My weirdest year.

  1. I finished my college degree, but in December, not May.
  2. I was a rock climber.
  3. It rained every weekend from February to June.
  4. I didn’t get to do much climbing that spring. But I did drink a pint of “MD/2020” and ran naked around the trailer court I lived in.
  5. We did not get our security deposit back. We didn’t even ask.
  6. I landed a summer job as a rock climbing instructor at Philmont Scout Ranch
  7. I drove out to Colorado in May with a guy named Steve Corcoran. We had a plan of living on the cheap and going climbing until my job started in early June. I think I had about $90 in my pocket.
  8. We got rousted for sleeping in the Garden of the Gods parking lot in Colorado Springs.
  9. We camped in Rocky Mountain National Park while climbing at Lumpy Ridge above Estes Park. A Canadian climber gave me a copy of Henry Bukowski’s Notes of a Dirty Old Man
  10. I got one of the worst sunburns of my life going skiing at Arapahoe Basin on May 19th. Because of the sunburn, I was uncomfortable and ill. It was no longer any fun to camp or climb, or anything.
  11. I wrote Amtrak a bad check to get a ticket for a train ride from Denver’s Union Station to Ottumwa, Iowa, where my mom picked me up. I have no recollection of the train ride. I was able to rescue my bank account with my mon’s money. I owe her a lot.
  12. Early June, I ended up catching a ride to New Mexico with Steve Glotfelty and (I think) Lisa Mondragon.
  13. Steve and I trespassed on Philmont property to go climbing once we got there. Steve lead a dihedral to the top of a mesa. I seconded. At the very top of the route, I grabbed a boulder to pull over the edge. The boulder was loose. It rolled over me in the dihedral, but Steve held the rope and I didn’t die. The boulder hit my Frostline goretex jacket, squishing the goretex through some fabric.
  14. A week or two later, I did an aid climb on the face of Steamboat rock at Cimarroncito camp in Philmont. I was terrified the entire time.
  15. Later in the summer, I did what I think was a new route on Steamboat Spire. It was probably about a 5.8, but I was about a 5.8 leader. I got too far above my protection, a knife piton we’d hammered into a crack. I thought I was going to die, but I found 3 little cracks and fitted tiny “brass nuts” in them, rigged a load-sharing sling and got lowered off. The next day, I came back and finished the route.
  16. I did a route called 7-Up near Cimarroncito later that summer. The route was a crack slanting to the right, followed by a 20 foot traverse right-to-left, and then an off-width crack to the top. The only thing I was worse at than an off-width, was an overhang. Scared the dickens out of me.
  17. Went back to Rolla for my final semester at UMR. I had a lab class to finish my degree, plus I took a couple of masters level classes.
  18. October, University of Missouri had a 4-day weekend they called “fall break”. I think 5 of us cut classes on Wednesday, got in my car (1975 Ford Fairmont!) and drove to Colorado. We slept just off the trail in Eldorado Canyon. It was a lot less policed than it is today. I don’t recall much of what we did, other than on Sunday morning of that long weekend.
  19. Garret Denise belayed me on Sunday morning for our last route of the long weekend. I think it was supposed to be a 5.8 or so on Redgarden Wall, but nothing I see on the web pages looks right. That doesn’t matter, because I got so very far off route.
  20. I ended up maybe 100 feet off the ground, possibly a little more. The last protection was about 50 feet below me. Had I fallen, I would have hit the ground. I started to climb down, but got even further off route. I must have made some bad decisions out of fear.
  21. I ended up standing on a little toe ledge, with my heels out in space. I held on to a potato-sized knob with my right hand. I couldn’t immediately find a foothold lower down. I gradually explored lower and lower for a foothold.
  22. I finally found what felt like a foothold. I was stretched full length, still holding the knob with my right hand. My toes maybe felt a ledge. I could not see my feet because I was stretched so far. I was feeling the might-be-a-ledge with my tippy-toe. I couldn’t feel how big, or square the ledge was. I had no idea. It might just have been another rounded knob, or a wrinkle in the sandstone.
  23. I had no idea what to do. I could get myself back to the ledge I had been standing on, but then I would have had to call for help, and maybe be rescued, which may or may not have worked. I was a long ways above my protection, far enough that I probably would have pulled it out had I fallen. Or maybe I was so far above it that I would have hit the ground first.
  24. I was alone in the middle of the air, alone in space. Nothing came to help me. There was nothing but me.
  25. I gradually let go of the potato-sized knob.
  26. My feet settled on a wide, flat ledge. I didn’t fall to my death.
  27. When I got down to the ground, there was an older guy in a “Planetary Defense” tee shirt sitting on a boulder. He said, “You were in trouble up there.”
  28. I was so wired from my short visit to the land of the dead, that I drove all the way from Eldorado Canyon, to Rolla, Missouri. The other guys got drunk.
  29. I didn’t have a job lined up for after graduation until sometime during the fall semester. Luckily, McDonnell Douglas Aerospace spotted me at a jobs fair. Reagan Money was flowing full blast at this point. I got a job in St Charles, Missouri, at the Harpoon anti-ship missile factory.
  30. I left Rolla after my finals. Snow showers turned into ice on the roads between Jefferson City and Columbia, Missouri. Driving north on US 63, traffic was bumper to bumper, but nobody dared touch their brake pedal for fear of spinning out. By the time I got to I-70 at Columbia, the ice thinned out to occasional snowpack.
  31. I spent Christmas with my parents at their place north of Kirksville, MO.
  32. My palms still sweat when I think about how I was dead, but somehow made it back to the land of the living.