I was 120 feet off the deck yesterday when I felt myself losing it. Small whimpers began escaping from my mouth. I was losing my breath without being tired. The desire to cry, something that I do not experience often, began to rise in me. Sasha, crying will not help you. Do not cry. Don’t. Do. It. My dad, who until that moment had been encouraging me to move forward, started to feel the gravity of the situation, and asked quietly, "Sasha, do you want to come down?"
Not wanting to give up, and remembering that telling my ever-increasing hysterical self to "not" do something has not had great success rates, I tried a different approach as the whimpers became louder. Breathe. Breathe. Take a full minute to breathe. And then move. About thirty seconds later I had moved through the crux (I will not say it was pretty) and had also seemed to move through my almost-emotional-breakdown-slash-panic-attack. I looked up to the next 55 feet with resentment. It didn’t look much easier, but it was doable. I managed.
My dad easily moved through the wide cracks that had me on the edge of giving up climbing for good, and as he reached the anchors, he put out his hand and we high-fived. "Good work, kiddo." He grinned. I glared at him, and then we laughed.
Feeling like I can manage fear is one of my favorite feelings, and part of the reason that I love climbing so much. It is always giving me the chance to wuss out, or to take it on and do it anyways. I also love climbing because my dad loves climbing. Climbing began with my dad, and ends with my dad. It has, over the years, become something I love separately from my dad as well. It has become my own friend, my own teacher, my own pain in the ass. But it started with my dad, and it will always come back to that. Climbing, in all of its beauty and flaw, was handed down to me, and because of that my love for climbing and my love for my dad are forever intertwined.
Over beers at the Mountain Bar afterwards, I listened wide-eyed as he gestured theatrically and told me about his 60 foot fall on El Cap thirty five years ago. We talked about wide cracks and offwidths, and how you get better at them. I thought to myself, this is all totally fucking insane. But it's the insanity of it that makes perfect sense to me.
The general response to rock climbing when I lived in Kenya about sums it up. They would either laugh at me, or give me that look, like, "come again?" which I came to understand meant "what are you talking about, crazy white person". Like, the things white people come up with to amuse themselves because they don't have to worry about getting enough food in a day. But there I was, sitting across from my dad with two beers between us, and it made perfect sense. It's what I've always known. That crazy white guy is my dad, and he loves to climb rocks, and so do I. And I sure do love that crazy white guy.