I anticipated the change with dread and excitement. My son was leaving the nest for college and I was determined to return to my former goal-driven climbing lifestyle. Fred Becky would be proud of me. After a night of mourning, alone under the desert stars, I promptly returned home, found my address book, and started calling all the girls I knew who might be interested in my next project.
I had become fixated on Tangerine Trip, VI A2 or C3F, on El Cap for a number of reasons. Nothing compares to the nights spent sitting on a portaledge, hundreds of feet above the valley floor, where only a few have earned the position. There is nothing to do but eat dinner—a bagel with cream cheese and tuna, perhaps—and slip into the sleeping bag. I savor the brief escape from the concerns and busyness of the world, where silence is broken only by the whoops of joy from other souls perched high on the wall and swallows swoop through the air, enjoying themselves just as much as the climbers.
Even though aid climbing is out of vogue, I’ve found that leading hard aid pitches challenges me and scares me just as much as any other form of climbing. No, I’m not ready to live vicariously just yet.
Above: "Big wall Kate" on El Cap from my last trip to Yosemite four years ago. Photo: Kitty Calhoun