Sarah Jane Alexander - Reader Blog 8

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Tourists on Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park gawk at Mike like he’s a zoo animal. Photo by Susannah Fairly

Tourists on Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park gawk at Mike like he’s a zoo animal. Photo by Susannah Fairly

Adventure on Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, California

The guidebook called the Sequoia National Park route a three-pitch 5.7. But when we arrived at the start of the third pitch, I knew we had been led astray.

I was looking at a 5.10 crux and I didn't know what to do – except try.

“OK, here goes,” I said.

But I didn’t go. Very far.

I fought with the rock, grabbing at different holds while trying to push with one stable foot and smear with the other. Nervous sweat soaked my hands.

To make matters worse, I had forgotten my chalk bag. Alvaro had loaned me his chalk ball, which I had attached to a belt loop. But the fine powder it emitted was little better than useless.

I needed to collect my thoughts – on terra firma.

“Slack!” I yelled up to my belayer, Mike, as I downclimbed.

“Why don’t you try going up over here?” Alvaro asked. He pointed to part of the rock that would spit me out on the ledge that led to 5.7 heaven if I could navigate a lichen-covered curve.

But the curve didn't register in my brain. Or the lichen. All I saw were what looked like juicy handholds.

With my short legs, a difficult high step was the first order. After a few minutes of gawking and false starts, finally I got on the rock. Slowly, I moved a few inches left before the panic set in.

I was out of handholds, and like a true noob, that's all I wanted. What had seemed like copious knobs from the ground turned out to be relentless licheny slopers.

My mind twisted between frightened blankness and adrenaline-pumping fear. Two things I remember thinking were:

“Are you sure rock climbing is for you?”

“Hell yes! And when I get through this, I will feel so happy.”

But first I had to maneuver through, or there would be no glorious relief.

My voice was quaking with fear as after every tiny, tentative move I asked Alvaro, “What now?”

His voice was as calm as the summer sky. His unwavering serenity gave me hope.

“You need to move your feet. You've been doing the same thing with your hands.”

Which was scouring the rock for holds that weren't there. Lichen peeled off, landing on my face and chest. (Which I didn't notice till after I was making sweet eyes at a hot bartender that night. Then when I sauntered into the bathroom for a drunken piss, I looked in the mirror and saw little flakes stuck to my skin. Sexy!)

Mike belays Sarah Jane as she ends a climb, which she was unusually glad was over. Photo by Perry Habecker

Mike belays Sarah Jane as she ends a climb, which she was unusually glad was over. Photo by Perry Habecker

Meanwhile, Alvaro was right. I knew it, but I didn't know how to follow his simple advice. Finally I swung my left leg around the corner, but putting weight on it while moving my right foot seemed impossible. And if I didn’t land the move, I was going to pendulum into the opposite side of the rock.

After more distracting chatter in my mind, more hesitation, I realized I had no choice but to move. Or I would be stuck on Moro Rock forever.

I shifted my weight onto the leg bent around the curve ... and landed it!

I was happy. I was relieved.

But I could only be so proud.

I had played myself. Hard.

I had turned into a whimpering, panicky mess.

In life overall, that's not how I see myself. I am not a sniveler ... I thought.

But then, I was.

Replaying the scene in my mind, I have come to this conclusion: I ended up doing the move after a half hour of sniveling, so I could have done it quicker without the sniveling.

That panicky attitude cannot be my destiny. I have to change or I am going to feel ashamed – not because I played myself in front of my friends, but because I wasn’t the strong person I wanted to be.

The next time I find myself in a scary spot, I have to remember I can prevent this disappointment if I push on through with a quickness. I don’t need to be fearless, but I need to act like it. For me.

Also, check out my new website: time2climb.com

For more from Sarah Jane Alexander visit her website: time2climb.com

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