My freshman year of college at Dixie State College, now Dixie State University, a couple boys dragged me and my roommates to Chuckawalla Wall for the first time. It was my first experience with rock climbing. As I strapped on borrowed shoes, while wearing a borrowed harness, I remember spying the bolts at the top and considering the feat I was about to undertake. So when you say, “kiss the bolts,” what does that mean, exactly? I saw the white chalk marks left by previous climbers, marking the handholds that would allow me to scale the wall. I gave it a shot.
I don’t remember if I reached the top on the first try. I probably didn’t, but I do remember successfully completing the climb a number of times, feeling progressively stronger and confident in my ability to scale the wall. Once the girls and I got the hang of climbing the red Navajo sandstone, we couldn’t get enough, even with borrowed shoes, harnesses, and belay devices, and we begged to be taken out to the wall any chance we could get.
After I moved to Sacramento, the accoutrements were purchased; harness, rope, shoes, belay devices, and off I went to the granite slabs of the Sierras with a new climbing partner. It was hard and frustrating, and we quickly gave up. Storing my shoes and harness felt like giving up a dream. Or coming to terms with something that I wanted, but wasn’t meant to be. Even though I was only 19 years old, I mourned my youth, spontaneity, and sense of adventure. I was married and it was time to turn away from childish things.
I would say it’s luck that I hung onto my shoes and harness for 13 years, moving from California to Utah, Alaska, and Washington, but it’s certainly more divine that that. At 33 years old I feel like I’m only now the person I am meant to be. A person who ties perfect figure eight follow-though knots while talking, planning, drinking, and dreaming. The person who packed a measure of 5mm rope on her last work trip to keep her nervous hands busy in the airport.
Luckily I kept the shoes, harness, and belay device, and I’m happy to report they’re in use again. On my last trip to St. George, Utah, I made a quick stop at Chuckawalla for the first time since 2002. All the good memories came flooding back and I nearly cried while watching a fellow yell his way up the wall while his friends below shouted advice and cheered him on. Thank you, Chuckawalla, for the experience and memories, and the determination to get after it again.