My first time up the Grand Wall was with a guy named Cory Mcfarlane, from Winnipeg, MB. Cory and I had met a few days earlier and we decided we wanted to go all the way up the wall, from the start of Apron Strings to the last four pitches of the Black Dyke off the Bellygood Ledge. It would be my first time up the Grand Wall and the biggest multi-pitch I had ever done. I didn’t know Cory too well but for some reason I trusted him. He seemed like he knew what he was talking about. Needless to say, the experience was brilliant and terrifying all at the same time. When we got down from the wall eight hours later, Cory and I thanked each other for the fantastic day and parted ways. We both had places to go.
Recently. I heard a great story of two climbing partners around a campfire during Christmas. The two climbers had travelled to Yosemite to complete The Nose. They had organized the trip, packed all their gear, and were excited for their adventure. After two nights on the wall, one of the partners started to feel sick to his stomach. With all the tell-a-tale signs of a stomach bug (read: diahrea), the two partners decided to continue on their quest. Pitch after pitch, the poop tube continued to fill up until the one partner had resorted to using a plastic bag to take care his fecal matter.
After leading a long pitch to a good ledge, the sick partner decided to organize his belongings so they were easier to manage. While organizing his gear on the ledge, he accidentally knocked the plastic bag of shit off the ledge. Like a magnet to metal, the bag tumbled down the wall right into the face of his friend belaying. With shit all over his face, the friend used the little water he had left to clean up and followed up the pitch. The two partners continued up the wall, most likely in silence. For better or worse, these two partners were now bonded forever in their experience.
As climbing partners, we choose to experience some of most thrilling moments of our lives together. Sometimes, we are close childhood friends who grew up together, and other times, we just met each other that day. No matter what the circumstance, we bond ourselves to these people, locked in the memories of struggle and the joy of accomplishment. If I have learned anything from Tommy and Kevin over the past few weeks or the guys from Wideboys, Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker, it is that partners matter. Whether you are in the forest trying to figure out a few moves on a boulder or high up on the wall, climbing is about the experiences you share with the people around you.
I recently bumped into Cory in Red Rock this winter. Seeing him in the campground, I parked the van, got out, and embraced him like a long lost brother. We chatted about the usual stuff. At the end of the week we again parted ways, knowing that next time when we see each other the conversation will pick up right where it left off.
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