First Day Follies
All of this couch and recovery time makes you reflect on the past a bit. Just recently I had to fly down to Colorado for a meeting with Osprey Packs and my three month post operation visit with my knee surgeon. After a few tugs and pulls, the doc, ironically named “Hackett,” said pretty casually that it was looking tight, and to keep it up, but not to try climbing on it too hard in any tweaking kind of way. The rest of my week was spent driving across Colorado visiting with old friends, with whom it has been too long since I have crossed paths. Visiting one friend in Carbondale and meeting his new girlfriend, I was egged on to talk about how I met my wife, and the story of our ‘first date’. I feel like it is a good one to recount here…
This story takes place in 2002. All spring my friend Jon and I had been on the Astroman Training Program, (ATP), which in Indian Creek consisted of doing an Astroman style day at the crags every day – this translated to 6 pitches of 5.10 and 5 of 5.11. This was our dream route and we wanted to send. Needless to say we got fit. We hit the valley and quickly dispatched of our goal. And then of course I was fired up to climb as much stuff as possible, especially considering I had a big wall trip to Greenland coming up that summer.
In total I spent about six weeks in the valley that spring. While hanging out in Camp 4, single, you are constantly scanning the campground for any and all available ladies. Trust me, the odds are not in your favor as a single guy, but as a single girl they say the odds are good, but sometimes the goods are odd. I often think of a scene where there is some roadkill and a few dozen vultures are circling overhead waiting to swoop in for their opportunity. So the scene is set for dating and meeting ladies in Yosemite. This fateful summer though, the odds might have been in my favor.
Jasmin was a cute climber/skier from British Columbia. I had met her in the spring of 2001 in Camp 4, but we were both dating other people. I quickly learned that her parents owned and operated a backcountry ski lodge in BC. “What?” I thought; “a cute girl who climbs hard, skis hard and whose family owns a lodge in BC? Was this too good to be true?” The next summer we would hang out and run into each other climbing in Squamish, and again the next spring we crossed paths in Indian Creek. Here she literally caught me with my pants down. I was changed to shorts for an approach to an out of the way cliff in the creek, thinking no one would drive up and of course, with pants around my ankles, she drives up. She was in the car with some other guys she had met, but I had convinced her to come cragging with me that day. It was the only day we shared in Indian Creek, and who knew if we would ever see each other again.
But as is common with the travelling dirtbag climber show, we all end up in the same places. A week or so later, she strolled into camp 4 and it was then that I knew I had a chance. What else does a climber do for a ‘date’ than say, “Hey, let’s go climbing!” So we made plans for tackling the classic NE Buttress of Higher Cathedral Spire, a long 5.9+ that we could both easily do but had never done. Thinking we had it in the bag, we started casually around 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning. Thinking retreat was not even a possibility in our young cocky minds (maybe it was just my young cocky mind?) we didn’t bring a second rope. Of course arriving at the base we counted at least five or six teams ahead of us. But we started up anyway. We were cruising along, having fun, and halfway up we caught up to everyone. There was no passing on this route, too many chimneys and small belays with parties stacked up one after the other. So we sat on a ledge, shot the shit, and enjoyed the valley, the views and each other’s company. After a half hour or so, we gave up. There was no summiting before darkness and neither of us had a headlamp. So we bailed. Rapping down we only had to leave one or two pieces behind for anchors on this fifty crowded classic.
But halfway down on the rappels, something hit my bowels in a major way. There was no making it back to the base, I had to take a dump NOW! I quickly rapped down to the next small stance two pitches above the ground and yelled back up to Jasmin to wait for a few minutes. She was puzzled. I was mortified. Here I am, no TP, on a small ledge on one of the most classic routes in Yosemite and I was going to defile it. So I did the best I could, wiping with small rocks and strategically squatting over a small flat rock. Upon finishing my movement, I took the flat poo-laden rock and played ‘shit frisbee’ so that I would leave no poo behind on the route. Leave no trace they say. After releasing the identified stinky flying object I realized that I didn’t get the toss as far away from the wall as I had hoped. Instantly fear came over me that I had just tossed my poo on my dates’ back pack at the base of the wall. Oh shit, pun intended. Jas, wondering what was going on, and the lingering aromas letting her know, didn’t say anything and we rapped to the ground. Sweating and nervous that I had just ruined all of my chances, I rapped down to the ground first and ran over to the packs. In some weird twist of fate, my pack was conveniently covering over Jasmin’s, meaning only my gear was coated in specs of poo from the impact of the shit Frisbee. It didn’t take long for laughs to come out and jokes to flow freely, letting me know I still had a chance to make this all work. And now 11 years later, we are still going strong, having adventures, climbing and skiing all over the world. I must have known that I had a keeper after a date like that.