The Prelude

by Chris de Serres


I usually wake up really early.  It starts with opening my eyes and letting the world come into focus.  I stare at the top of the tent for a while.  Listen to the birds and squirrels outside.  I sit up.  Wait for the world to stop spinning.

Next to my sleeping bag is a banana and a large bagel.  It’s the only food I can keep down on a day like today.

My body contracts like a fist.  I slowly rise and leave the tent.  I do jumping jacks.  I swing my arms like windmills.  Getting the body warm for the difficulties ahead.

My climbing gear was sorted last night, but there’s always something last minute to add or take away.  A late renegotiation with my climbing partner adds 2 extra pounds to my pack.

I hear the double bleep of the car door locks opening.  This is my last opportunity.  I walk quickly to the outhouse and empty my contents.  The expectation of risk and danger stiffen me.

We drive to the trailhead.  I begin second guessing myself.  Did I bring enough water?  Food?  That extra wind jacket?

We hike up the trail briskly.  I always start too fast then slow down to a nice steady pace.

I can see the wall glistening in the Sun.  It’s going to be a hot day.  I don’t think I brought enough water.

Soon we are out of the shade.  I can feel the heat like a hot fog in my lungs.  We scramble up towards the wall.  Drenched in sweat, I hang my shirt on a tree branch.  I sit in the shade, the only shade up here.

Like gypsies we dump the contents of our packs on the ground.  I don harness, shoes, helmet, all the essentials.  I tie the rope into my harness.  I’ve done this a thousand times.  It always feels like the first time.

I look up at the wall.  Close my eyes.  Three breathes.  Like cresting the ocean after a long dive.  In.  Out.

“I’m ready.  Are you ready?”

“Ready than i’ll ever be.  Climb on.”