Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I am getting together with one of my oldest and closest friends on Friday. We met in college (eons ago), at the Outing Club, and soon became rock climbing partners, not to mention very good friends. We climbed together, in central Connecticut where we went to school, and in New Hampshire, West Virginia, Colorado and California. We had great adventures to tell at the time, and are lucky to have survive unscathed considering the risks we sometimes took. We don't talk often, but when we do connect, its like we just spoke yesterday. There is an easiness in our friendship, and laughter riddles our conversations.

Greg's father was an art professor at the college, his mother an elementary school teacher. His parents lived near the college and I got to know them well, as Greg and I occasionally had dinner at his parents' house and, even though Greg no longer lived there, sometimes I even stayed there overnight on our way to or from climbing gigs.

I was a rock climbing female back when there were few females in the sport. Other climbers would stare at me as I walked by in my climbing regalia. (That would be an old shirt, old pants, and climbing boots and harness.) Today its a different scene; there are probably as many female climbers as male climbers. I am glad to have been in the forefront of that movement.

Rock climbing actually favors the female of our species in many ways. We might not be as tall as our male counterparts to grab that hold which is just out of reach, but we have better balance than men do and often greater flexibility, and climbing is all about balance and flexibility. Sometimes it requires muscle, but more often it requires agility and grace. It is a gymnastic sport. It requires that you think ahead about your next move, or next several moves, as you are completing the current one, so it is also an intellectual puzzle that requires your full concentration.

Greg and I are no longer as young and agile as we used to be. I stopped climbing many years ago. I could still probably grind my way to the top of a very easy beginner's climb today, with "buckets" for handholds, but I find lately that even my modest climbing ability is slipping away. My fingers are now swollen on a fairly regular basis and my once flexible body is often stiff. Greg has had his own physical health problems. Neither one of us are exactly ready for the wheelchair, but we're not running 10K marathons either.

This Friday, we are going to meet at our former college, now a university, and see if we can find our way back to the local cliffs we used to climb. I'm sure the ancient rocks have not been moved; I'm not sure if we can remember how to get to them or if they are still open to the public. It will be a trip back in time, nostalgic to be sure. I wonder if there will be young people there, climbing the rust colored vertical basalt rock, with their youthful grace, and the newest technology -- stronger, lighter synthetic ropes; stickier climbing boots; lighter, stronger protection gear to jam into the cracks. Will they look at us like we are relics of the past? Will they even bother to look at us "old-timers" at all? We shall see what adventures Greg and I have on Friday; at the very least it will probably give us something to laugh about for many years to come.

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