I hiked up to Longs alone on Sunday evening, filled with excitement. It’s been a dream of my life to free solo the Diamond. But after soloing the Casual Route twice, I was finally ready to voice my greater dream—to free solo Pervertical Sanctuary, the beautiful steep crack line on the left side of the face.
I’m so lucky I had the experience of a troublesome fear feeling on my first solo of the Casual Route, because it forced me to look hard at that feeling, and to dissect it. Climbing it again last Wednesday brought clarity. I realized that to do a more serious solo, I need to focus all the way on my mental state. I need to believe in myself completely, first of all, and to picture everything being perfect. That is the single most important thing. This time, I hiked up to the base of the Diamond with a smile on my face, and feelings of anticipation inside, thinking of how amazing it would be to be climbing Pervertical alone the next day. I went to sleep in my bivy cave, looking forward to the 3:30 alarm call.
The next morning, as I was sipping tea and looking at the sky, two climbers came by at 4:15 a.m. Of course, they were en route to Pervertical. I quickly left the cave and climbed up North Chimney, realizing my foolishness when I was on Broadway in the dark, looking down at their headlamps in the talus way below the chimney. I should have stayed in my sleeping bag for another hour, as I had intended….instead, I shivered in the dark for about an hour, on Broadway ledge, and then started pacing back and forth until the sun came up. Impatience will always get you nowhere—or at least, huddled in a ball shivering on a ledge!
A hole in the cloud bank to the east let the sun shine in as it rose, enough to make me feel warm again. I started climbing, concentrating completely on breathing and good thoughts—over and over in my mind, I repeated “be relaxed, have good feelings.” I focused completely on the positive granite, the confidence in my shoe rubber, and the freedom of climbing light, with nothing to carry. I was hoping to feel solid and safe on the finger crack crux, and reminded myself as always that I am a crack climber. I feel totally confident on positive cracks, especially steep ones……
Good finger locks, good foot locks, calm breathing. I felt how I wanted to feel. Solid, grateful, and totally in the moment.
The extra early start turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the clouds were building and darkening all morning. I reached Table Ledge well before 9 a.m., and was happy to be scrambling down the North Face as some big drops fell. Walking down the Camel, back to my bivy, I could see my fellow Pervertical climbers way up on the face. I felt deeply moved, joyful and very much alive.