Hot! Gal for Three Seasons

A year ago in Red Rocks, Nevada, I took a bad lead fall climbing. When I missed my hold and fell backwards, my legs came back up against the very hard red rocks. I sprained my ankle and it took me months to recover.

I haven’t lead or fallen since.

This weekend, I returned to Red Rocks for the Red Rock Rendezvous, a kickin’ climbing fest known as much for Fat Tire truck of beer as the all-star climbers who teach the clinics. My first session would be Fall Safe.

I assumed I would have time to get back on my horse – or fall off of it – well before March. But I was wrong. I practiced leading in the gym, but even in the safe environment, I couldn’t let myself drop.

Saturday morning came bright and early. I’d skipped the late night party to be well rested for the clinic. Top climber Chris Linder was teaching and had set up lead fall scenarios for us to practice. After a few pointers, he sent our group up a fixed line via ascenders. We would clip into a draw above the bolt. When we were ready, we would release our safety draw, position ourselves, then drop.

I watched the others go ahead of me, each making clean falls without hesitation. I was nervous when I reached the top, but didn’t want to WL. I cued my belayer. There were no handholds and I thought I would drop as soon as I released my safety. But fear does amazing things. The girl who can barely do a pull up in the gym, I held onto that draw for a good minute and easily could have gripped longer, but the group was cheering me on. There was no reclipping. I let myself go.

It was like New Years 07 all over. I fell backwards, my legs coming out and hitting the wall. Fortunately, the overhang in the rock made a hard hit impossible. Once upright, my belayer brought me down to solid ground. I was shaken. I watched my video, saw what I had done. Then got back on the rope.

I fell two more times, each time was a better, cleaner fall. I went back to camp with a smile on my face and ready to enjoy that Fat Tire truck!

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