[Ed Note: Kelly lets us write the title, so of course we're going to take a chance to tease him. And it goes without saying, but we'll say it anyways for all those bone-heads out there who are too-cool for school: there's nothing yella-bellied about protecting your skull. Wearing a helmet is more than a fine idea, it should be regular practice.Yes, people wearing climbing helmets can still get their pictures into catalogs and magazines. So don't be too cool for your own good, or you might end up looking like this guy.]
Who says you can’t reinvent yourself? Just because I used to be known as “Sketchy Kelly,” and just because I recently made the safest form of climbing as dangerous as possible, when I flipped upside down on an overhanging sport climb and used my head and face as a battering ram, that doesn’t mean I can’t become “Safety Kelly.” Never mind the black eye with a scar above, the five-inch scab on my scalp, sliced finger, surgical scar in my spine plus four more in my leg, and the tequila-induced banter about Disaster Style. Appearances can be misleading.
After my faceplant, Tommy had left me a funny phone message, reminding me that I’m definitely bad at falling, and we need to have some “falling classes.” Sounded good to me. Obviously I need it. So soon after, Tommy, my friend Craig and I returned to the crag. On the approach I tried to explain to how it happened, and Tommy did the same as a couple of other friends who sport climb a bunch: He got this confused look, said he didn’t really understand, shook his head, and said there’s no way that could ever happen again. Still, scaredy Safety Kelly now wears his helmet every time, even sport climbing, even on top rope. (At least for now.) A little overboard, sure, but maybe it’ll help balance things out. Hell, the way I’ve been going, maybe I should wear it walking to the mailbox, to the grocery store, to the liquor store (not a bad idea)…. Safety Kelly, baby.
We unpacked our packs and warmed-up. I led a moderate slab first, then we pulled the rope and Craig re-led. Tommy waited patiently, declining a lap. Fair enough, much in the way I probably wouldn’t bother warming-up on 5.4. He’d probably warm-up on the .12a in the wickedly overhung alcove area.
“Do you guys wanna do that one?” he asked of the .12a. We shrugged. “’Cause if not, if you don’t mind maybe I’ll warm-up on the .13a.”
Now this is just ridiculous in my world. Who the hell warms-up on .13a? (Lots of people, I guess, from pre-teens these days to the kid serving your coffee down in Boulder, to Tommy and his ilk – but some of us live in different universes.)
[The new and improved Safety Kelly, ready for some serious top-roping action. Photo: Craig Scariot]