The Prodigal Son Returns...With A Score To Settle

September 30, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

August 12, 2012: I think I'm dieing...

It was like a well articulated, well built Swiss time piece: working promptly, efficiently and never off, never not stopping. It was hot out - August at Shelf Road is relentless: no wind, no shade and unabated sun.

I had gathered a handful of climbing friends to come out to Shelf with me and have one big weekend of sending before I moved on to bigger and better things (read selling my possessions and moving into my Honda Element). People I hadn't climbed with in months; people I wanted to climb with again; people I cared about.

I had a ticklist of hard-for-me routes that I wanted to send. Routes like Lats Don't Have Feelings, Muscle Beach and #1 Super Guy. I was stoked for the opportunity to really push my sport climbing. I hadn't had an opportunity like this in a long time and I was giddy. My body, however, had other plans....

Everyone arrived. We sat around the pitchnut board, ate food, drank Canadian Mist and enjoyed life. This is going to be awesome. Tomorrow, we were off to climb, to send, to get worked.

"I don't think I'll ever return to Shelf again..."

I vomited. A lot. I never vomit...ever. I woke up nauseous and then it began. I continued to empty the contents, or lack thereof, of my stomach every 30 minutes from when I woke up to mid-afternoon. My friends hung around me, thinking I was hung over, being a pansy, and told me to "suck it up". I'm really sick...

I sent them all away; to go climb, to send, to get worked. Luke stayed behind and I'm glad he did. I couldn't stand, walk, or even talk. My body was rejecting shelf, climbing, and ideals of sending. It didn't want me to be happy and it succeeded. It got bad, real bad. I realized I needed to leave. The 90 degree air temperature combined with the fact that I could drink water was literally killing me.

I scribbled a good-bye note with my feeble hand, incapable of grasping the pen tightly:

"Too sick to climb...need to leave. Real sorry. Pat"

Luke tossed my stuff into the back of my car, loaded up the dog and we drove back to Canon City. I then experienced a feeling I hope to never experience again: thoughts of impending doom. It is exactly what it sounds like. Your mind tells you that you are going to die; you are not going to make it; you are lost and no one can help you. Simply put, your mind tries to convince you (and often succeeds) that you're just about to die and there is nothing and no one that can help you. There are lots of things that can cause this but it is most common with shock, sever dehydration, heat stroke and sever hypothermia. Your mind is not OK when this happens.

While I drove as fast as I could back to Canon City my mind raced: Am I going to make it? What was going to happen? What if I had to vomit? What if I pass out? What if I crash? What if I hit another car? Will I be ok? Do I need to go to the hospital? Do I need to call 911? I don't want to die. I'm going to die. I don't want to die. I'm not ready to die. What is wrong with me? What is going on? I don't know what's going on. I need help. Where? Where should I go? I don't know! Help! I emotionally broke down twice in the short 10 mile section and uttered audibly "I'm going to die." and began to sob. I was lost; my mind was gone and hope was impossible to grasp. The tears would subside and my mind would clear enough for me to rationalize the moment. Woah, that was weird. I'm not going to die. Why did I say that? I'm fine. Then, it would hit me again, a voice in my head would loudly interject: "You're going to die." Rinse, cry & repeat.

I don't think I've ever been happier to arrive in Canon City. I stopped at the Shamrock gas station with a goal of buying and drinking a Gatorade. I got out of the car, Luke pulled up behind me and got out. "Woah. I feel fine." I told him. Is this over? Sure enough. It was gone - whatever it was. I was left weak, empty and severly dehydrated. My fingers, toes and limbs were tingling and unable to appropriately work. I need liquid. But I wasn't vomiting.

The Return: September 28, 2012

"You want to go to Shelf and crush?" I asked Mollie. Our questions are always the same. "Do you want to [insert verb] and crush"? It didn't matter what the activity was. "Do you want to go play shuffleboard and crush?", "Do you want to go on a bike ride and crush?", "You work in the morning, ya? Go crush."

This time, though, my question was different. I really wanted to crush. I didn't think I'd ever go back to Shelf. My last trip was a fitting end, however, I left things unfinished, unclimbed, unattempted. I was itching to find out how good I was by Shelf standards. I hadn't traditionally sport climbed (read climbing straight forward cliffs with bolts every 4-8 feet) in two and a half months. My recent climbing involved trad climbing cracks, slabs and scary runout face climbing but definitely not well protected (read incredibly well protected) sport climbs. So I was excited. I felt stronger, I looked stronger but I really had no idea. I've lost weight, gained muscle, gotten more confident and mentally strong but was I physically stronger?

We arrived at Cactus Cliff; to crush was our goal and pushing our limits our plan. I warmed up on some easy routes then hopped on Funkdemental, my first 5.11 climb in a long long long time. I think it took me maybe all of 10 minutes. "Woah, you cruised that!" Mollie said when I got to the ground; I couldn't believe it.

I proceeded to climb more 11's that day. I had never done more than 1 in a day and by the end of the day I ticked off two 5.11b's (one onsite and one 1-sitter) and two 5.11d's. I bounced back from a ground fall after a hold broke right below a high (read 15 feet) first bolt, then proceeded to send. Gotta get back on the horse!

I came to Shelf with a goal and I wasn't going to get sick this time. I wanted to climb hard and I did. Simple.




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a: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks
b: the encountering of risks
2: an exciting or remarkable experience
3: an enterprise involving financial risk


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