For my only-friend-in-the-entire-world-Jeff-Hess’ birthday, his 50th birthday, he decided to climb 50 routes. 50 different routes on that one day, his birthday.
So we had a warm-up climbing day – a week and a half before the date – on which we both climbed 30+ boulder routes in an afternoon.
And I climbed well. Many easy problems, but a few harder ones, up to V6. For me, 34 routes total. For Jeff, 32. But who’s counting?
I was ready.
The day of the endurance test came. His 50th. And I was doing fine. A little tired from other workouts that week (a push-up contest, a rugby game), but I got through the first ten routes, including a cool V4/5 pretty easily.
Then Jeff handed me my kryptonite: A rope.
It’s not that I can’t climb on rope. It’s that I never do.
Other than non-vertical trad climbing laps, I’ve barely used my rope in the last three years. I’ve mostly just bouldered.
In my garage, the wall is 9-feet tall. So I’m capable of two hard moves, but not much more.
So the worst routes are long, traversing, overhanging, indoor, plastic, moderately hard sport leads. Those are no good at all. And that’s what my only-friend-in-the-entire-world-Jeff-Hess wanted to do.
And it was his birthday.
So I took the rope as a man might take a baby cobra. I knew the ending already.
Sure, I was fine through the first four leads (again, who’s counting?), but then I fell apart. Not a little bit apart, but completely apart.
I fell. I struggled to send after. I later fell on easy boulder routes. Leads. Top ropes. I had to do repeated attempts to send easy V2s.
When, on a slabby 5.9, I was having trouble coordinating between my hands, my feet, and my brain, a linked system that I usually take for granted, I started to giggle. I couldn’t makes my hands and feet move in unison.
My hands wouldn’t close.
My core was tight.
My legs wouldn’t push.
I slimed and suffered my way to 50 routes over 5 grueling hours.
But my only-friend-in-the-entire-world-Jeff-Hess was fine. He looked great. Relaxed. Comfortable. As it should have been on his 50th birthday.