"Not all those who wander are lost"

Wailing Wall

Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.

-Alan Watts


I cruised up the last mile of dirt road before the Wailing Wall in my new 85 Toyota Van with Lu dog riding shotgun.  Things had changed a bit since I left the ‘Stead.  I bought a new van, ripped my hair out trying to sell my Accord, and picked up a dog in Las Vegas on my way to Wailing Wall.  The dog wasn’t actually mine; a friend of Sam’s called as I was headed through to see if I could take care of him.  I drove into Las Vegas after dark, met Tera, helped her move the last load to her new place, shared some wine, and within an hour was crashing in her apartment with plans to take care of her dog for a week while she was on a flight to Austin.

We hiked up the wash toward the crag, eventually turning a bend to see the cliff.  I felt like a monk first gazing upon a sacred monastery high on a mountain.  I was filled with wonder and amazement, but I knew it would be a difficult journey up the winding hill.

For the next three weeks, the rough, mostly uneven dirt parking area for the Wailing Wall dubbed “the corral” (for the broken down corral on one side) was my home.  The crag has a great variety of routes from vertical to steep, each one with technical and interesting moves.  The routes range from 5.10 to 14+, but only a couple climbs are below 12a.  From 12a to 13c, the place is a playground.  Bouldery, power endurance, techy slab are all represented and most grades from 12a up have at least two or three routes to choose from.  I immediately loved the place.

I spent my first week sampling a lot of different routes and ticking off a few 12’s, but I soon found myself returning to Holbytla.  It has some decent climbing at the bottom to ~15 brilliant moves of power endurance on stellar rock.  It is also, a route that can fool you into thinking you’re going to send soon long before you do.  My progress was slow, each time improving just a tiny bit, but almost always moving in the right direction: I almost got to the hold, I touched it, I held the pinch, I got my foot up.  The progress was so miniscule that it was frustrating at times, but it always kept me coming back because maybe that one last tweak was going to be the key to my success.

Before I could finish it, I headed to Vegas and Arrow Canyon for a couple days.  I thought that a change venue and a couple nights crashing on a couch would help me come back fresh, plus I had already told Jonathan I’d give him a catch on his project.  After a great rest day hanging out in the sun and poaching a hotel pool in Vegas we headed up to Arrow.

I heard great things about Arrow, but was surprised at how little was there.  The main cave holds several hard routes (12d and up) with a few lower 5.12’s just to the right.  The routes to the right were good, but everything in the cave seemed to be covered by a thick layer of dust on slick holds.  A few other walls have some development, most notably one cave which has La Reve and La Lune (still Jonathans project at the time).  I was uninspired by the area, but we had plans to stay for two days so I put in some tries on Brown Sugar (5.12d).  I got close, but the powerful moves stymied my chance of sending.  I was less disappointed by the lack of a send than I was by spending two days in Arrow instead of on Holbytla.  It wasn’t a loss though; I met some great Vegas people, Phil and Samantha, who came up for the day.

We got back to Vegas after climbing and I was dropped off at my car parked in front of a friend’s house.  The other two somehow were a ways behind so I headed inside.  I was hanging out waiting and chatting with one of the roommates.  To be polite I made a comment about appreciating letting me crash and making sure I wasn’t in the way.  Her reply stunned me: “Well, we don’t actually know you that well and would like it if you leave.”  It’s been a while, so I’m paraphrasing, but it was pretty similar.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was my third, nonconsecutive night there after being invited to start with.  I had always thought of the climbing community as welcoming and courteous, but this was straight rude and mean.  To top it off, when I told my friend, he did nothing about it.  To this day, being kicked out of the house by the roommate of someone I thought was a friend is one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced.

So I found myself in Las Vegas, sitting in the back of my van feeling utterly alone.  It seemed like I had nowhere to go and nobody I could turn to.  Re-enter Phil and Samantha who offered that I could crash at their place for the night when I needed it most, which I will never forget.

The next day I headed back to Wailing Wall to finish up Holbytla.  I managed to find a couple that I knew at Wailing Wall to climb with for two days.  I finished Holbytla and had a good day of flashing several 12’s, but I was ready to move on.

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