Indian Creek for Thanksgiving can be kind of a junk show, but I was alright with it. The holidays made for the perfect excuse to haul off into the desert and see some old friends, or as I’d heard multiple times that weekend, avoid this year’s family drama surrounding politics and drunk uncles.

Since I’d been cooling my heels in the desert since last Friday, I made a slight detour to Salt Lake City to get out of the rain and visit Haley Dahle. Three and a half hours wasn’t too far of a drive for some bonus Haley-Kathy time (and lord knows I’ve driven much further for much sillier reasons.) I hadn’t seen or climbed with Haley and her kids for several months, so my pitstop felt like a little slice of home.

SLC pitstop because PRIORITIES

Haley came back out for the holiday festivities and we later met at Critic’s Choice while I was chuffing my way up Belly Full of Bad Berries (5.13a). As I struggle barged my way through stacked 4s, Haley called up to me: “When you’re done with this, I have a small favor to ask of you!”

Haley and Matt Berry had gotten on Critical Mass (5.11) around the corner and unfortunately got some gear stuck. Pressed for time, they bailed on the gear. Because we’d gotten such a late start on Belly (there was actually a long line on it Thanksgiving day!) and daylight was starting to dwindle, we agreed to come back in the morning. We packed up and hiked down the trail in the dusk, just in time for turkey.

Tired and still sore from inversion the day before, I slowly began racking up the following morning. Haley carried all of the big gear in and she flaked the rope. Critical Mass is an offwidth crack located in a corner, just to the right of Ruby Flame (5.11). About a quarter of the way up the large crack, I said to Haley: “Girl. This is a hard one. Good job.”

“Critical mass”, in physics, is a measurable point at which a reaction becomes a self-sustaining or self-increasing without external force. I felt like my juice was completely zapped from the day before and was starting with an already half-empty tank. My strength was self-decreasing and not increasing as the crack seemed to go on for forever. At some point, my arms were just exhausted from stacking and winging and Haley lamented the fact that Matt’s hands, which are considerably larger than both of ours, fit so much better throughout the entire bottom section.

“Are there any career opportunities as a professional down aider? ‘Cause I could crush that.” #climballtheoffwidths #downaidalltheoffwidths @hippyclimbermom. Photograph by Haley Dahle

Later, Haley recalled, “I had to hide my laughter when you pulled a cam off of your harness and realized it wasn’t going to fit. You said, ‘WHY won’t you fit?! Because you’re not a number 5, that’s why!’” It was one of Haley’s old number 4s that I thought was a 5. I wanted to throw the cam at the wall.

Finally, at the good rest, Haley offered to send up her Valley Giant. Anthony Johnson swung by and mentioned a blue bro, but I glanced upward and eyed the size of the rest of the crack. Really, I just wanted to be on the ground, out of the corner (and out of the shade), and somewhere on the Way Rambo wall in the sunshine climbing hand-sized cracks. Despite all of the grunt work it took to get up this rig, I was still shivering profusely every time I stopped to rest.

I started upward, thinking that I probably wouldn’t fall out but by the time I got to the slight bulge, I began to change my mind. The crack curtailed and as I looked down at my last number 6, I became unwilling to continue running it out. Haley gave me the option of down climbing and lowering, and she could work on the stuck 6s. I gratefully took her up on her offer. As I thawed out, I put Haley on belay and she successfully retrieved the gear within a few short minutes. She down aided the rest of the climb and after hiking out, we lay in the dirt of the parking lot, battered, bruised, and hungry (and I was a little grumpy). But our gear rescue mission was complete.

Shivering inside of a wide crack early Friday morning definitely fell under the “Type 2 fun” category. It was fun in retrospect, but afterward, Haley and I drove over to Way Rambo and I really had to convince myself to hike up.

Last spring, I’d learned that I am not much a “Type 2” person. Now and again, it’s okay but in general, I’m a pretty big fan of elongating “Type 1 fun” as much as possible. Remember? I only like suffering mildly—like salt and vinegar potato chips.

Photograph by Alma Baste

Grumpy feelings aside, I was incredibly grateful to be lying in the dirt with Haley that afternoon. She let me be tired and in a crappy mood and I still felt her support and friendship, a thousand percent. This week, I was gently reminded that you cannot learn life’s little lessons without being challenged—most things in life will rarely be taught in an easy way.

Much like poop in the desert, there are some things that we pack out with us and some things that remain. That feeling that I brought back with me on my return trip home is what Creeksgiving was truly about—love and acceptance of everyone in our lives (even if they are only there for a fleeting moment). I think we can all agree that our country could use a little bit of that right now—the courage to accept others for who they are, which in turn, lets our love grow as tall as the mountains.

*Cover photo by Lizzy Dalton. Bridger Jacks, Indian Creek.

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