioning of my memories, the denial of routes stolen and access lost by the coffee house icons of Seneca Rocks, and sick of the ease with which three decades of travel and hardship, discovery and loss, experience and knowledge across the North American continent are dismissed by the armchair experts and hard persons of NoVA and D.C. who come running to the defense if the faintest whiff of unpleasant truth disturbs the rosewater of their illusions.

Common sense would dictate silence, retreat in the face of overwhelming numbers, perhaps some compromise in a stance that draws a line in the sand without option for negotiation.

I've never had much use for that kind of common sense.  I suppose, after all these years of walking it as I talk it, whenever I can, in every aspect of my life where I have a choice, compromise of that sort sounds too much like a good cover story for surrender.

And who would ever accept sweet reason from me after all of the toes on which I have stomped, all of the egos bruised, all the carefully-polished reputations spat upon and exposed for the thin varnish they truly were?

Besides, what in the world would I do for fun if not toppling brass idols with feet of clay, slaughtering sacred cows, advocating chlorine in the gene pool and cannonballing into the status quo?

But enough sleepless nights, enough angry debates with myself.  Time to step back, to dig deep, to give a little gift to myself and for the small group of people who agree with my perspectives and share something of my vision.

Recent rains have left much of the rest of the Gypsy Wall dripping with run-off from the long band of cliffs angling slowly down the hill to this final panel of rock above a winding back road.  Gypsies and Shaved Scamper, my two moderate bolted lines on this wall, are both streaked with runnels of water trickling down the pocketed, fossil-sewn grey stone to my right.

The left end of the wall overhangsabout eighteen inches in forty feet and is almost entirely dry, despite a short rainshower.  As the sun comes out and breezes shake the budding leaves of spring, driving back the mosquitoes and biting flies if only for a moment, I stack rope and drill gear, paired aiders and a variety of hooks, daisy chains and cams on a massive finger of stone that rests at the base of a steep initial panel of rock, eight feet of stone devoid of the pockets so common in the layer above.

A loose flake or two the size of laptop computers come off with gentle tugs, and one six inches thick and as long as my arm yields to the stronger persuasion of a prybar,  dropping like a guillotine blade to bounce between my madly-dancing feet, followed by a steady rain of 'potato chips'.  Unlike a lot of the folks who have put up routes here recently, I control the rock fall and limit damage to the surrounding environment, building up the base, keeping debris out of the road below. 

Finally, the face is clean and I pause for a sip of water before shouldering the Beast, slipping on sunglasses and bouldering up into the first clip stance.  Raising the Bosch Litheon into position, I call out, "Fire in the hole" and pull the trigger.  Behind me, I hear Cindy acknowledge as the motor growls to life and rock dust flies from the 3/8 inch bit. 

And so it begins, again.

The metamorphic limestone is dense, and it takes almost a minute and a half to drill a full-depth hole, during which I am reminded of my reduced physical activities of late and my unceasing love of my wife's cooking and southern food in general.  Deer flies and gnats take advantage of my lack of free hands to reduce my blood levels, as hopeful buzzards dip and swoop above, eyeing this potential meal.  Cindy laughs and calls out the old refrain, "It's just his feet!"

Pulling the bottomed bit free, still spinning, I release the trigger and step down from the holds.  My lovely assistant Cindy takes the drill and I boulder back up to insert one end of the blow tube into the freshly-drilled hole.  A puff of fine grey powder blasts out of the hole, the shifting breeze ensuring that most of it falls towards my face, but I have already shut my eyes in anticipation of this and feel only the sifting on my eyelids.    A three mile-per-hour breeze negates the effectiveness of safety glasses every time, and will invariably blow in your face only when it will bring dust, rather than respite from biting insects or burning runnels of sweat.

Occupational hazards.

I boulder back down blind, lean over, remove my glasses and carefully brush the dust off my eyelids before opening my eyes again.  Interesting the first few times you try it, it gets annoying after a while, but it's all part of the price for doing things by the protocols, instead of taking the easier route of rap-bolting.

Back up to the hole, the 3/8 inch Hilti bolt with Fixe hanger sitting nicely in the hole as the three pound hammer swings once, twice, three times.  Pause to back the nut off right out to the end of the threads for full depth, another tap, and I swap hammer for wrench; three good turns and the nut comes under tension, guesstimating the torque is second nature after placing well over a thousand such bolts in my careers of carpenter, rigger and climber.

Back down to the belay, a last shot of coffee and a bit of granola, flame to brass and a kiss for the lass as I step into the soon-retiring Black Diamond harness and thread daisies, clip on chalk bag and tie in the rope, thread the free end through the Wall Hauler and tie into the drill for ease of access and drop free gear lifting, add a dozen draws and runners, hooks and some DMM cams to balance my #1, 2, and 3 Camalots, step into my beat-up Evolvs and pull on my battered Petzl helmet.

"Good knot and buckle." I mumble, almost on auto-pilot as I scope out the moves above the first bolt and ledge.

"I have you on a good system, " Cindy answers, "Go get some."

Good call.  When surrounded by jackals and posers and fools, goaded by idiots and has-been with convenient memories and undeserved reputations, then pushed to the point of despair by the sight of the blind leading the deaf, stick with what you know.

Curmudgeon protocols; harsh, but honest, to a fault; self-aware without being self-serving; calling it the way I see it, and holding myself to the strictest standards of all.  Accepting total responsibility for my own words and actions, with the priceless reward of complete freedom.

Like a teetering hook on a great line, not what you might have hoped for, but good enough; you learn to work with what you get.

I guess I can live with that.

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