That One Time: Diamond in the Rough

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Heather Weidner Illustration Rock Climbing Rifle Colorado
Hannah Agosta

I was 50 feet up my Rifle project, Gay Science, a steep and burly 5.13d on the Project Wall. I’d been working on it for a month. This time, I had somehow slapped my way through the first, slopey-sidepull crux and slammed my rubber-covered knees into the rest. I could let go with both hands and take a breath. This was my high point.

I threw my head back and closed my eyes. I needed to lower my heart rate and depump my forearms before facing the last, powerful crux before the chains. Then, I felt the weight of my necklace shift to the back of my neck. I heard my husband and belayer, Chris, yell up, “Nice work!”

There was a slight tug on my neck followed by a sensation of absence. Chris and I had gotten married the previous autumn, 2012. He’d proposed with a weighty platinum ring. One of my biggest fears was that I’d lose it. A sickening dread emanated throughout my body as I spotted a glinting speck plunging through the air and into the labyrinth of rock rubble below.

“No, no, no!”

My wedding ring had just fallen off my silver chain-link necklace. Had I clasped the necklace? Had it broken? I had sworn the ring was girth-hitched properly. This symbol of love and commitment from my husband had been replaced by a big, fat lump in my throat.

“Don’t worry about it—keep going!” Chris yelled.

I launched into the crux, only to fall a few moves in. I couldn’t focus. I kept thinking about my ring sitting in the dirt—its shimmer now dulled, hidden amid rocks and leaves, my diamond in the rough.

To my surprise, I discovered girth hitches can come undone. We use this knot all the time and trust our lives to it, but my malleable necklace doesn’t cinch down like the webbing we use in climbing. With enough bouncing, the knot loosens and—voila! Bye, bye, wedding ring.

An hour later, after scanning the base of the wall on my hands and knees, I found my ring. Relief flooded over me as I returned it to my neck, threading it directly onto my necklace—sans knot. Lesson learned. When tying the knot—from girth hitch to husband—make sure it’s done with integrity and purpose, or you might lose something beautiful.