Like most people (I expect) who have spent a number of years trad climbing, I had always imagined climbing a big wall some day. Key word being imagined.
It was one of those things you would talk about around the campfire after a day of climbing, or anytime you came across that piece of gear that you never use (but might need one day).
Everyone talks about climbing a big wall one day, but we all know that most people won’t.
Billy and I talked about it all the time. He liked to practice aid climbing (I know, weird right?), and wanted to tackle a big wall for the aid pitches, whereas I liked falling repeatedly on routes that were too difficult, but well protected. It was a perfect match.
It was easy to allow ourselves the foolish self agrandized musing of some epically amazing big wall climb, because a part us knew it was never going to happen.
I would imagine myself pulling the lip of some roof a thousand feet off the deck, throwing a big heel hook and chalking up while surveying my domain, or doing a dyno to a pocket while hugely run out and just barely sticking it. My hands are sweating just thinking about it.
It was practically a Hollywood production how I would imagine the experience going, all of which ended with us heroically overcoming some challenge and climbing that wall like a boss. That is the beauty of imagination. Anything is possible.
Funny how twenty years changes things.
Once I imagined with excitement doing a big wall with pitches that were 5.12.
I now find myself looking for routes with the easiest aid and the simplest climbing (Billy said it had to be at least class 5 😦 ).
I used to be prepared to take big whippers as I pushed my climbing to it’s limits, both mentally and physically.
Now, I’m look forward to slightly overhanging pitches so that it is easier and more comfortable to aid, second and haul; and the idea of climbing with twin ropes sounds great too.
I once considered the approach a great part of the adventure, and loved the idea of a four or five hour approach hike.
I now find myself hoping to find a great route somewhere that is less than an hour from the car.
I once imagined us simul-climbing pitches and flying up sections of the wall.
Now I worry about being super slow and holding up other parties trying the same route.
In many ways the reality of climbing a big wall is going to be so much less than I had once imagined it. I doubt I’m flashing pitches of 5.12, I’m probably not leading out some huge roof.
However there is one thing which guarantees that this will be more epic than my youthful imaginations.
In the spring of 2017 I will climb a big wall.