my first lead

ZeeTree

It’s been a while… sorry, but I took a little sabbatical and headed to Tuolumne Meadows with Hubs on the annual trip (more about that soon) for some fresh air + adventure. So hello again, but I have some major NEWS! I met a major goal last week… I LED MY FIRST CLIMB (YES… that’s me in the photo)! I am really proud of myself, and super stoked that I finally went for it.

I have been talking about leading something for the past two years, but I have never really pushed for it, just talked about. My thought process changed last week after I started feeling really confident after cleanly climbing some of the hardest slab routes I have ever attempted. The best part, I felt like Chris was feeling confident in me too, and my abilities.

After a few days of being in the land of domes, Chris and Jahnke ( a friend ) set out to climb Third Pillar of Dana and I stayed in the meadow and climbed with my Father in Law, Steve, and a few friends. We headed for Stately Pleasure to climb, and went for some obscurities. We set up at the base of White Flake a fun 5.7R route, and we flaked the rope, I was asked, “Do you want to lead?” My response… “I can’t, because I don’t know how to place gear.” As I spit the words out, I became mentally frustrated. I cruised the climb, and then cruised the first pitch of the 5.9 adjacent to us and had a lot of fun, but was couldn’t shake my frustration.

I was fired-ip, and set my sights on leading! I had spent that whole morning, before we went out to climbing, sipping coffee and studying the “Super Taco” for Tuolumne Free Climbs, not even realizing these events would occur. However it worked to my advantage, because I had a few ideas on where to start. I knew I didn’t want to place gear on my first climb, and there were some easy climbs out there, Space Balls, I considered Golfers too, because I had climbed it, but I wanted something “classic” and with a killer view… and it came to me!

Zee Tree on Pywiack Dome was the first multi-pitch route that I climbed with Chris in Tuolumne. It’s a 5-FUN route, and you can look out at Tenya Lake. THIS WAS MY CLIMB.

a couple hours later: Chris and Jahnke returned from their climb/adventure. they told us all about how it went. in all honestly I was super jealous. i know the approach is a grunt, and I know the climb might have been a bit over my head, but I have seen so many photos of women climbing it lately that I have by eye on it now. after all the details of don’t take that gully,  the “fish hook” around approach, and the excitement dying off, I proclaimed, “sooo I am going to lead something.” it felt like at first everyone thought I was joking, but I wouldn’t shut up about it ( it came out of my mouth about 3-4 times at dinner… maybe it was the cocktails? ) and kept saying I was going to.

For a little background, at the time of my proclamation I had never clipped a bolt ( I have cleaned a lot of gear though ) and I had one lesson on creating a bolted anchor, but I wasn’t too worried about the lessons to come. That evening, and into the next morning I was still feeling confident and ready to go. Then… we had a crash course. This consisted of me walking/balancing up a ladder, clipping draws and setting an anchor on Chris’ “finger bolts” and sadly their are no photos of this. The peanut gallery (#hecklingnothating) was out in full force, as I listened to three people try and teach me what to do. Hubs did the best, and was patient and very clear with me, which helped me understand the importance of safety and details. Once we finished, I could do it all, but at the same time I wanted to cry. I was overwhelmed, a little freaked out, and then spent the 15 minute drive silent after packing the car.

Something clicked as we pulled off the road. I hopped out of the car, looked over at the clear route, and got my head screwed back on tight. I put on my harness, clipped my Murias onto the gear loop, strapped on my chalk bag, and started counting/clipping draws off Chris’ rack onto my gear loops. I kept reviewing everything in my head…9 (10 including the first hanging belay) bolts, anchor, belay Chris up then Steve, 3 bolts, anchor, belay Chris up then Steve, and a two-pitch rapel. As I counted draws, there was a super cute moment of Chris walking up to me and saying “gearing up” with a big smile on his face! I felt proud, a little more confident, and it knocked out a few more nerves. It was time! I tied the rope on my back and walked down the gully and across to the bottom of the climb.

The hardest part was getting started, but after I clipped the first bolt ( with MY DRAW that Chris gave me as a gift ) I took a big deep breath and just went. The scariest part of leading for me was always that last body length before the next bolt. It was the only time that my brain really chimed-in to say “don’t fall” because it’s going to hurt! The only other thing that was a bit new, but familiar since I have done a lot of multi-pitch climbs with three people ( me climbing in the middle ) was the rope drag…. ugh. Also, the name of the route “zee tree” isn’t joking, you ZIG around a tree, which really adds to the rope drag.

In the end it was an amazing experience. It has made me more confident in myself, which is also extremely scarey, because it makes me want to push myself, and climb harder. It’s not a bad thing, but it is always good to keep yourself in check, and understand the dangers as well. A good reminder that you can fall, that you can hurt yourself, and if you push yourself there is a good chance it will happen somebody, but you learn from it too. However… for now, ONWARD to harder climbs, keeping up strength, and learning to place gear!

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