mountain therapy….. for the most part.

My first 5.12 traditional climb – Sentry Box, Squamish.

It was the most strenuous and rewarding single pitch of my life. By extension, it wouldn’t be far off to ponder if it wasn’t the hardest I’ve tried at something for the shortest amount of time to feel one of the greatest joys as I euphorically screamed my lungs off at the chains. Not unlike a 100 meter dash at the Olympics, I was elated beyond belief. I’m recounting about a route that may be a warm up for some but as I told Mike Patz, who was at the crag the day before – ” this is my China Doll ”

The route’s name is Sentry Box, located at the nightmare rock area. You can’t miss it. It is a perfect 10 handjam all the way until you step out of a roof and finesse a barely tips 12 finger crack. It is striking. It is magical. It was, as Kevin Mclane says, the first 5.12 in North America. When Eric Weinstein freed it back in 1975 he had nothing but nuts, hexes and two big nuts. I never chase the grade in trad since that is my ethic, whereby the line calls first and never the opposite and this line screamed that I learn it as did it to Eric. It just so happened to be a old school 5.12 and steeped in history.

The first two times on top rope seemed impossible. I couldn’t do it. I blamed my small fingers for being too big. But when I compared beta with those with bigger fingers than I and I discovered the sequence, in my mind it became possible. I fell at the crux and felt sloppy and scared as I still shook while placing gear on lead on my second day of trying. The second try of day after I had sweated out my nervous energy, I felt smooth pulling into the pod and resting there almost hands free. I breathed close to the wall and the distinct smell of granite filled my nostrils of how wonderful life, friends, and living was. As I moved to lock my pinkies in, Jon Effa (my other hero apart from, say, Optimus Prime) yelled from below, ( who typically isn’t a yeller ). Even as the traffic roared by, the barrage of encouragement was confidence of my safety. I sequentially locked in to tips that have never hurt so much as they lost all feeling. And I almost fell but didn’t. Then I almost fell but didn’t. Took a risk to chalk up, then hit the sloper up top before reality hit and I screamed for God knows how long.

For me, this is a milestone in my climbing life. So much so that i had premature sentiments of putting up my gear for sale but who am I kidding? I’m only 27. Listen though – as i reflect, everything happens communally and nothing individually – nothing. I mean, my friends Jen and Stringer introduced me to climbing and began me the love of mountains. Xavi, and my Spanish friends taught me about climbing beautifully and hard. Jim , who learned with me in the sweltering dust of Africa. Yonkers climbed with me when I returned from Africa and didn’t know a soul. John mark who teaches me that all is possible. Christian for his infectious encouragement. Lovely Laura whose love for nature and patience cannot be understated. Andrew who teaches me to walk away from ego and see life as a blessing. JEffa – for inspiring me and his buttery catches that I’m not allergic to.

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peter and Tami, same spot many years prior.

Below, the cover is the upper crack on Sentry Box.

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