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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Climb on

Dr. Ben Cartwright laybacks a crack climb during an outdoor climbing trip.
Dr. Ben Cartwright laybacks a crack climb during an outdoor climbing trip.

By: Addie Lawrence, Editor

The road to Rumbling Bald wound against the break of the rising sun. It was Thursday morning, and we were heading to a popular climbing spot outside of Asheville, N.C. We were tired, the last residual remains of the Pint Night before fading, but not quickly enough.

Soon, rugged cliff faces tore against the sky, and thick forests overtook civilization. The rocks, a deep gray granite streaked with cracks, glared at our arrival. We were going to climb them.

“You’re not afraid of heights, you’re afraid of falling to your death,” said Anthony, one of our climbing guides for the day. He carried a can of Canna Hemp Energy and was quick to point out how the trees in the forest grew toward sunlight. He and the other guides – Cody and Doug for our group – lead us along a sloping path.

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We hiked through the woods, packs of gear slung over our backs with rock shoes, helmets, harnesses and rope. A few carried crash pads on their backs, and they were swallowed by the black, square mats that looked like oversized turtle shells. Ice cracked under our feet as we walked.

After passing a precarious “no fall zone” on the trail, we reached the bottom of our destination. The guides lead-climbed each route, placing gear into the rock and attaching their rope to each new piece of gear. Lead climbing is a costly exercise in foresight; place the gear too far apart and risk taking a serious fall, but place it too close together and exhaust your time and strength.

The guides were experts, moving fluidly on the rock to set up the top-ropes. Where they essentially created their own belay system as they climbed, we would be belayed from the ground, dramatically decreasing the height of our falls and the overall risk. Still the climbs were high.

“Would you rather have a rusty twig shoved through your left eye or eat a cupcake?” Cody said, as he threaded the rope through his belay device.

There was no trick to the question, no hidden meaning.

“I’d rather choose the cupcake, but that’s just me,” Cody said.

We were crack climbing, the process of jamming your hands into a crack and turning them to create counter pressure. Once the hand is locked in place, you use its leverage to lift your body higher and jam another limb. The wider the crack, the thicker the limbs you can use.

My skin ripped, blood pouring from an open wound near my knuckles, bandaids and athletic tape peeling from my hands. I pulled myself upward, only to lose my grip and fall. I swung against the rock, flipping backwards from the turn of the rope. I pulled myself up again, attacking the jagged teeth where the rock split at the seams. That climb was Frosted Flakes, an innocuous name for the rock that sent me on a double prescription of Advil.

“You have to learn to use the void,” Doug said.

It was the space between what was, the emptiness stretched between existence.

The view from the top of another cereal-themed rock, Froot Loops, was as pristine as the shine on Lake Lure, but felt as exposed as standing on top of a rock, using the friction of the rock shoes and the tautness of the rope to stay upright.

Walking backwards off the edge of a cliff tugged at the instincts in the back of my mind, edging against the brink of exhilaration and terror. It was an unnatural descent, but the only way to touch the ground after standing on top of the world.

 

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