Finding a good climbing partner is finicky business. First, you at least need to find someone who can keep your ass off the ground, and second, you hope that person is halfway enjoyable to have a conversation with at the belay, or is on the same page as you about what goals they have. Of all the partners you begin climbing with, meet later on, and stick with forever, there is sure to be one or two that just change your whole perspective on the activity. For me, that is my buddy Morgan, or Moe for short.
A month or so ago we were on the phone and he asks, “Do you want to know what my first multi-pitch climb was?” I had a vague idea of what was coming, when I first met the guy he didn’t seem to be too exuberant about leading any routes. He says, “Remember that first time we climbed the Thumb on Prospect?”
“You mean the first time we ever climbed together?”
“Yeah man! Hahaha. And I was totally like, well I’m just gonna like wing this and hopefully it works. And it totally did, so I’ve basically applied that to everything I’ve done with climbing, and it keeps working, so if we go try and aid up Mordor Wall at Cathedral and just wing it, I’m sure that something will work out.”
I soon realized that every climb I had ever seen Moe do was, in fact, an act of winging it. From the minute the bags were loaded, to trying to find the parking lot again, there’s always an element of, “well I hope this fucking works.” At first it scared the shit out of me, and when we first went to Vedauwoo together and he was trying to climb lines, without knowing at all what they were, I decided to climb with others in our group. Now I have a certain admiration for it.
One afternoon in the Voo I wandered back to camp to meet him and Dave. Dave looked like he just fought an animal in the parking lot and lost. “How was your guys’ day?” I ask. Mo replies, “We climbed this route called (insert name of any Vedauwoo climb way above his pay grade that he tried that trip) and it was amazing! Wow, just, such a beautiful line. There were definitely, you know, some sketchy parts, but like, it was just so good. You should go do it.” I flip through the guidebook to learn more about this climb, “Moe, that’s like a 5.10 Vedauwoo slot? How the fuck did you get up that?”
“Ah, like, I might have pulled a few pieces. You know.”
Dave saunters back over to the campsite after grabbing multiple PBR’s from the vehicle. “Dude, Morgan is a fucking idiot, can I climb with you guys tomorrow?” I laugh and ask him to explain.
“So, Moe says this climb we are going to go do is good and I can get up it no problem, and I don’t really know what the fuck any of these routes are, so I trust him, and all of a sudden I’m about half-way up this thing and he yells down that it might be a good idea to take my helmet off here, or else I might not fit. Soon I realize that shits about to go really wrong. And long story short, I barely fit up this thing, scraped the hell out of myself and thought I was stuck for good for a little bit.”
Sometimes I feel like I meet few climbers with a pioneering spirit, the sense of adventure, the eye to look at something and venture off into the unknown. Failure is an accepted consequence, and a challenge worth coming back for. Of course many of these plumb and beautiful lines at popular climbing areas were picked off long before we came around, but it does not always mean the experience the first ascensionist had is lost. If you just wander around with no guidebooks, only your creative spirit to guide you, you will find that any line can call and beckon to be climbed. There are no rules on where to go, just to the top.
All of this, because he knows his time to climb is slim. When I met him over the summer in 2014, it was the last summer he would have out west for two years, because of obligations to get his architecture degree done in Boston. So when he has the opportunity to get out, he’s going to make sure he’s not just lollygagging around and cragging. I’ve tried to get him to join me in the Red River Gorge for spring break for the last two years, and he always responds, “Yeahhh if I have a week to go climbing, I’d prefer to not go sport climbing. Buuuut, Mt. Washington is gnarly this time of year! We should go do something in Huntington’s Ravine. I know we don’t really have enough ice screws, but we’ll just make sure we can do something in our ability.”
Once, in Eldorado Canyon, we sat at the base of the Wind Tower contemplating how we would get him back to work in Estes on time. We concluded it to be impossible and he said, “Yeah I’ll just call them and wing it in a few hours, it’s whatever.”
After a few pitches up and down the cliff we sat at a rappel station, staring off into the golden canyon, the loud drone of the river below silenced any other climbers commands. Moe pulled his phone out and dialed his boss, “Hey, yeah I’m good. Soooo we just got rear ended outside of Denver and I don’t think I’m going to make it into work tonight… Yeah I’m okay… Nah just a fender bender and some bullshit stuff to deal with. Okay… Thanks, see you tomorrow.” We smile and laugh, then rappel down and get in another pitch. The summer was just a little too short to skip one more.