The best part about having an extended period of time to climb is that you’re not in this huge rush to get everything done. I took some time off to head back down to the New River Gorge and meet some Philly friends.  Zac Mutter was excited to climb at Butcher’s Branch at Kaymoor, and I was happy to explore a new crag. He had his eye on a sport climb called Lost Souls (5.12a), which had a tricky little start sequence. It has great movement, a fun traverse before you pump out, and is just really fun to project. Zac hung the draws to figure out the moves and quickly went to work on his redpoint attempt.

Zac cruising past the starting moves on Lost Souls (5.12a)

I met Zac and his girlfriend, Kristen Branin, in the Red River Gorge one year ago while their pup, Roman, and Shooter chased each other around at Miguel’s one morning. As I watched Kristen belay Zac on Lost Souls, I noticed how incredibly patient and supportive she was. It’s kind of incredible to see how much of a difference in confidence having a good belayer versus just a good belay can actually give you.

I tied in and Zac held the rope. His tone of voice immediately calmed me, even when the moves were hard and I felt myself feeling a slight panic before I could reach the next bolt or hold. I didn’t send, but it’s a pretty good day when you have a solid, competent belay. And you’re one of the lucky ones if you have someone like Kristen or Zac holding the other end of the rope.

Zac, Kristen, and Roman. Photograph courtesy of Anthony Italiano

When I was lowered, Zac’s words reminded me that so much of climbing is actually about sharing others’ psych as much as your own. He said, “I get just as stoked watching someone else climb as if I were to climb it myself.

Those are powerful words to me.


Cover photograph courtesy of Anthony Italiano.

One thought

  1. A good belay is so important. Once, I had such a bad belay that it actually really gave me trust issues with who I climbed with. I really enjoyed this Kathy. I laughed so hard when you said “what the fuck is a chicken wing?” exactly how I felt the first time I used one!

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