PILE ZE BAGS!!!!!!!
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I was in The Needles of Sylvan Lake (in South Dakota), and the climbing was the scary old-school type of climbing that I love. Manky pitons, scant pro, and the only use for my #5 Camalot was as a counterweight to keep the sling I’d draped over a knob from blowing away in the wind. In the campground there I met someone a guy named Cheyenne and eventually we got to the natural question for such a heady place: “what’s the most effed up thing you’ve ever seen while climbing?”
I’ve got some pretty good stories, but his took the cake!
Pile Ze Bags:
Some russian free-soloist and his crew had bowled into town and made some waves by running around and (obviously) soloing anything he felt sassy enough to sack up for. One particular climb followed a 100′ crack up a 110′ pillar that started as a 10b offwidth and slowly narrowed until it no longer existed, just 10′ from the top. Grunt, grovel, scrape, through the offwidth as flawlessly as one could hope, then BAM! BAM! BAM! straight up the fists, through the hands, down to fingers, and now he’s out…
The crack ends, he’s got good finger-locks with good feet on the typical Needles knobs, but he’s stumped. For those of you keeping track at home, getting stumped 100′ off the deck while soloing is typically not reccommended. Left hand up… doesn’t like it. back into the crack. Right hand up… still doesn’t like it! chalk… chalk… think, head scratch.. AHA! SHIFT THE FEET! right foot, left foot… okay, again with the hands. Right hand up… still garbage. Left hand up, not promising. If only he could reach that knob that is just slightly.. well… unfortunately out of reach!
He sits and thinks a moment more before looking over his shoulder and shouting at his friends “PILE ZE BAGS!!!!”
INSTANTLY, they start throwing all their bags at the base of the crack. As soon as the operation has finished, he nods contently… and dynos up for the knob, sticks it, and nonchalantly continues his day as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Why this is effed up (for those of you keeping track at home):
1) it’s not like he would have actually hit the bags if he fell
2) seriously, you’re counting on those bags to save you from 100′ !?!
3) preposterous on the face of it
4) everybody reacted INSTANTLY, as if this was a routine maneuver
Fast forward through some years from that trip, and observe my own soloing escapades. I’ve now told this story to everyone who climbs with me long enough to be considered fun to keep around, and I’m at a crag 800 miles from home with one of my climbing partners that i’ve met locally, looking for the rest of our group who weredriving up to meet us. After a brief session of yelling names I finally grow impatient holler “PILE ZE BAGS!!!!!” as loud as possible.
After responding to a resounding return call of “PILE ZE BAGS!!!!” from somewhere forward and overhead, I turn the corner to spy a confused belayer who simply points up and says “he’s up there.” Much to my surprise, the climber isn’t even in our group, but is someone else entirely whom I’d met in Atlanta.
My first lead of the day was a sport route I’d been dying to send since entering the market, and my second lead was a wonderful old-school masterpiece with slung knobs where I hung my #4 as a counterweight (the trusty #5 was, sadly, still on the ground). Some new-school kids come around the corner talking loudly about this “sketchy” sport route on the anchors just left of mine… I don’t say anything, but everybody in my group has a grin on their face because they know: Sometimes, you just have to PILE ZE BAGS!!!!
There’s nothing quite like a good story to bring people together! Thanks again to everyone for the great trip to Sandrock this past weekend!