I was so nervous about coming back to climbing and I was afraid to admit it. Aly told me that three weeks off of climbing would make for a better, more well-rested Kathy in the long run. If you’re going to NOT be climbing, Africa is a great place to be distracted. But while I was busy pretending to know how to film things and running around with the monkeys, it occurred to be that I wasn’t concerned about sucking. I was caught up in the idea that MAYBE I wouldn’t even like rock climbing anymore.

Does that sound too crazy?

When I left for Africa, Sean McDowell told me to say yes to EVERYTHING. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to keep that attutude. So when Devyn Studor invited me out for the weekend in a beautiful alpine setting, I couldn’t say no.

First day back and the view didn’t suck
Devyn Studer, Adam Jonash and summit smiles. Is this technically my first 14er?

Lincoln Lake Slabs at Mount Evans is this beautiful alpine rock that just glitters with granite. We took a ride to the summit and a short hike later, stood overlooking the Rocky Mountains as Lincoln Gup pointed out various climbs up to the top. Climbing later on, with Lincoln on belay, I heard Devyn call up to me as I finished the first roof of Columbine Crack (5.10), “Is it good to be back?!”

My heart swelled. I said, “I’m fucking ELATED.”

Plugging gear again had never felt so good, and to float up those granite walls as if it was an old familiar dance—somehow, I remembered every single move.

So I don’t hate rock climbing. Glad to get that silly notion out of the way…and on to the next thing.

I had met Sarah Malone only about a month ago when we agreed to climb Crack of Fear (5.10d) at Lumpy. Sarah didn’t climb offwidth but she wanted to learn and I didn’t know the ‘hood very well, and an unlikely meeting led to a very likely partnership.

The rock at Lumpy felt considerably similar to Vedauwoo. Sarah and I hiked up to the base and as we racked up, we both stared at the ominous looking crack. Could we do it? Several hundred feet of offwidth seemed daunting.

If you zoom in and look veeeery carefully, you can see the offwidth that stretches to the top!
More of those character building moments on Crack of Fear. Photograph by Sarah Malone

Pitch one begins with a short hand crack and then reaches a wide opening. Climb the offwidth for thirty or so feet until you reach a bolted belay.

Despite what I had seen in photos on Mountain Project, I stayed left side in. The undercling wasn’t necessarily the crux, but my energy had petered out by the time I reached it. Pulling the roof was felt sweet and savory and arduous but, god, it was gratifying as hell. It was a struggle but the day was beautiful, the company was inspiring, and I really did feel like I was getting my groove back.

Sarah Malone arm barring on the first pitch

As good as it feels to be back, it feels even better knowing that I took the long way to get there. Stepping back from the things that you love is necessary in order to reorganize life priorities—and my life could use some organization.

Okay, off-widths. We are officially on a little break

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