Indian Rock Moment

How Much for an Hour?

Dreaming of doing a few easy slab climbs in the old kingdom of Yosemite, taking in the big space and distance and jutting rocks, these days I'm working every moderate slab route at IR I can find to get prepared. Last Sunday while on the little apron above the stairs, I noticed from the corner of my eye a family standing at the bottom of the stairs watching me and the pit boys and girls working on watercourse routes. There were both parents and daughter looking foreign by dress and manner, just as we Americans are recognizable in our travels. As I finished the slab and came back down the stairs, the daughter of the family, a very lovely woman maybe in her thirties wearing a revealing tank top and tights, came bounding up the steps smiling. She said, in broken English, "How much for an hour?"

Now there's a question I've never had in my 60+ years! Of course, I was wearing my most fetching, tattered pajama pants and thirty year old turtle neck, all speckled with white chalk. That must have been the attraction. But of course what she wanted was to learn to climb. I gathered she thought she was seeing a class with me the old instructor on the slab and pupils in the pit. I was so dumbstruck by her beauty I couldn't think what to do. Deep tan, so wrong we now know, but o so right to me this second. Even deeper dark eyes. Black, black hair. I checked her shoes: fashionable little boots with thin, worn, slick rubber soles. I had no belay rope. Her English was poor. My Portuguese was non-existent (yes, Portuguese). Even in my bedazzled state, I began to see she could not safely climb much in those shoes and I could convey, and she absorb, very little, even if we went across the street to the smallest boulders where I could show her footwork basics and, heaven of heavens, spot her.

I pointed up the slab and said "need rope" "good shoes" and mentioned something about classes at gyms (groping for "gym" in Spanish) struggling on with half Spanish garble she barely got, no wonder. She admired my shoes, said she loved San Francisco (gesturing across the bay) and people she met and was here on a trip with her family, who waved from below. I recommended some places they had not yet seen, including Yosemite if they had a few days. She kept up, haltingly, then smiled a little disappointed after the talk petered out. She pointed up the slab and asked, "Not safe?" "Not safe," I said and looked to her and her family, my palms up, sorry. They gave a forgiving wave and went off.

Within the next hour as I kept climbing, I grew sad I hadn't been more accommodating, of course for the charge of her energy, youth and beauty, but more because I let down such a fresh spirit from far away, out for a walk with her parents and open to spontaneous adventure. Maybe another day.

Indian Rock: small rocks, forever moments.

Supertopo, May 20, 2010