Joshua Trees and Rock Walls

My Joshua Tree climbing challenge, a joshua tree, rock sitting
Someone recently asked me what’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Maybe figuring out the answer to that question should in fact have been my response, but instead I immediately thought about a physical feat I recently conquered on our New Year’s trip to the majestic Joshua Tree this year. It was the last day of 2011, and with a group of some of my closest friends and family (many of whom are spectacular climbers), we took turns climbing the last route of the day. I would call myself an occasional-social climber, and had never tried crack climbing prior to this trip. 

Andy and the sunrise
I’m literally looking up at a 40 ft granite rock wall with nothing but a sliver of a crack to its shape. And that’s what I use to get up to the top? Uh-huh. We tape up our hands so the granite doesn’t shred them like a cheese grater, and climb on! The other climbers take a graceful and strong 8-10 minutes to run this route. When it came to my turn, I think I was up there for almost 30 minutes. You shove your hands and feet sideways into the crack, then turn them (not without much discomfort) and use them as levers to hoist your body up another few inches.
Baby Steps

I found myself at a breaking point midway through the route, and then decided that this was the last day of the year and that I needed to push on even though it felt like I was breaking bones in my feet and my hands were violently shaking along with every muscle in my legs and arms. The sun was baking the rock, and I felt totally alone midway between sky and ground suspended by a single rope.

Looking up, it felt like I hadn’t even started the climb, and looking down, made me not want to step foot on the ground until I had accomplished the run. My mantra became “baby steps, baby steps, baby stepsjust like a ladder.” I realized that I had to tackle this project just like any otherbe it one on the computer, or paper or canvas: through baby steps, one step at a time. Make sure my footing is secure before taking another step, don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of distance yet to cover, and feel accomplished in the good progress of each small step along the way.

Our fearless leaders: Ky and Isaac, triumph!

Through the sound of my drumming heartbeat and “baby steps” mantra/soliloquy, I heard my friends below cheering and suddenly found that I had made it to the peak without even realizing I’d done it. It’s nice to see photos of something that you’ve physically accomplished to remind you that you can do big things and go far distances. I think that’s what we need in our daily lives; little cheering parties along the way, and reminders that we are all always doing big thingsthe views just may be different, and sometimes from our desks.

Climb on!

photos by Dylan LeBlanc

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