I am climbing

110 meters of vertical pocketed limestone
These gooping coral Karsts carved by acid and wind

The beach bar below grows smaller
Its patrons reduced to specks against white sand

Natalie belays from a ledge below
Ready to save my life if I fall

Conor & Sara battle the pitch behind and below us
Their head-tops faintly visible now and then between bulges of rock

Tonsai Beach, man
That little peninsular nook in the coral cliffs
Against the Andaman
A palm dotted line of white against blue….

Brain enters the chat!!

The wall above is blank.
Hanging on a good hold, the rope is clipped to a bolt at my waist
The next bolt is 5 feet above me.

Wrack brain
Palms sweat
Chalk up

Wrack brain
Chalk up
Take? No

Oh no
I see
Fear grows sharp at my temples

Behind me hangs a coral tendril
The very tip of a 200-ft stalactite
An Alice and Wonderland spire with rails of coral tufas
Leading up-

The stalactite is too far to reach
So- I secure my feet
I calm my mind and bring focus to my body
And I lean my center of gravity away from the security of the wall
And into the Exposure.

Brain exits the chat!!

Tilting away from the main wall
My chest faced against the 350 feet of open air beneath
Until… My hand reaches the stalactite!
I press HARD and get a bit higher
I transfer my foot across the abyss to the hanging pillar

Now I am wedged between the two opposing surfaces
Limbs spread like a starfish

I am secure!
I yell jovially to Conor, belaying on the ledge 80 ft below
“Yo, check me out!”

With a strong pull against the stalactite, I can get my other two limbs over
Three quick moves up the tufa rails like a gecko and I am onto the ledge!
I’m ecstatic to simply chill on that little stalactite porch for a minute
And rest my body
And mind…

Brain enters the chat!

This would be a nasty fall!
My rope is still clipped to a bolt ten feet below my body on the opposite wall!
I need to clip the next bolt!

I crawl down a 45-degree coral rail on my butt, towards the main wall
With a lump in my throat I lean out again, over it
I plant my hands against the main wall in the downward-dog position
The Exposure fills my field of vision.

Brain exits the chat!!

With practiced smoothness
I pull a quickdraw from my harness and attach it to the bolt
I pull up as much rope as I can reach and clench it in my teeth
I reach down another arm’s length and pull more rope
This is the critical moment- a fall here would mean 30 or 40 feet of fa-


With that always-satisfying noise the fear at my temples abates
The rope is clipped to the bolt at my face I am safe.

I clamber back up to my stalactite porch
And rest.

I can see the anchor, with its slings and rings and bolts
It is on the main wall just above and to the right
Sunk into a pleasant looking ledge
A simple 8 foot traverse on thin, chalk-covered pockets
This is my path

My body feels eager to be done with this pitch, now
To relax that rubber-band tension in its gut

But I ask myself to wait
Take it all in- the views, the feeling of height, the seclusion
Remember- this is enjoyable

Okay, enough of that.
Quickly now, without thinking!

Brain enters the chat!!

4 thoughts on “Humanality”

  1. Wonderful pairing: internal conversation with gorgeous photos. Very informative to the uninitiated. I love it. Stay safe!❤️

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