A guest post by contributing author Hamilton White
Climbing trips always come with some kind of bad news. Usually it’s rain or you and your buddies forgot peanut butter. Hopefully it’s a story you'd want to tell others and laugh about, like the time I first climbed the Spider Grind at Reimer’s Ranch, and learned halfway through the route why it’s called Spider Grind. That's why for the last several weeks I bounced back and forth between members of the Summit climbing community for the sake of gathering stories to share with you all. I heard about pizza parlor basements, a climbing trip for the temporarily deaf that, for reasons not related to hearing resulted in sleeping in the team van, and my own first outdoor climbing trip to Barton Creek in Austin.
In the fresh 2017 winter, a trip to RRG without checking the forecast was all but asking for a discouraging experience. Snow and sub 20 degrees fahrenheit easily pushed one Summit climber and his partner out of their tent, and into the toasty basement of the known resting and food spot, Miguel's Pizza. Games and space heaters make it fairly understandable to opt out of sleeping in a six-person tent just the two of them, even though they brought enough insulation for a house. Plus, there was the added benefit of kickin’ it with a teacher who lives out of his van when school isn't in session. And when night rolls around, maybe the question, "Would anyone notice or care if we slept here?" is a good question to ask. But it's good they still left some cash in that lock box for the owner after drinking so much of the Ale81 piled up in crates, and for sleeping in the basement, of course.
Anyone who knows this climber as I do experienced my personal favorite part about this story. A few days into their trip, the climber-in-question's mother made a Facebook post asking if anyone had seen her child. Apparently, the two climbers had initially planned to climb in Red Rock State Park Arizona, but on closer look there was a “virtually one-hundred percent chance of rain for the whole week.” So, in place of Red Rock, the two decided to travel nine-hundred and sixty-eight miles in the other direction to Red River Gorge, without informing their parents. I was fortunate enough to have seen the initial post, and the aftermath of her search (eventually they connected over the phone) all in one sitting. So, I got all the entertainment, and none of the worry. I'm told Mom was pissed.
My own favorite story to tell is the time I took my first outdoor climbing trip as a sophomore in college (I'm a super senior now). About halfway through the drive to ATX, in a Taco Bell parking lot, everyone got into the bed of the truck to grab wallets out of packs when one of our (there were four of us) friends frantically started to sift through his bag as realization sunk in. "Oh no, I forgot all my gear. We have to go back!" Of course, we weren't going to do that at 4:00pm on the first day of spring break, traveling on I-35. We actually wanted to get where we were going. We looked around the bed of the truck and finally someone said, "Dude, you forgot your gear but remembered your guitar?" He was understandably upset, and I certainly didn't help by chronicling his distress on Facebook. Which, he explicitly asked that I not do, although I lost sympathy for his request once he wore my new Anasazi's without socks, my one condition for him borrowing them. A perpetual sogginess followed those shoes.
Our next story is from Mia Alfonso, a climber at the Denton location and student at the University of North Texas. Initially when I heard Mia’s story in blurb form, I thought, “Oh, you just got some soggy hamburgers, that’s like forgetting peanut butter. No biggie.” But it turns out there was more, starting with the fact that the Team Natural kids -who climb down in Houston- like to play a game during travel when one person wears noise cancelling headphones and that person has to guess the word that everyone is trying to say. They chose to say phrases like, “fat chickens,” which is cool, I guess. I’d pick supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, because why wouldn’t you?
The trip started out fine, according to Mia. The weather was slightly cloudy, but nothing had indicated the need to turn around and go home. Not even the absent rainfly that she and her tent mates were going to sorely miss come 1:00am. And what an experience it must have been; sleeping in a van with five other people for the remainder of the trip.
What’s your funny and altogether-at-once unfortunate climbing story? Did you flex out on the starting hold? That crag puppy turn you into a hang-dog on a 5.5? Share with me!