Wherever I May Roam
Sport 5 Pitches
It was the middle of June, 2005 in Central Oregon when I had put off the inevitable. Steph had been trying to haul my ass up Wherever I May Roam for about 2 months. Joel and I had been talking about it for a long time, but neither one of us really wanted to lead it. See, the problem is neither one us truly, deep-down cares for wicked exposure. The kind of exposure where it doesn't matter how big the holds are or how easy he moves, it still makes everything shrink and tuck itself into a more feminine version of itself. And no man looks forward to that. Shrinkage can define a man for days afterwards, reverbrating and resonating through his machismo like a bull in a china closet.
I had come up with excuses and made sure not to have to climb with Steph alone, because, as true as her last name means "Meat," she would drag me to the bottom of this very climb, point to the top demandingly and raise her voice in the best mommy register as possible and explain that I am not only going to get to the top of this thing, I am going to like it. This is her speaking for me, not me speaking as if it were my own will. But, I have been married to my wife, Linda, now for nine years and know that there is a certain bar of defiance any woman can reach that you just don't breach. You sigh, you moan, you mope, you sulk, but in the end, you still do it. I knew I had reached that threshold. I can procrastinate with the best of them, but I lack real staying power or longevity.
It had been an odd year with the weather. The winter was basically dry but climbing was great when it was above 30 during the day (which was more often than not) but most days weren't bad when you stayed in the sun and got on rock that had been in the sun for at least 30 minutes. We got no snow and had everyone screaming DROUGHT!!! But the spring was horribly wet and the cry of drought went away with record level rains. And that spring continued up until almost the very day of summer. It was the middle of the summer and we got our first, honest taste of summer at Smith Rock, a nibbling, a tincture of what was to come. Both Steph and I knew it was the best first day of the year to hit the West Si-eeed. When the heat is on, dropping over the other side of Asterick Pass can cut off 20 degrees or more of heat when it's in the shade in the late morning. This was the day we needed that temperature relief. Walking into the park, we could feel the heat coming up from the dusty path and the sun glaring on our back. She looked at me with that glint in her eye that said No Bullshit.
She asked if I wanted to go over to the West Side and get on Wherever I May Roam. I nodded my head, hanging it low and shuffled my feet a little bit, scuffing up some dirt. She cocked her eyebrow and walked up the trail with a determined, victorious gate. I took it slower...in silent protest. We got to the base of the climb and could see only one other group on the climb and they appeared to be finishing up the second pitch of the climb. In climbing, much like golf, you sometimes have to queue yourselves up into some form of order when you have a slow foursome in front of you. It is like that on classic routes at the peak of a season at a world-famous climbing park.
We walked up and climbed over Asterick Pass, always unnerving no matter how many times I do it, and walked over to the route's start. It was a very clear day, you could see every mountain except for Mount Hood with a clarity not often seen in the Central Desert. I lead the first pitch and quickly handed over the reigns to Steph to finish the climb out. My head for heights got the better of me most of the time and my mouth was dry as Bill Clinton's while being asked about a certain girl with a certain cigar. Especially the exhilirating step at the beginning of the third pitch. The climbing is pretty leisurely in most spots with patches of "awwww, yeah!" to "awwww, shit!"
I felt that buzz of multipitch, that extra perception of clarity, of the nowness of your actions, that I think most climbers are drawn to. I got to sit in my first hanging belay at the end of the third pitch. I can't say I am a fan, but there really is no choice in these matters. One must do what one must do to get to the top. The views looking from the tops of each pitch and the stellar views while shaking in between gasps and jerky movements were undeniably marvelous. I think the last pitch was my favorite, short and more verticle and damn the hundreds of feet of air under your ass.
The top had a view that I hadn't ever seen before, looking down into the park from the other side. The Dihedrals looked small, the Christian Brothers and Sky Ridge were very tame when looking down on them. We topped out with a group from Sky Ridge who rapped down after us. It takes four rappels to get to the bottom with the hanging belay again in the middle. I owe it to Steph for leading that climb. For those who don't really have a fear of heights, this climb is just fun with some sketchy moves. For the others of us whose heights are feared in recipricol proportion to their ability to not become afraid and control their emotions.
Oh, yeah, Cranky Dude. As I was seconding on the third pitch, this guy comes rappelling down off the same climb we were on and was having a difficult time finding some rap anchors for his next rap station setup. Steph had been on this route quite a few times and feels pretty comfortable on it and knows where stuff is. He starts yakking at her about the rap station and whether she was at the next rap station from where she was belaying. She said she thought they were a little further down but wasn't completely sure. He keeps asking her over and over again, at which point she was feeling that she had reached her ethically mandated tech support to this yokel and that she is a little busy with belaying her partner. He basically said he was going to wait for us to finish up at his rap anchors and then head down. He hung out with me but didn't really say much.
After finishing our last rappell, he was STILL THERE. Understand, he was down two of the four raps already to get down and we still had two more pitches before we started our rap. He waited down there for probably an hour and a half. And all he wanted to know was whether or not he had been right. He was rather cranky about the whole thing. I explained to him I had seen another set of anchors about fifteen feet down from where he was just around a little bulge. But, I did neglect to tell him that we used that same rap station on our way down. It doesn't matter, he was cranky, and it's not up to us to have the route memorized for him. Take responsibility for your actions, predicament and planning. Or else go be a golfer or something.