Written for NaNoWriMo (unedited)
Chapter 2: That feeling When things don't go as planned.
Adam and I finish the 800 ft of Frigidaire in a couple hours. I only hold us up one time when I can't get a piece of gear out of the wall. I fight and fight until I realize I just need to slide it upwards, and it immediately falls out. Adam and I laugh about it. I think this is the highest off the ground I have ever been, but I don't tell him. I want to let out a big howl. It's motherfucking scary but also not, because if I do fall from this height, it's not like I'm going to be paralyzed or down on the ground writhing in pain. I will 100%, assuredly smash into smithereens and never feel a thing, except for the impending death as I fall through the air.
Rappeling often scares people more than climbing because you're just dangling over the abyss, not moving upward in a controlled manner. When I say rappeling often scares people more than climbing, I really mean it often scares me more than climbing. Adam ties our climbing rope to another rope I carried on my back on the climb. By tying two ropes together, we can save a considerable amount of time. The crazy thing about tying the ropes together is that he just does an overhand, regular, normal knot. He does another to back it up. This is the standard knot for rappeling, but is sure as heck does not make me feel secure. Apparently, the opposing forces on the ropes as we rappel actually makes the knot tighter. I pretend to understand why. Adam feeds the rope through the rappel rings, which are screwed deep into the rock. We take turns attaching ourselves to the ropes and slowly sliding down on out ATCs. When I reach the first ledge, my ATC is hot from the friction.
Now we have to pull the rope, and Adam is unsure of which side he put the knot on the rappel rings. See, the knot won't fit through the rings, so it sits to one side or the other, and you have to pull the correct side, or else you may get the knot lodged into the rappel rings. This would result in being stuck on this ledge until someone came to save us. Adam pulls one side, but the rope doesn't move. It must've been the wrong side, so he pulls the other, but it still doesn't move. He does this about three or four times. We THINK the knot was on the blue side. We are 87% sure. So we decide we will both pull with all our strength, and hope it's just a tough rope. It doesn't budge. We decided to do it again, but this time we won't just pull, we'll actually hang on the rope with our body weight. We adjust our footing. He puts his hands above mine on the rope. We are tied into the wall, so we can't fall. On the count of three, we jump up and let our body weight pull the rope down. Finally, it budges just a foot. Now we can pull it through, but slowly. It's still not clear why this happened.
Once the rope is pulled, we rappel again, and eventually we find ourselves safe on the desert floor. We look for my sunglasses, but they are nowhere to be find. I'm sad, but I pretty glad is was just my sunglasses that fell.
I am that exhausted kind of euphoric as we drive back to camp. What we just did was truly amazing as I think about it. Moving up an 800 ft vertical face in a few hours, with little more than rope and a bunch of metal gear. I let a big deep breath out and I feel satisfied. But also, I want to take a nap that lasts the whole weekend. I feel unusually tired, but I chock it up to the adrenalin and excitement of it all. We eat and lounge and I fall asleep very early. I think since time is different out here, it is okay to fall asleep at 7pm.
I wake up 12 hours later.
I hug my rust-colored fleece blanket close to my clammy body. I am perched on the wooden sleeping platform my friend built in the back of my Honda Element. Snot drips down my raw nose onto the thin mattress below.
I didn’t care. All that occupies my mind is the pressure building in the cavities of my head.
Outside my car window, the desert sun lowers slowly behind red cliffs that surround the campground. “So much for exploring the ‘Wild West’, finding myself, and all that romantic stuff that is supposed to happen on road trips,” I think.