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So climbing is a thrill sport. And climbers love the risk, the adrenaline, and reward of a challenging ascent. They work progressively harder routes as the .9's, .10's and .11's grow too easy. They love to tell or hear stories of tricky moves, big falls and close calls. So why aren't there more climbers out there making good use of one of the most readily-available extra-challenge resources available: DARKNESS?


Afraid of the Dark
by Sandra Cherrington

"Just relax, Find some good  feet," I could faintly hear the words of encouragement from below.

"Feet?  Feet I've got, its hands I need."  I called down into the darkness. I shifted my left foot, rotating my heal closer to the rock trying to keep it from shaking with fatigue.  My toes felt cramped in the climbing boots that were holding me on the wall and my fingers tingled from holding on to the sharp overhang in front of me.  The hold kept my upper body from tumbling backwards, but for how long?   I couldn't stay here for ever.  It was either get it together and find another hand hold or fall, rushing past the quick draw a few feet below, waiting for the slack to catch up with me and jerk my harness to a stop.

"Maybe this was a bad idea."  I muttered under my breath feeling around in the crack for something secure.   The faint breeze carried my words away into the cool night and my  mind flashed to the previous scene.

"Do you still want to climb tonight?"  I said just loud enough to be heard over the music from the television but not  wake his roommate sleeping in the next room.   He yawned, rolled on his side and looked into my eyes.  I knew   what his answer would be but I still half hoped he would say no.  I could tell he was tired and I thought his heavy eyelids might keep him from getting off the couch and packing the gear.

Was I kidding myself?  I loved to climb, I wanted to climb. . . so why the nagging desire to stay warm and cozy here?  I had been reading a climbing book the past few days, picking it up during the lulls at work, studying finger jams and liebacking, completely amazed by the depth and complexity of  my new favorite pastime. I had been itching to try the new things I was reading about but now, on the brink of departing to test the rock, why was I hesitating?

Now I knew why.  I tightened my grip on  the rock.  My heart pumped faster and adrenalin shot through my veins.   I was afraid.  I imagined losing my purchase and coming off the wall.  Falling through the air and coming back against the rock with a thud.  But I didn't fear the fall, I trusted that the rope would catch me.  I wasn't worried about contacting with the rock face, I had been scraped and bruised before.  The part that filled me with  fear was the thought that if I fell I wouldn't want to get up again.  I would dangle there in the silence and darkness waiting for my heart to slow, listening to the encouraging words from below, a caring voice coming from the darkened abyss telling me to get up and try, try again.  

But what if I didn't?  What if I was too afraid? What if I said that I'd  had enough?  That one try was sufficient for me.  It wasn't the falling I feared, it was the failing.I would never reach the top if I didn't risk moving up to another hold. I shifted my weight and stretched my hand higher than I had before.  No one reaches greatness by staying within the safety of their present situation.

I crammed my finger tips into a thin crack and moved my foot up to a rough spot.   Flexing the muscle in my legs, I propelled my body upwards.    War heros show off their battle wounds, not an  early ticket home.  I wouldn't let myself take the first train back. My fingers ached from the pressure of my weight and my holds didn't feel totally secure.  I jammed  the toe of my opposite  foot higher in the crack and kept moving.  Moonlight flooded the cliffs around me as I grasped the final holds and pushed up with my feet. 

The silver chain of the top anchor glimmered before my eyes and I clipped in. Rotating in my harness I could see out over the valley.  Electric lights from the city surrounded the dark void of the lake.  Distant stars twinkled and thin clouds passed over the shining half moon.    The quiet of the canyon was all around me, whispering past me on the wind.  I breathed in the moment, letting the peace settle deep inside my soul.  The peace of the beauty, the peace of the quiet  darkness.   The peace of breaking through my fears to reach the greatness beyond.

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Laura reaches for a high side pull on Community Effort (5.9) in Logan Canyon


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Curtis rises from the void


Night Climbing comes with a bit of its own unique jargon:

White Point: you know what a red point is, right? A successful ascent of a route with no falls or cheating on the rope. A White Point is the same thing, only in the dark using artificial life.

Black Point: a White Point but using no artificial light. The moon is okay.

Eclipse: you know what a flash or on-sight is, right? A red point the first time you ever try or even see a route. An Eclipse is the same thing, only at night with no artificial light.

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