The Cleanest Line

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    « Andre's Red Knickers – A Story About Boatmen's Rituals | Main | Rios Libres: Environmental Dispatches – Episode 1, The People »

    Throw the Line

    By Marta Czajkowska

    Czajkowska_m_0022

    Any wall climber will see that something is missing in that photo, trail line. The leader trails a small line so they can pull up a haul line to haul the bag. Right where the photo was taken, at the lip of the roof, Dgriff realized that he’d forgotten the trail line.

    "You have to throw it to me!" he shouted.

    "You know well enough that I can't throw," I replied as the sun was setting.

    "I'm going to either down-lead and re-lead, which is going to take an hour or so, or you have to throw the line."

    I started organizing my belay to gain time to wrap my head around the throwing. Dgriff yelled again using his favorite Kurosawa quote, "STOP STALLING AND THROW THE LINE OR WE WILL BE PLENTY DEAD!"

    [Above: David Griffith heads up the final 20-foot roof pitch of Wet Denim Daydream, Leaning Tower, Yosemite California. Photo: Marta Czajkowska]


    Far from an ideal throwing position, my hanging belay had me scrunched under the giant roof. I threw and missed by only an inch. By the third go, he caught the small trail line. This is how I graduated from "horrible" throw to "save the day" kind of throw.

    Our adventure wasn't over yet. As the sun continued to set, I finally heard "off belay" and "ready to haul" commands so I lowered off the bag. It was nearly dark as I set off to clean the pitch with no headlamp – it was in the haul bag.

    "How is the rock on the lip of the roof? Is it sharp?" I ask.

    "Not too bad, why? You're gonna clip-clean the pitch, right?"

    Obviously, I was planning to clip-clean the roof part of the pitch. Now I am terrified to put my weight on the rope on the bottom part of the pitch as well. And it's practically dark already.

    By the time I get to the roof it is pitch black. I am toiling in the darkness, hanging under this 20-foot roof, a thousand feet over the valley floor. Then I see a light peeking from the edge of the roof. It’s my partner. He rapped down from the anchor to pad out the ropes so they wouldn't rub on the edge. We are about 10 feet away from each other, both hanging on ropes.

    "Wanna headlamp?" he asks.

    "Yeah, but how are you going to give it to me, throw?"

    "No, but how about this?"

    He hangs the headlamp on the lip of the roof and jugs back up. Now I am not in the darkness anymore. Instead, I have a spotlight shinning at me, casting a giant shadow on the back wall. I feel like a theater performer. The further away I get from the back wall, the bigger the shadow grows.

    The situation is super surreal. Here I am, hanging on the smallest cams and aliens underneath this massive roof, nothing but darkness around me, questionable rope, little silverfish bugs from the crack crawling over my hands, and my own shadow mocking my every step.


    Marta Czajkowska is a freelance photographer, graphic designer, aerial silks teacher and climbing guide from Warsaw, Poland. Her award-winning documentary on Uncle Nappy Napoleon, I Just Love to Paddle, has been shown in film festivals around the world.

     

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