Pat Ament said, “When you ride your bike, you’re working your legs, but your mind is on a treadmill. When you play chess, your mind is clicking along, but your body is stagnating. Climbing brings it together in a beautiful, magical way. The adrenaline is flowing, and it’s flowing all the time.” While climbing is such a hard experience to sum up, I think this quote stirs a little bit of that wonderful feeling inside of any of us who have ever touched their hand to a wall of rock. It’s such a difficult task to describe to non-climbers why we are so captivated by this seemingly insane activity, and I doubt I’ll ever really understand why either, but what a great thing it is see the knowing look of understanding on another climber’s face. I believe that it is through all our late night Indian Creek campfires and solitary nights on the rim of the Black Canyon, through teaching your friend the joys of climbing or establishing tight bonds with a partner you’ve just met, every climber is connected on a deeper level.
This connectedness of our climbing community is made so awesomely evident nowhere as much as in the graciousness of the folks at the George Gardner Scholarship Fund. For a long time, I’ve been captivated by dreams of having a chance to climb the big walls of Yosemite, and in a few short weeks, I plan to make this dream a reality. However, none of this would’ve been possible without the selfless support of the GGSF. With the individual instruction I needed to really dial in my techniques so cost prohibitive, I had all but given up on my dream; however, the GGSF sparked my passion for pursuing my dreams once again. They made it possible for me to have a very successful day of training for Yosemite with local mountain guide, Matt Wade.
Matt shared with me a wealth of big wall knowledge, from advanced systems to handy tricks. He was very patient with me and helped me to learn many new skills in a safe setting. He gave me a top rope belay while talking me through a reasonably difficult aid climb at the roadside attraction crag. After my successful mock lead, he met me at the top to help me dial in my hauling technique. Following my wrestling match with the “pig,” finally getting it to the top of the cliff, he instructed me on how to safely rappel with a haul bag by riding on top of it. In addition, he talked me through the intricacies of cleaning an aid pitch while jumaring. To round out the instruction, he taught me the valuable methods of piton craft; I can now comfortable say I know the difference between a lost arrow and a knifeblade.
My day with Matt helped not only my technique, but also my confidence. I could feel that he genuinely wants me to succeed in my adventure and offered me his support to the best of his ability. It is this selflessness that I witness on a daily basis from climbers in this area that proves to me that this connectedness is so real. I will be going out to Yosemite by myself and finding partners as I go. At first, the thought of this was really intimidating and scary, but now I realize that if Yosemite climbers are anything like those in our local community, I shouldn’t have any problems finding a partner as driven and patient as those who have helped me along my way thus far.
As I pack for my trip, my rack partially composed of the gear that Matt and other locals have let me borrow, anticipation for a shot at the “big stone” swells within me. While this is a truly individual test for me, I know that none of it would have been possible without the help and support of our local climbing community. Even though many of the people who offered me such support have climbed so many bigger and badder routes than the ones that I have planned, there is no dismissive elitism; I can feel their caring support with me through every step of my adventure. I can’t thank you all enough for the help!
I’m so grateful to the George Gardner Scholarship Fund for the financial assistance to participate in these wonderful experiences. I never knew George Gardner, but he sounds like not only an amazing climber, but an amazing person. I talked to his widow, Coleen Gardner, the other day and was really touched to hear her say that my adventure is exactly the kind of thing George would’ve liked. I promise to put everything I have into my climbing in Yosemite in memory of George.
Thank you all so much,