Irony is a bitch. I don’t remember exactly when I first said this phrase, but it certainly has of late become one of my favorite aphorisms. There are so many occasions when it feels apropos to take account of whatever unexpected shittiness has emerged and, with equal parts incredulity and despair, reflect that fate is conspiring against us. Oedipus felt this way, so did Hamlet, and we normal folk tend to liken our own trials to those of the literary giants. While I don’t believe in some great author artfully organizing irony into our lives, the comparison gives some structure to what would otherwise simply be a perfectly bad coincidence.

A week ago, fate’s ironic rifle pulled the crosshairs over me. After a few lengthy days of life maintenance in Boulder, Colorado, the departure from which was delayed by van trouble, my wife and I went to Rifle for a few days of projecting (True “rock climbing” doesn’t happen that much in Rifle; one’s time tends to consist more of hanging on bolts deciphering a Lego complex of limestone blocks). I made a solid first attempt on my project, climbing all the way into the upper crux before falling off. Then, after a hang, I pulled back onto the greasy pinches, sank into a deep drop-knee, and proverbially, broke the strut (as irony would have it, the same thing that was wrong with the van). The sensation in my right thigh wasn’t quite a thud or pop; it was more reminiscent of getting hit by the ball by a little league pitcher: only a bit painful but precise.

I let go and lowered to the ground. Something was definitely wrong; but my leg worked in most directions, so I continued climbing on easier routes. I reasoned that I probably just pulled a muscle in my hip, and an evening of massage and stretching did make it feel a bit better. I was able to climb, even try hard on a few routes, the next day, too. I figured that even though my suspension system was a little loose (just like the van’s), I could still get out and play. That’s when fate pulled the trigger: I woke up with a sore finger. I never felt a pop or even did a specific move that seemed to strain it. It just hurt, and not like a bruise or cut; this was the most feared pain for any climber: It hurt to grip. We spent the day driving to Jackson, WY, and I passed the miles by massaging and testing my finger, ensuring that it got as aggravated as possible so I could unequivocally say I was injured – in two body parts so perfectly complimentary that I could neither run nor climb, even though most of my body was working just fine.

While my wife hung out with the big shots at the American Alpine Club board meeting, I spent two cold, gray days meandering the streets of Jackson trying to figure out what I would do with my unemployed self if I couldn’t climb. While my existential questions were neither mythical nor heroic, I think the general sentiment must have resembled those of Oedipus and Hamlet. The title of my last post (“What Have I Done”), echoed through my thoughts, although now with a bit more cynicism.

After the meeting ended, Becca and I decided, after much lamentation of my ironically ridiculous situation, to head to City of Rocks, Idaho. We’d never been there and reasoned that if nothing else, it would be a cool place to explore and at least one of us (Becca) would get to climb. As fortune would have it, my finger wasn’t as bad as I expected, and I also got to climb a bit. Slab climbing, because you don’t have to put much weight on your fingers, and crack climbing, because it doesn’t involve gripping holds so much as jamming fingers and hands, were just fine on my finger. My hip, while sore, didn’t inhibit climbing that much. What began as a last ditch effort to salvage a road trip ultimately turned into four days of great fun at a unique climbing area. We sampled numerous great moderates and managed to scrape our way up a few of the harder classics. Our friend Steve stopped by to climb for a morning on his way to a wedding in Stanley, which made our time even more fun, and we celebrated Becca’s 29th birthday.

Every day, each of us gets a little bit older, puts a few more miles on the road, and every once in a while, we have to fix some broken parts. Our bodies, like cars, don’t run quite as well as they did when we first pulled onto the road, but hopefully the drivers get a bit smarter. Just as we compare the random organization of events in our own lives to the ironic construction of events in literature, we also tend to search for patterns of conflict and resolution. I suppose our time in “the City” was a bit of that for me: the easy pleasure of just getting to climb in a beautiful place, especially when any climbing at all was in doubt. This is a simple concept that, ironically enough, is easy to overlook.

Here are a few images from our time in City of Rocks. See more photos on the Roconista Facebook page. Check back soon for a short video as well.

The expansive City of Rocks

For her birthday, Becca got the gift of perfect hand jams on “Bloody Fingers.”

Steve celebrating, too.

Yours truly, also part of the fun.

Becca cruising another classic 5.10 finger crack.

The birthday girl and her dog

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