I learned the same lesson again this weekend. I already knew it, but I’m just stupid enough to have to learn the same lesson over and over and over.
With the Integrated Outdoor Program’s Desert Trip coming up, I trained for power endurance. I knew that I would be climbing on 45-degree roof routes in Boyd Cave, then more overhanging routes at Sisters Boulders. So I trained on my overhanging wall, worked the roof holds, built my core.
On the first night of the trip, I hiked into camp from the map and compass course on Friday night, late, three hours after dark, and most people were ready for bed. No one was climbing in the cave.
I thought, “Should I boulder alone in the cave right now?” Considered it. Went back and forth. Then decided no. I thought it’d be better climbing with a spotter and a group, all of our lights, energy, motivation. So I went to bed.
I caved the next afternoon, passing right by the good climbing near the mouth, knowing that a big bouldering session was coming that night. One girl even asked, “Are we bouldering in here right now?”
But, as if I was not myself, someone else entirely, I said, “No, we’re caving right now. We’ll boulder later.”
Then I returned to the cave again that night. We read aloud from Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, told stories, laughed, huddled in a big happy group.
We were finally about to have a big-group bouldering session with lights and friends and sharp holds and epic projects.
Then a cop showed up. A sort-of-cop. A slightly better than rent-a-cop. A National Forrest ranger with a gun and a thick ticket-writing tablet.
He was there to arrest three young men who were not part of our group, arrest them for partaking in activities in the cave, activities we did not engage in. So he wasn’t there for us.
But he was there. For seven hours. And climbing isn’t legal in the cave.
I wanted to explain that we would “boulder”, not “climb”, that we would not involve ropes or metal gear, but in my experience cops have difficulty understanding nuance and subtle definition changes. Something in their training wrecks all ability to recognize subtlety.
And all the leaders decided that our bouldering session was out.
I waited for the cop to leave. I waited for three hours.
Then I left the cave, ate food, drank some water, and went to bed.
In the morning, I WOULD climb. Finally.
But a storm came in. And not just a storm. 50 miles per hour gusts that flattened tents. Rain drops fat as a man’s thumb, pelting, slapping rain drops in increasing density until, with the gusts, the rain sounded like gravel being thrown against a wall.
And the camp was destroyed in the morning. Everyone wet and cold, and the rain still coming at 34 degrees, then shards of frozen rain and hail.
By the time we broke everything down, most people were near hypothermic. We retreated to the cave for its steady 50-degree temperature, but not to climb.
I suggested a bouldering session, but everyone looked at me as if I was fighting a straight jacket with my teeth. So I said, “Maybe in a little while then?”
Again, more people glared at me.
We drove towards Sisters. The idea was that we’d hit the Sisters Boulders for a couple hours, hike around, play hide and seek, maybe climb on some sheltered routes. I knew some overhanging stuff that had to be dry.
But the cold rain came still, and no one wanted to drive out there.
I was told that we were pushing the group’s good attitude a bit too far.
We ate lunch in a park, and I bouldered on the sloper-rock chimney under the tin-roofed shelter. Bitter. I sent a few crappy routes.
But I learned my lesson again. If there’s a chance to climb, take it. Climb now. Climb hard. Don’t wait and plan on climbing in the future. There will never be a better time.