Smearing is the process by which you rub the toe of your climbing shoe into the rock. Somehow it sticks and you take an otherwise flat surface and make it work for you.
I smear my right foot into the sandstone and as I go for the handhold just beyond the reach of my index finger I feel my foot sliding. I squeeze my toes and stretch a bit more and my finger tips grab a quarter inch ledge that feels like the monkey bars at my elementary school. My left foot steps on to a tiny ledge as wide as a wooden pencil and I step straight up to a huge spot for my hand. Tiny beads of sweat develop between my fingers and a series of moves has me 40 feet off the canyon floor in seconds.
I don’t look down. I stare into the rock. I scan. I search. I seek out my next move. I feel alive. A shadow races past me and I can see that the birds have decided to watch me tempt gravity. The crux of the climb is before me and all I can see are grains of sand in the rock face.
“Right foot, higher”
I hear the help from down below as my guides tries to help but I question my motives. I ponder the tensile strength of the rope. I should have eaten less for breakfast. Is my partner aware that I might fall? Should this harness really fit this snug?
The challenge is there. The adrenaline pumps. The silence of Red Rock Canyon is riveting. In one small snapshot in time it’s me and the rock. I hang on with one hand and look out over the landscape. In the distance people are hiking. A lone bike rider pedals through a cadence that keeps him moving along the Red Rock Canyon loop. A young mother looks across from a large boulder and I’m positive she is telling her young child about me. They point and wave.
Just like that I have fallen in love with Red Rock Canyon all over again.
I’ll climb a few more routes and learn about safety and fun. I learn to trust my partner and gain a little knowledge of the ecology of the park. My climbing skills improve as the day continues. My guide sounds more like a good friend than an instructor. He reads my body language and he crafts a route and a day based on my comfort level.
One afternoon climbing with a guide from the American Alpine Institute and I feel like I should be climbing every day of the week.
The American Alpine Institute offers guided climbing tours in Red Rock Canyon for every climber type.