wrote about how I got started in this activity a while back.
Last week, Norma Jean asked me why I wasn't using this blog to write about the past, as I had done when I began writing here. After all, I designed my other blog to be short and sweet, with lots of current pictures, and she feels that the Eye blog has morphed into something more like DJan-ity. It made me think about why I write here. When she brought it up, I felt a distinct sense of guilt, as if I had somehow been caught out doing something not quite honest. She's right, you know: I realized (after feeling around inside myself) that writing these posts stirs up a whole lot of buried angst. One way I've dealt with the pain and sorrow of my past is to distract myself, and this blog was supposed to be designed to keep me from spending my entire life doing that very thing.
There are a whole lot of stories that are languishing in the dustbin of my memories, and if they don't get exposed to the light of day, they will die when I do. So here goes: some of those past experiences have begun to emerge, and I'm willing to dust 'em off and write 'em down. In the days like the one in the above picture, I was learning how to do things that most women didn't do. In fact, that's what appealed to me about pursuing them. Rock climbing was a big thing in Boulder, so I found some partners and purchased a harness and a rope.
Now you might look at that picture and think it's not that different from what I do today, going out and hiking up mountains, even if they were a lot higher in Colorado than they are here in Washington state. But Longs Peak has many routes to the top, and the woman (whose name is lost to me now and hovers right out of reach) and I, along with one other woman, had climbed up one of the technical routes on Longs Peak. (I don't have a clue who that guy in the white helmet is; he wasn't part of our group.) The third woman took our picture.
We climbed a route known as Kiener's Route. I found this link to Jared Workman's website, and he just happens to live and work in Boulder. I didn't know him but I'll bet we crossed paths more than once. He has a couple of cool pictures on that link showing what Kiener's Route actually looks like and explaining it in detail. We carried ropes and belayed each other as we crossed Lamb's Slide and a very exposed section known as Broadway. Here's Jared's picture of Broadway.
Anyway, we didn't have any problems making it up this rather easy technical route, and as we summited (when that first picture was taken), we saw many dozens of other hikers who had come up the non-technical traditional route, known as the Keyhole. They were amazed at seeing us come up from another route that looks terrifying, looking down from the summit. I've also climbed up the Keyhole route, too. The entire climb is eight miles each way and traverses up 5,000 feet in elevation. Knowing how tired I am after a hike these days of half the height and half the distance, I realize that I probably couldn't do this today. But then again, it was probably thirty years ago that I climbed up Longs Peak.
During my climbing days, I spent many a summer's day out in the wilderness enjoying the views from different peaks. Summiting fourteeners was the first time I realized how rarified the air is at 14,000 feet. In Colorado, it was so clear that it seemed you could see forever. Although at that altitude smokers and people who are not in pretty good shape have a hard time, it was exhilarating to me. I learned to slow down as we gained altitude and the air got thinner and thinner. My heart would pound from the effort and the lack of oxygen; everyone slowed down.
When I was a climber, I would get what is known as "sewing-machine legs," when I would become scared and the adrenaline in my system would cause my legs to tremble so bad that I couldn't continue until I gathered my wits about me and relaxed. It was usually because I was afraid that I would fall, even though the rope would catch me (theoretically, anyway) and I wasn't really in any danger. I saw it happen to many climbers, not just me. Exposure did it to me, my very active imagination allowing me to contemplate falling. The only way around it was to relax and concentrate only on the task at hand. Perhaps overcoming my fear of falling while climbing helped me to learn to skydive, who knows?
It was at the end of 1990 when I made my first skydive, and my interest in climbing mountains and even hiking into the backcountry began to fade. I didn't look back and didn't think I'd ever stop skydiving and return to the mountains, but I'm beginning to realize that no matter how much you love something, it doesn't stay the same. I get as much enjoyment from a brisk walk with my friends as I do when I head down to Snohomish and jump out of airplanes. Smart Guy once said to me, "you can't have a hundred jumps forever," meaning if you keep jumping you gain experience and knowledge... and familiarity. Spending 66 hours in freefall, as I've done, means that it's no longer thrilling. Well, it is, but not in the same way.
Now that I am much older and wiser (I'm smiling here), what are the trials and tribulations that are still out there to be faced? Well, as many who are older and wiser than I have said, "getting old is definitely not for the faint of heart."