My bladder was bursting. We flung open the car doors to my gun powder grey Forester and made a beeline to the bivouac camp ground bathrooms. I was immediately hit with a sensory overload. The overwhelming scent of juniper invaded me with some kind of dry nostalgia and I was immediately sane again. All of the memories of this place came flooding back instantly yet slowly, dripping through the cavernous chambers of my mind. Throughout the course of the day the all too familiar yellowish/tan/red/orange/brown streaked walls of tuff were like constant reminders of the past. Friends were literally around every corner. We couldn’t walk more than ten yards without seeing a friendly wave or hearing an excited greeting from a belayer we knew. Not to mention the sun. The glorious life giving sun! (The irony is that as I write this I am staring out the window at a thick cottony grey sky that threatens to burst forth at any minute.) Oh the sun, sometimes I feel as if I can go forever without it and other times I would do anything to feels its warm lips on the back of my neck and shoulders.
The day unfolded as I thought it would. Being in this place is like being trapped on a beautiful rollercoaster. I still for some reason get so nervous when I start a climb, no matter the grade. Smith can draw out your mental imperfections like a thirsty syringe can draw blood from a plump giving arm. But that’s the magic of this place. I’m not sure its effects are felt by the hardened locals; people who are as gnarled as the twisted desert inhabitants of the plains that surround the park and as proficient at reading its secrets as the rats who dance and defecate all over it nocturnally. But as for myself and my beautiful partner our virgin skin and coddled mind states are simply no match for the towering piles of sculpted pockets and dime sized edges with routes that test the fragility of your psyche and impose the harshest of penalties for those who foolishly do and sometimes wisely do not commit.
I never could quite believe how it worked when I shoved my two fat fingers in that little pocket, jacked my foot up into a blackened dimple and yarded up to yet another smallish two finger pocket and still kept my weightless gravity on the wall. I spent some time perfecting my footwork on various random classics around the park before really entering my groove. Slowly growing cold, feeling the split desire to all at once take a nap and expend more energy engaged in battle with this route. Whether drenched in anticipation fueled by hop water and friendly inspiration, or racing against the fading light and increasingly perfect conditions I set off upwards to meet fate.
Now back at work, the dust and sunlight are all I can think about. I keep running through beta and torturing myself about results concerning foot placements and keeping my arm straight at a particular rest. More than anything I just feel extremely psyched. I want more of that feeling that you can only get while climbing at Smith. The terrifyingly terrific drop in your stomach that you get when you first pull on or realize that your last draw was some 15 moves ago. I want to bathe in the dry heat of the morning glory wall, draped on the slouching fence surrounded by like-minded climbers, friends, companions.