Tuesday 19th September – Man Bun and a Climber, Lucky Me!

We’d survived the cold night, all three of us having slept soundly. Surprise, surprise, we didn’t have anywhere to be in a hurry so we had ourselves a slow morning. Dan was determined to do a Hawaiian-ish breakfast so got to cooking while I sat in bed watching. He steamed some rice, then fried up some spam and eggs. The result was a shit tonne of rice and some delicious crispy protein. He conceded that maybe he’d cooked just a bit too much rice but that didn’t stop us eating it all.

With overly full bellies, we drove out of camp and into town. It was my turn to take Dan on a date now and we were going to the climbing gym. With only one gym in town with a wall, our decision was easy and we found the place without too much issue. When we waltzed in around 11am, there was no one in sight, only one guy at the front desk. It seemed we’d have the place to ourselves!

I was happy to find the operators were reasonable about belay sign off and gear, getting us in for $26 a piece including gear hire. It would be my first time wearing a noobie harness and rental shoes and they were by no means comfortable. Jason ran us through the belay stuff on a wall, Dan taking first climb so I could show Jason I knew what I was doing, then he gave a bit of instruction to Dan on getting me up and down safely. After twenty minutes of instruction, we were left to our own devices.

The gym was small, but the routes on each wall were plentiful and the only other climbers in the gym were a pair of leaders sticking to the negative lead wall. Dan took first climb and got started on a 5.9. He made easy work of it, though his body position wasn’t quite right. By the end of our two hour session though, his body was close to the wall and he’d paced me climb for climb, something that no other man I’ve taken climbing for the first time has been able to do. I mucked around on all the 5.10s, feeling the burn in my muscles being out of climbing form. Dan attempted a couple of 5.10s and understood a lot of the moves, but I couldn’t give him enough instruction to get past the cruxes. All in good time…

Having done half a dozen climbs or so, I finished on a 5.11 and was stoked to make it to the top of the tallest wall without resting. It took everything I had left, but that didn’t matter, it was the last climb of the session. We left our gear with the operators, promising to come back later to make the most of our day pass and ventured out into the bright sun.

Cleo was waiting for us and we took her straight to central park where she could relieve herself. Central park its bum-central so we found ourselves a spot in the sun to sit and relax away from the homeless crowd. Across from the library, we snacked on trail mix and watched a council worker use a whipper snipper to attack a huge area of grass that would have been light work with a mower. We were getting too warm in the sun before long so we went for a walk down a dry river trail in the hopes of getting Cleo to relieve herself some more. She wasn’t interested so after a couple of blocks we turned back and hopped into the Cabana.

With time to kill between climbing sessions, we thought we’d check out all the thrift stores in town, never knowing what van goodies we might be able to find. We parked outside one shop only to find it was clothing only, then went round to the big Goodwill. It was the emptiest building I’d ever seen with a pathetic selection of wares that were barely organised. Shame. I picked up the employment guide on the way out and as we sat in the Cabana, Dan Googled around for another park we could go hang out in while I perused the options for making money in the Flagstaff area.

Dan drove us over to a big park and as we drove into the parking lot, I saw a sign for disc golf. Perfect! Dan could only find one of his discs, but that didn’t matter, we had a Frisbee we could make do with. I opted for the Frisbee and took first throw. By the end of the first three holes, I was up by 3, which is unheard of playing against the master. We swapped discs then and my form went to shit. I demanded the Frisbee back and played with it for the next six or seven holes. My abilities were so bad that Dan awarded me a one shot handicap for each hole and that brought me within striking range of his score.

The last few holes I played with the proper disc again and managed to square up my forehand but I forever gave up on driving with my backhand. At the tee of the 12th hole, I had at least three attempts at pitching the thing down the fairway, only managing to send it off in completely different directions each time as you can see.

By the end of the eighteenth hole, thanks to my generous handicap and some careless putting by Dan on the last hole, we ended with our scores even. I was keen to go climbing again so I could feel better about myself. Cleo had a great time following us through the forest and happily waddled along in front of us as we meandered along the fire road back to the car.

Back to the climbing gym and we parked out back in the shade and wandered into the gym, shaking our arms in preparation for the strain that would be put on them for the second time. Our hire gear had been put away, but we soon had it in hand again, though this time, Dan opted for a shoe size a little bigger to prevent further damage to his already blistered big toe. The gym was busier now thanks to the after work crowds and a class of kids, but we found space easily enough and picked up where we left off. We stayed on the grades we’d tackled last time but noticed our muscles crying out after only a few climbs. That meant the corner climbs upstairs were great and fun as always. It was in this corner that Dan attempted his second 5.10 and got most of the way up it until his muscles protested too much. We pushed on until we’d done about six and happily called it quits, me finishing on a balancy 5.11 that would be my last time on the wall in a few months.

Time for dinner and camp, we left our gear and thanked the gym operators. In the carpark, Cleo was full of energy as a male white pitbull got her attention, making her jump all over the face letting her new boyfriend know she was interested. After a bit of play time, we managed to pull her away and into the Cabana. For camp, we opted for a spot in the forest south of the city this time. We stopped in at Walmart on the way for a few supplies and in the carpark amazingly noticed a woman sitting in her truck smoking. Why amazing? Because we’d seen exactly the same woman in exactly the same truck in exactly the same place only two days before. Creepy.

The pull offs on Purple Sage Road were mostly occupied and being near 6pm, it was a pretty late camp for us. We’d gone the full length of the road and found most places occupied. When we turned around to go back, Dan stopped at a big site that had a Jeep parked in it. He was sure the guy wasn’t there to stay the night so we pulled in and when we came up to his window, asked if he was staying. When he said he was about to leave, we parked up on some flat ground near a fire that had a complete pallet sitting by it. Karma!

While Dan broke down the pallet, managing to also break down his trusty rubber mallet in the process, I cooked chicken pasta for dinner. It was a big meal, but we easily ate it all by the warmth of the fire. Being in a clearing, we had a big sky overhead and went to sleep happy vanners, Cleo in her jumper and us under the warm covers.

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