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The Place Above Where I Started From

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2009 03:30 Written by Andrew J. Leer Saturday, 14 February 2009 04:06

This hill gets steeper every time I walk it. This might have something to do with the two ropes, harnesses, quickdraws, ATC's and an assortment of carabiners I'm carrying in my pack. I have been rock climbing for about 9 years now and every time I climb at Blue Run Rocks feel I'm coming home to a place where friendships are made, battles fought but not always won, and at the end of the day a sense of accomplishment like none other.

I have come to Blue Run in hopes of overcoming some 50 problems such as "Campfire", "Levitation", "The Pulpit's End" and "Lichen This". Two hours later my friends and I are gathered around a large boulder we have dubbed the "Bob Villa Boulder" as it has been a real fixer upper. We take turns climbing while the others spot. My hands are red and raw by now and I have still only made it 3 feet off the ground. It is my turn to climb again and I dig my numb fingers into my chalk bag. The chalk is silky against my grated skin and I try not to think about how it will feel to run hot water over my stinging hands in the shower tonight. I step up to the rock and place my hands on a short ledge, search out my footholds and pick myself up off the ground. I reach left to a sloppy area of rock and adjust my feet under me, slowly and delicately like a dancer. I slap at a small crack with my right hand and despite the bite of the rock on my fingers I feel a surge of relief and excitement that my fingers have found their goal! In this dance there are only so many moves and each one must be carried out with a precise determination to get to the top. I know I must push myself to reach this goal. Push myself past pain and fear. I must want to be at the top of this rock, although it is only 12 feet high. I stretch for the final handhold and shuffle my feet to the left of my body weight to overcome the crux of the problem. I am now 12 glorious feet above my spotters and grinning wildly as they congratulate me! As I smile down at them I am amazed that we as climbers will expend so much effort trying to get 12 feet off the ground. But I guess it's not really the ground that we are getting away from as much as climbing above the place we start from. All the grunting and sweating and bleeding and cursing; I've never put this much effort into any schoolwork, any career or relationship. What makes this boulder so important? Like any endeavor of life it is a journey, and although it may just appear another way to get from point A to point B, I think it is about the people you do it with.

Later that evening, as we sit at the O.I.P. in Wellsboro stuffing down pizza with grubby hands, I think about the people I climb with and how each of them plays a role in my accomplishments and failures on the rock. This group is encouraging and open hearted and I can't imagine anything I rather do that try to climb a 12 foot high boulder with a bunch of sweaty, grunting, bleeding friends.