The blog has been pretty quiet lately and there has been a significant lack of any adventures, mini or maxi, in my life lately. Soon after our last kayaking day, the virus that had been dragging along Doug's heels caught up with him, and, about a week later, just as I was smugly thinking I had avoided it, the virus dragged me down too.
We had, however, been pining to go climbing up on the Southern Highlands for a while, so when a weather window appeared, we packed up and prepared to leave. As somehow seems all too common, the good weather coincided with a public holiday, so we delayed leaving until the Monday figuring two more days for both of us to recover was not a bad thing. Doug did get somewhat better, I stayed about the same which I took to mean I was at the nadir of the virus and would only get better. Monday morning, however, I felt terrible but, in social media parlance, I was "stoked/amped/psyched/doped" to go climbing so we went anyway.
The access route to the crag on better health days
Doug had to drive the whole way as I felt too ill to drive, which should have been a sign of things to come, but which I over-rode in my desire to go climbing. This is not new for me. The closest I consider myself to have come to dying in an avalanche happened when I was too motivated by ambition and too little by prudence. Luckily, this time the consequences would not be so high.
I had a big goal for this climbing trip. I wanted to lead every route that Doug led. In all the years we have been climbing together, I have never done this. It's not really something you can do - at least not sensibly - on multi-pitch routes, but it is entirely possible on single pitch sport routes, and I thought having a firm easily measurable goal would motivate me even if, nay when, I was scared.
Unfortunately, the first afternoon we were there we got zero climbing in. This was due to a combination of a new gate which drastically increases the approach time, short winter days, and a hare-brained plan to try to find one of the newly developed areas all of which conspired to result in an afternoon spent thrashing about in the bush. It was dark when we set up the caravan and I was in bed by 7.30 pm trying to tell myself that I would feel great after a night's sleep.
Never underestimate the inventiveness of a group of climbers
Next day we had as solid a climbing day as you do when it is the middle of winter, you are old and sick, and the approach is much longer than it should be. I was happy to lead all the routes Doug led, although by the last route of the day I did have to prod myself to pull the rope and lead it instead of simply top-roping it. It was a long stagger up the hill at the end of the day and I was in bed again by 7.30 pm.
Next morning there was a lot of frost on the ground but we hopefully headed off climbing. By the time I had walked in and struggled down the approach gully - which felt desperately hard on this particular day - I knew the trip was over for me. I simply had no energy left. I belayed Doug up a couple of climbs in between coughing jags and offered to stay for the day and belay him, but, truthfully, I was very glad when he suggested packing it in and heading home. A hot shower, a comfortable bed, heat, lights, medication these things suddenly sounded way more appealing than laying in the dirt at the bottom of a crag feeling terrible. Once again, I had peaked too early.
Last rays of sun over the crag