…I started up with confidence, but the edge was too rounded to lieback and my only relatively big piece—a number 3 Camalot—was soon a few bodylengths below. The smears and edges felt insecure, and my pinchy, down-toed slippers—great for overhanging limestone—made my feet hurt so much I couldn’t stuff them into the flare.
At last I found some crystals outside the crack for my feet, but the mineral clusters inside tore up my bare hands. I’d always contended, like any good Valley local, that taping was aid; now blood began to lube my naked jams.
A huffing mantra of “It’s only 5.8” brought me quaking over the final awkward bulge. Profoundly relieved, I clipped the anchors, my heart racing.
Other climbers were filtering into the area. I did my best to look collected. Oversized, umbrella-like cams and spring-loaded tube chocks the size and shape of bazookas clanked on their racks.
“Bob” glanced at my fresh gobies and unlaced slippers.
“Enjoying yourself?” he asked, Cheshire-Cat-like.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied, the metallic taste of the 5.8 still in my mouth. Your climbing area sucks, I wanted to add.
Fourth of July Crack swept overhead, parallel to Horn’s Mother, equally aesthetic. The alcove’s symmetry of crack and sculpted stone evoked the architectural ambiance of a cathedral.
“Nice slippers,” a man in a rugby shirt and shredded canvas pants said as I reached the ground. He nudged another local, pointing at me.
We drove off in a huff. A few days later I read a Todd Skinner quotation in an old issue of Climbing: Vedauwoo’s offwidths “filter out the weak, the soft and the spineless.”
I’d been filtered.