As I explored the Silverbells Boulder field near Saguaro National Park last night, Northwest of Tucson, I found a nasty old mattress that some climber left at the base of a project he was working on. Normally, I don’t like that. Nobody should leave a mattress out in the wilderness. I’ve heard of climbers in Estes Park stashing pads for months. And climbers at Smith have ratty rope stashes at Morning Glory Wall. But just as I was about to condemn the offending stranger, I smiled because I realized that his mattress gave me a chance to try a climb I’d wanted to try but couldn’t.
I was exploring and climbing alone, bouldering without a spotter or crashpad, and this one arete route, a V6 on a corner, was calling to me. But it was slick and awkward, and a fall from the middle or upper left would put a climber on a jumble of broken triangle-shaped rocks.
But my newfound mattress……
I drug it over, draped the mattress, slid, and adjusted. The padding perfectly covered the two rocks that would break my back or cut me in half if I fell. So I started climbing.
I only took one fall on that mattress, but I was so, so glad it was there. I fell lower than I thought on the route, fell and spun, and the cushion protected me from splitting the back of my head open on an even lower and more jagged rock. I hit the springy mattress with a body-whipping motion, but I was right in the middle of the cushion, my head bounced off of the thick bedding, and I was fine. No injury at all.
So I was grateful for the stashed pad even though that’s a rule I always follow: Don’t stash gear in any wild place. Don’t trash somewhere beautiful.
Using that mattress got me to thinking: Sometimes we outdoor people do break rules. Actually, considering societal norms, we pretty much always break rules. Don’t go outside in severe weather. Don’t take kids out. Always sign a release form. Always consider risk management. Or just don’t go. It’s not worth it.
A few of the rules I’ve broken this week while adventuring alone or with my family in the mountains outside of Tucson:
“Do not climb on the rocks”
“No dogs beyond this point”
“Never climb alone”
“Look where you put your hands”
“Stay on the trail!”
“Keep vehicles on the road”
Of course there are consequences. I scratched up my arms and legs, and lacerated my thumb exploring an arroyo three days ago. I also had to hold to my dog down as he snotted and peed himself because he was in so much pain while I pulled cholla spines from his leg, foot, side, tongue, gums, and the roof of his mouth.
And, while adventuring yesterday with my older daughter, my younger daughter (eight-years-old) was stung four times by a bark scorpion.
But at Urgent Care, sitting on the exam table, she said, “I still love this place, even after a scorpion bite. I’m still having fun.”
So we go outside, we go outside, we go outside.