Humbled, Scared, and Exhilarated on the Beckey-Davis Route

swbugas Member Posts: 46
edited June 2023 in ROUTES & TRAILS

Where was the first moment you realized you were in over your head? What was the route, how were conditions, who was your partner? After having my first such moment, I'm genuinely curious how many other people have found themselves overcommitted, forced to dig deep to top out, genuinely rattled by the experience.

(Before going too far, I must note that all photos in this write up are unrelated to the climb I am writing about. I was too gripped to pull out my camera this time around, and eventually had to stash it under some rocks to make space in the bag. These photos come from prior climbs).

My story today starts somewhere around 12 feet off the deck (the ground), shoved into a chimney, trying to force a pretty poor #4 friend (Wild Country camming device) up just a feeeew more inches. It wouldn't have changed what a fall looked like, but if I was going to walk my way up this crack, I wanted to walk with my biggest piece of protection. Between feet 12 and 15, I had what felt like an eternity of time to come to terms with the humbling this wall was giving me. The alpine is the land of sandbagging and flared cracks, neither of which I'm as familiar with as I should have been.

So, trying to use my body as one big piece of protection by wedging arm, leg, and head as deep into the crack as possible, I worked my way into the realization that I was not up for the next 650 feet. Tail between my legs, I let my partner have a go at the chimney piece I'd just bailed on, and he proceeded to gracefully work his way beyond my high point. This story isn't particularly fascinating, and it's not unique to me in any way, but it's my first moment of truly being spit out by the path ahead of me, and dang did it hurt. Thankfully, I was a more confident follower than leader, and we ultimately had a successful trip up the remaining pitches.

By the time we summitted, I had a grin glued to my face. Those were the best six pitches I'd ever climbed. I learned an immense amount about crack climbing, and feel as though a second round trying to lead would be far more fruitful. The Beckey-Davis route up Prusik peak is an absolute blast, and I can't recommend it enough. An interconnected pathway of cracks and chimneys on the most solid (and SHARP) granite I've ever touched made for a perfect day in the mountains, even if I was force fed the realization that I'm not quite where I thought I was as a climber. Doesn't hurt adding in 22-26 miles of approach and decent, making for a 23 hour day of moving time starting and ending under a dim moon. The stars seemed to laugh at my ego bruises, but my spirits stayed high.

So now I ask one thing of you...Make me feel better! Tell me your stories of being shut down, embarrassed, humiliated, and firmly educated by the forces in front of you. I see this as one of the more transformative days in my climbing career, and I'm curious what moments you've all been through that had a similar effect.


  • MHerb
    MHerb Member Posts: 13

    Thanks for sharing @swbugas, sounds like a solid day of adventuring in the mountains and it actually turned out to be a successful one! Being humbled in the mountains is the name of the game and you should never feel shame or embarrassment from that. Also, the art of Chimney climbing is a long-lost art, mastered by those individuals who ventured into the unknown with only a small collection of hexes, stoppers and cordalette tied in balled-up knots for protection. It was a different era of climbing, one that can be 'entertaining' to jump back into.

    I have spent many occasions gravelling, whining and complaining my way up tight, wide, loose, overhanging and/or wet chimneys, on lead and seconding. I consider them type 2 fun : |

    One of my first and likely most memorable humbling experiences alpine climbing was attempting Mount Sir Donald, in the Selkirk Mountains of Canada, my first or second year of climbing. At the grade of 5.4, my partners and I figured this would be an easy day and would likely solo all 20+ pitches with style... Alas, long story short, we retreated with ~8 pitches left, moving slowly and exhausted from the relentless exposure of the steep ridgeline and our lack of experience and knowledge. On the descent, we got caught in a snow/rain storm (it's the first time I heard metal start to humm from the electrical energy in the air), became extremely cold because I was wearing shorts and didn't bring gloves and nearly missed several rappel stations because I had forgotten my headlamp and it was now dark as we bumbled our way back down the mountain. Thankfully my partners remembered their headlamps and could light up the trail back down to the truck... where we had neglected to leave beverages in the cold creek next to the parking lot. ~20 hours return trip.

    It was a formative day in my mountain education, and would not have changed a thing.

  • bugglife
    bugglife Member Posts: 100

    First of all, fantastic photography by both @swbugas and @MHerb - thank you for sharing your images in addition to your stories.

    When I first read this post, I immediately knew the sensation. It took me two separate December Grand Canyon packrafting trips to realize that no matter how hot GCNP gets in the summer, winter is not a good time to get wet in the big ditch. The first trip was an ambitious day trip - rim to river to rim, with some rappels along the way in addition to the rafting. We got a little wet and cold in our pool float rafts, but were able to warm up in the sun a little bit during a late lunch before our ascent. What really got us was the final 2,500' on the way out, when we were tired, and it was dark and cold and windy and I had go back to work the next day. In the end, we got to the top, but it was more of a type 2.5 fun situation - *almost* not fun at all.

    The second time was a 3 day, 2 night backpacking trip in a similar section of the canyon. After the first go around, I thought adding two additional days would make things more manageable. Of course, the additional time required additional gear (weight), but it also meant more time to rest, and I had been in this area before, so I knew what I was doing, right? What I hadn't planned on was how scary the portages would be when the water is cold and the rapids are big and loud. And there were 5 of them. On top of that, we stuck a rope, broke a paddle, and afterwards it turned out that 2/3 of us got COVID. But we worked together as a team, looked out for each other, and came out on top.

    When we were back home safely, I thanked both of my partners for being such good sports about everything and doing their best to remain positive. My brother, a clever one who always chooses his words wisely, responded with, "Oh, I would have complained if I thought it would have helped."

    Here's to lessons learned in the wilderness, and the ability to maintain a positive outlook whenever possible.