Climb or Die Inside

Nachoclaws resting against a tree at Lost in Space. Image by @mikeloudman

More than yelling at nesting raptors, stomping on native plants, or even littering, my favorite part of climbing outdoors is recklessly assuming I know the story behind the names of boulder problems. I can see the Hulk’s face in the Happy Boulder, even though I’m certain Peter Croft just indiscriminately names everything ‘The (Incredible) Hulk.’ Clearly ‘Go Granny Ho‘ was FA’d by someone’s strong, slutty grandmother. We spent the last half of June and first half of July orbiting Lake Tahoe, and in the Lost in Space area, I found a project called ‘The Gerbiler.’ Deciphering the meaning of that name took exactly as long as figuring out how to start the problem. It’s a roof in a dirty, wet, mosquito-filled cave, so I thought, “Hey, gerbils are rodents, this is a gross cave…?” That didn’t make a whole lot of sense so I gave it up for the moment, assuming there was an inside joke I would someday be in on. While I was having trouble starting the problem someone yelled, “Feet first!” They were joking, but that always sounds fun, and I wasn’t getting anywhere going head first, so why not?

Because if you are in the cave with an enemy, this is when they will send a gerbil up your butt.

Lake Tahoe is surrounded by a fearsome amount of granite. There are so many boulders it took 4 guidebooks to cover the area, and new problems are being developed everyday. It is a daunting task to decide which book to buy, much less which area to climb in… Unless you are a roof-obsessed nacho-clawed freak, and then you choose the area with the highest concentration of occurrences of the word “overhanging.” Lost in Space not only has that, but it is shady in the hot summer, and the approach follows a raging river which lovingly mists at you, and provides a couple of calm, ice cold pools to dip your body/clothes into before you disappear into the woods. Lost in Space also has a couple of perks you won’t find in the guidebook.

Eagle Falls traffic patterns

It is accessed from the Eagle Falls trailhead parking lot, which is basically a heart attack in road form. The entertainment starts early and continues all day long as hordes of pedestrians step into the road without looking; spandexed roadies lose their minds screaming at everyone while continuing to time-trial, and cars barrel through the chaos or just contribute to it by parking in the lane. The other perk comes at the end of the long sweaty day, when you’re letting the waterfall plow through your dirty laundry while tourists trying to take outdoorsy selfies struggle fruitlessly to angle away from your disgusting photobomb.

This became our routine because I became obsessed with The Gerbiler. Before long, other language was gone and all I could say was the word Gerbiler at different speeds/volumes. “Juuuuurrrrrbilllluuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrr” I would whisper to the dying house plants. “GERBILER!” I would yell at the lake. “Gerbiler gerbiler gerbiler gerbiler” I would babble at Eli, not remembering enough of my humanity anymore to even question why he puts up with this bullshit. It took 2 sessions to do the first move, and another to connect it to the second move. At that point, I had it all figured out, was certain I was about to send, and punted off of the last move. Then I gave myself a 2 day hangover to really solidify my failure, and all of a sudden it was time to leave Tahoe.

People punt for many reasons. It could be a fear of success, fear of heights, a failure to believe in yourself, or even genuinely being too tired to go on. It doesn’t really matter, because “punting” is just spray for falling. If you say you “punted,” the expectation is that you fell after the crux, but you could have sent it. You just didn’t. You are obviously strong enough, you just have a sack of wet phonebooks where your heart should be, and a dumb brain that’s connected to a mouth which is unfortunately capable of articulating all kinds of pathetic excuses.

Climb or die inside, my bros.

It was a non-negotiable deadline we had, leaving Tahoe, because we had signed up to take a Rope Access course in Reno. This turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, but that is a blog post for another time, for I have more whining to do on this Gerbiler topic.

Speaking of whining, why am I telling you this? Why am I forcing you to share the pain of my failure without offering a feel good ending? Because I’m crazy and an asshole! Because this is what you want. Because life is suffering, and sometimes you aren’t a 14 year old girl whose parents will just take you back to Japan because the world is holding its breath until you send your v15 roof, and you’ll only be stronger next season. Sometimes, you’re 31 and sending your soft lowball project would mean nothing to anyone else. Inexplicably, the obsession drives you into a wild dirty madness, hollowing you out into a homeless, babbling blob of peeling, bleeding flesh. The world leaves you to die at every turn, like a shitty big sister who hates your guts. All of a sudden your knees hurt, and you can’t feel your own hair, but you want to force this shabby mess of an animal to climb v8 roofs?

Too fucking bad dude! You’re just a skidmark in some snotty kid’s underpants. You aren’t good at anything, only mediocre at everything, except for the stuff you are bad at! All you can hope for is to leave a legacy that isn’t even as memorable as Richard Gere’s butt gerbil. What movies has he been in? Fucking Runaway Bride? Who cares? A gerbil went UP HIS BUTT. He is a legend! He will live forever in our butts!

We are waiting for you. Always.

The failure was a goathead stuck in my sock, non-fatally poking me in the ankle. This is going to sound disgusting, and I won’t blame you if you quit reading this blog forever, but certain climbs become so sentimental that the process of visiting them is soothing. This is not to say that I didn’t throw a fit when I had to leave (or that I’ve never thrown another fit after that…), but to remind myself to zoom out when I get frustrated. In Bishop, I had fallen in love with a project I’d similarly left unfinished last winter, but this year I was going to go HAM sauce on my projects, not just visit them like a mushy idiot!

The first one to get sauce on it was Water Saps, which is a scary pocketed roof on the east rim of the Happies that climbs into the highball finish of one of my favorite v5’s. It takes at least 5 crash pads and one spotter [for me to feel safe], and nobody I’ve ever brought up there wants to climb it after touching the holds. I started to feel like a con-artist, convincing them that it would be fun. I knew I had to get it done soon because I was about to run out of friends and significant others, and go to jail for scamming loved ones for use of their crash pads. Eli had his eye on an even more terrifying problem on the west rim of the canyon, called Highbrow. On Christmas Day we gathered a highball team and each carried at least two pads up the hill. Eli sent after some deranged screaming and maniacal laughter, so we walked across to Water Saps. Inspired by the hilarious bravery he had scrounged up to send Highbrow, I was determined to try as hard as he had. I pulled onto the start hold, and all of a sudden I was past my high point, and then not long after that I was on the jug pockets of the v5. Unfortunately, I could barely feel my hands anymore, but I had gone too high, and wanted to be on top of this boulder too badly. Honestly, I didn’t even have enough dexterity left to let go, and the only sensation in my body was the sharp edges of the pockets digging into my flesh, so I just had to assume that I wasn’t about to fall/deglove all of my fingers. As I blacked out, my hands turned into hooks, which either Jesus, or me, or the guy who sleeps on the couch in my brain used to desperately claw my way out of the roof and onto a chossy shelf of nausea and victory.

Water Saps was my only goal when we came to Bishop this year, and if I had sent nothing else and died screaming in a torture chamber the next week, I would have been happy. I may be exaggerating, but it’s so easy to say things about torture chambers while you aren’t inside of them! Luckily, I did send other things, and they were equally as glorious. Here are some more badly exposed videos to bore you into a meaningless forever-coma. Turn the volume up on Highbrow.

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