It’s been 11 years since I’ve climbed Bridalveil Falls in Telluride and back then, I didn’t lead the difficult 2nd pitch. For some reason, the climb has always intimidated me and for years it was closed, making it illegal to climb. This San Juan classic is now open to climbers and it sees ascents almost daily. It was the climb on my 50th year hit list that I most anticipated because for some unknown reason, I had decided that leading all of Bridalveil was something I didn’t want or have to do. But now that I was getting my grrr back…that perspective changed.
Mr. X and I headed up for the second shift on March 11th with a guided party ahead of us. As we walked up to the climb the beginning of the route wasn’t obvious to either of us and I kept staring at it wondering if I’d actually get on it. The party coming off happened to be good friends and we got a little beta which helped my confidence… at least I knew where to go. We got on the climb around 2:00 PM for the second shift, which was perfect.
This year, both the first and second pitch proved to have some interesting climbing on it and to my surprise, I actually had a lot of fun leading it. Poor Mr. X got a scare right off the bat when I took off on the first pitch and my crampons skidded out from under me, on what we now refer to as the “gerbil ramp”. Luckily after that (not so) impressive start, I got my act together and enjoyed weaving my way through the ice on this sometimes convoluted route. As the belayer, you can only see the leader on the first few feet of each pitch – so to reassure my nervous partner, I yelled down occasionally to let Mr. X know how I was doing. I remember saying two things: “I’m having fun” and “watch me, this is tricky”, the irony being that he couldn’t actually “watch me” at all. That about sums it all up.
Climbing is an intense internal dance and I love holding it together while solving the pieces to the puzzle as I go. The complete and total focus of that moment, the camaraderie and trust of my climbing partner makes for a powerful shared experience. When Mr. X reached the top of the first pitch, we made eye contact and he said to me “who are You?” Now that I think of it, I often wonder that myself.