I'm looking upon this season with great anticipation and sullenness at the same time. I made so much headway with "Jello" last season. I climbed more than I ever climbed before. I did more big climbs, more technical climbs, more jug fests and took more trad falls than I have combined prior to last year. I camped more in that one season than I have combined in my entire life before that. I've learned to ascend, go hands-free on rappel, place nuts confidently and hexes scientifically, and I learned to not worry when rapping in the dark, climbing in the rain or bushwhacking to get to get to somewhere I had no business going. I had the most disastrous outings in my recreational climbing career, and conquered the best I've ever climbed in the same season.
And I want to build upon that. I want to go more, bigger, harder, funner (is that a word?) and better. Last year it was the quest for 5.9 trad leads in the northeast. This year, I want 5.10. Last year it was 5.10 sport, and now I'm gunning for 5.11. I want to wear out six pairs of shoes in one calendar year, get the inside of my tent wet just for that warm afternoon when the rock dries in the Gunks. I want to claim Recompense (5.9) this year and not be afraid of dying this time. Book of Solemnity (5.9+ or 5.10a - depending on the book) must go, too.
It's raining tonight. There's going to be a whole helluva lot of snow melt going on today and tomorrow. It's pushing my climbing back another weekend. Another gut wrenching weekend, but this is a good thing. The rain will wipe out the snow, and soon Rumney will be opening to the northeastern sporties. Sure, there will be mosquitoes and black flies this year. It was a particularly wet winter, even if the snow melted in Boston within days after falling. We had rain all winter long, so that's going to make life difficult. But I'm itchin' man. I'm itchin to get out, and it ain't the bugs.
Imagine this: a young man who's never been placed in a position of tough responsibility has his boss leave for another company, leaving the young man as the only person in the company who can do that particular job. He's never run such a large project before, but its his now, and there's nothing he can do about it except quit and walk away or plug his nose into his computer and hope that the dust that flies from his keystrokes doesn't cause him to sneeze himself into a coma. He doesn't quit, of course. It's winter and he doesn't ice climb, so why not stick it out and hope for the best? But it means long hours. It means stress, less sleep, fatigue, poor diet, weight gain, a complete lack of energy, and wishing, praying and hoping for the summer season to arrive. Not only does he want it for the climbing, but he wants the damn project done. He has a climbing calendar hanging in his cube, and he checks off the dates in his head. One week in March gone. Two more weeks and it'll be time for the Gunks, weather permitting. Just a bit longer and there'll be more climbing weekends. Soon, Cathedral and Cannon will be unbound from the winter's wrath. Rumney will be crowded, Farley visted, the 'Dacks calling and BOOM! it'll be time to jump on a plane to Yosemite and Lover's Leap.
So why am I sullen? With all this hope and anticipation out there? Why am I so sad? I might not get out this summer as much as I had hoped. You see, "Jello" is driving to my place tonight so that he has a place to stay before flying out to Colorado tomorrow. It's a job interview that he's going for; a climbing guide opportunity. It's what he wants to do, and I'm hopeful for him because he deserves it with all the time he puts in. That and he's a good guy. He deserves it for that alone. But if he gets the job, I'm stuck with playing the mercenary climber who wanders the climbing scene looking for partners. I'll be watching unhappily on the web, unable to look at my gym-friends in the eye, and lurking like a silent beggar in dark campgrounds for scrap meat tossed from a broken threesome. I'll take what I can get and be happy about it, all the while feeling unfulfilled after my day is done, and, yet, itchin' for more the next day. I need this summer to reinforce my therapy, and I may be stuck shelling out hard-earned dollars to my psychotherapist behind the bar at The Burren in Davis Square instead. Either that or heading home to Bar Harbor to hear my sane family members tell me, "we're glad that you stopped that foolish climbing stuff and joined the ranks of the conforming responsible," all the while knowing that Champlain, South Bubble, Otter Cliffs and Great Head are a few minutes down the road.
But it won't end this way. It can't. It's going to be OK. Because even if I find myself thinking of soloing when everyone else has a partner or other obligations, I'll be in search of my next hit, with the rubber tube dangling out of my backpack and dragging along the dusty road behind me. My forearms are already blistered. I'm itchin'...