After a solid month of rain, summer is finally here and I am beyond psyched that the weather has been good. The beer has been cold, the stories have been hysterical, and friendships (and lead heads) continue to grow stronger with each ascent. Bob Prahn, Sarah Wagner, Joy Beecher, Luke Ross and myself have been spending the last few weeks finding the toughest way to get from the bottom of a rock to the top of it just to look back and say, “cool man, you can lower!”
Here are two and a half stories that talk about friends enjoying the adrenaline, laughter, scenery and aesthetics of climbing. They are also the only two and a half stories I can think of that have language appropriate enough to be posted without being flagged as rated-R!
I am writing about this first story mostly because it was the most ridiculous thing I have seen in quite some time. Luke “Pops” Ross threw on his ever famous knee pads to do a route up at Iron Mountain. He got into a position in which he locked in a knee bar too high and was struggling to clip since his bolt was right below his chin. So Luke starts to laugh hysterically (and if you do not know Pops, then you need to understand that when he laughs climbing, he will literally shake himself off a route). He yells out with laughter and terror in his voice, “Shit, I think I’m stuck man! Shit! I don’t think I can’t clip” all while he is shaking so hard it could have registered an 8.0 or above on the Richter scale. So Luke gets the bright idea to attempt to clip by reaching behind his left leg and bring it up through (and under) his left leg and reach up to his chin so he could clip the rope (think of a pretzel). It worked, he was finally clipped in. As I was belaying Luke through all of this, I was laughing so hard at the predicament that he found himself in that I was almost crying. He finally clips the anchors, looks back and yells “cool man, you can lower!” When his feet hit the bottom, Luke says laughing, “well, that wasn’t so bad!” This was one of the dirtiest leads I think I have ever seen in my life…definitely impressive…but dirty.
The next Monday, Bob and two of our friends (Brad and Chris) decided to hit up an afternoon session up at Rushmore. Right before I started up Valdez Overhang, the two engineers and the nurse (Bob, Chris and Brad) begin a very inspiring and intellectual conversation about how “it’s not the size of the Grigri- it’s how it strokes your rope!” Right before my feet left the ground, Brad (in his southern accent) says, “brotha, your rope is totally safe right here” as he points to his Grigri that is clipped to his belay loop and conveniently located for this joke to continue. This locked a mental image in my mind that I could not climb past while I was moving through the “climbing gym of Rushmore” as Bob so pleasantly put it. I hit the last hold, clipped the anchors and yelled, “Cool man, you can lower” and as my feet touched down on the earth Bob says with a shit-eating grin on his face, “See dude- totally the stroke of the rope…not the size of the Grigri!”
After Brad and Chris pull through Valdez, Bob started making his way up. We were all giving him massive amounts of shit about how he needs to lead this thing soon when a storm came rollin’ in…Dammit! Bob hits the top and shouts, “cool man, you can lower” as the storm moved in closer. Brad and I quickly ran through this route one more time each as Bob and Chris were scrambling to pack everything up. As Brad yelled, “cool man, you can lower” lightning and thunder broke up our laughter for the time being. We pulled everything and all split for the cars just as the sky began to open up. With only two routes done as the earth got soaked, we left to do the next logical thing; we went to drink beer.
It was around a dinner table with food, beer and laughter that I was able to re-live Bob’s humiliating story of how two days before my wife ran up a 5.6 faster than me (and in more style). The relentless story of how I can make it up a 5.9/5.10 faster than a 5.6 made me want to argue with them, but sometimes the truth can humble you through laughter. The climbing week finished off as we all drank one more beer and talked about the next possible time we could all get out.
I think it is funny how five little words can bring great relief, cause a great deal of excitement and anxiety, but it can also be the source of companionship.
“Cool man, you can lower!”
As Bob has said too many times for me to count, “be safe and don’t die!” Cheers to a great climbing season!
by Vedavoo Ambassador Collin Beecher