Late 2014 wasn't a great time to be a close friend of mine. There's no good excuse, but a combination of personality flaws and a bad work situation resulted in me being sour or just downright pissy more often than I'd like to admit. Desite my less-than-awesome moods, a number of my climbing partners continued to hit the cliffs with me.
On a warm late-summer Vegas afternoon, I was out climbing and periodically poking my friend Scott with unsolicited verbal jabs. Thinking back, I can't remember anything really worth complaining about; nonetheless, I decided to take some of my inward facing rage and push it out in his direction.
As Scott climbed a 50' cliff face, I sat cross legged on the white sandstone slab below and lazily maintained his safety from the other end of the rope. Just after reaching the top of the cliff, he shouted down the requisite command and I began to lower him back towards the ground with periodic interruptions in his descent as he reached towards the cliff to remove the safety equipment spaced about every 10'.
Unfortuneately for Scott, this particular climb's path snaked away from his own plumb line descent the farther he was lowered. Not to be deterred, he turned his body 90 degrees, set his feet flat against the wall and quasi-moonwalked to cover the diagonal differences. 20' from the ground, his acrobatics failed to overcome the physics of his situation and despite multiple high speed pendulums, he couldn't reach one of my highly valued pieces of equipment.
Ruffled from my lazy position, I spoke loudly though just below the intensity of yelling: "Don't worry about it. I'll climb this too and clean that quickdraw on the way down."
Not more than 5 seconds later, Scott's feet were on the ground and we began to change roles. I climbed the route and focused more on how I was going to successfully remove my gear than on the flicks and pulls required of my toes and fingers. The top of the climb came upon me before I had worked out any clear plan, but knew that if I could easily retrieve all of the gear then I would surely be justified in whatever display of superiority and mock-contempt that I could send Scott's way. As I was lowered and approached the crucial quickdraw, I devised a solution by installing a temporary carabiner 10' above. With this keystone carabiner in place, I would pass the rope thru and created a shorter lever for finer control over my impending pendulm. A deft swing to retrieve the difficult quickdraw followed by a short and easy climb to reclaim the carabiner and I'd have all of our gear off of the wall.
The plan rang true in my mind and I attempted to surpress any doubt from my voice as I gave instructions to Scott. Temporary carabiner installed and rope clipped, I was lowered down until just below that pesky final quickdraw. Then with a couple of quick kicks against the rock, gravity and the climbing rope guided me to the previously unreachable piece. I grabbed it, quickly yanked it from the wall and remained quiet in my success. Silence not due to focus or modesty, but to convey that my effort was so easy that I didn't even realize a comment was warranted.
Rebuffing my silent insult, Scott yelled: "No fair. That's cheating!"
I held back a response and reclimbed to retrieve my temporary carabiner that so brilliantly solved our problem and then responded with "Oh yeah, using your brain is cheating" and leaned back into the taut rope with the additional weight of heavy self-satisfaction.
Before fully finishing my enjoyment of success and snark, I realized that I was falling towards the ground. A fall to the ground that probably wouldn't have killed me, but it would have put quite the dent in my swager. Only a couple of feet from the hard sandstone base that I had recently been sitting on, Scott brought my rapid decent to a relatively soft end. It took a second for my brain to reconcile my new position and then I turned back to look at my smiling friend.
"Yes, using your brain is cheating and that's the penalty."