Is this really happening?
I’m starting to consider the fact that I might be dreaming. That, although it is after one in the morning, that perhaps it is one in the morning somewhere else, and I am asleep, and that in a moment I’ll feel that jerking feeling that snaps me back to reality and wakes me up for just long enough to recognize my room, my walls, my life for what it really is; anything but this.
It seems like it has been a while since I last updated my situation beyond Instagram posts and Facebook statuses or profile pictures. So, here goes. I promise no sense of coherence. It’s one a.m. and I have had at least one Liftbridge Hop Dish courtesy of Bob Omann since closing the bar. The last blog post I recall was basically a centerfold shot of a 5.11+/5.12- route that I have never returned to. There is so much to do here that one day I decided to just press forward. Stop trying to FA every route you bolt, and bolt another. Someone will come along and climb the route and it will be glorious and we will bond and rejoice and swim and drink and wonder, is this really real?
It happened this weekend. A guy I basically knew through social media and other climbers brought his wife up to Crane Lake while another close friend from the Twin Cities was also planning a visit. That made four of us and we went about treating M&M Hill like a real crag instead of my little work site while I’m not tending bar. Tonight made 14 straight bar shifts with three more to go before I take a day off. Please empathize appropriately before I return to a tale of absolute paradise.
Dustin, Michelle, and Ainsley joined me for some climbing at the Hill. In that time, Ainsley onsight FA’d Slabbatical, a 5.7 slab climb named by consensus and suggested by Paul Kravolec via a Facebook post poll. The next day, Dustin got the FA on my newest route at the Hill, Assassin’s Creed; named by M&M Hill bolter, Brent, because my bug jacket with its hood made me look like the lead from the video game by that name.
Later that day, we visited two routes over the lake that I’ve been working on, and recently put shared anchors over, called Papaya?Banana! and Blueberry Fortress. I was hoping to work Papaya, a difficult trad line, on top rope, but it is so overhung that one slip up means you are peeling off the wall and swinging out over the lake as if you are cleaning gear at Willow River in Hudson, WI with little chance of recovering your position on the wall. Lesson learned: bring trad gear to TR Papaya? Banana!
Next to Papaya, however, was a potential sport line I’ve been eyeballing while working the trad line. It was named Blueberry Fortress before I ever even climbed it after an interaction with the head chef at Nelson’s Resort, where I am tending bar. After swinging off of Papaya on my second effort to climb it, I decided the moment would be better spent discovering whether Blueberry was a real line or not. I could see holds and a line taking shape, but until you go get up in the routes face, you just don’t know. I set off and everything I thought could go did. I was getting psyched that I might be on the verge of flashing the TR FA of this new line… let me stop for a moment.
Papaya and Blueberry are lines over a lake. I first saw them while swimming around points that blocked my view of the cliff that juts out of the water. There is too much rockfall just below the surface of the wall to consider DWS lines. But, with a boat and some bolts, could this be something?! I discovered that yes, yes it could be. One day, after that fateful swim, I kayaked back to that wall, found a place to beach my borrowed boat, and hiked to the top of the cliff. I set up an anchor and started to lower from ledge to ledge looking for this spot I wanted to explore (the view from the bottom of a cliff and the view from the top are entirely different, and I did not land in the right spot the first time, nor the second).
Back to the story. Saturday, after a warm up morning at the Hill, our group of four ventured out by motor boat. They dropped me at a private dock and I scampered my way to the top of the cliff. I rappelled off the top to my previously placed anchors and set a top rope. After the TR was in place, I waved the boat to rejoin me. I rapped from the anchor to a rock in the lake a few feet from the cliff’s base. Ainsley met me there and we each prepared for a top rope session, as if it were Red Wing or Taylors Falls or any other normal setting. “Your knot good?” “Yes, on belay?” And away I went.
Papaya proved to be too hard for me. After swinging off of it, it took a minute or so for the pendulum to rest enough for me to regain a position on the belay ledge. It was then that I decided I was really there to explore Blueberry Fortress. Boulder up to a slab, step up to a positive side pull, find some crimps that force you to lay back, stab out to an arete (which partially crumbled on my second attempt), flip it to a mantle, stand up to another slab, rest – such a very good rest, then… game on. Crimp, angled rail, feet sloping away from you, gaston, and that jug, why is that jug so far away with crimps that get worse and worse leading to it, I just can’t get there, and POP, I’m off the wall. No flash, no redpoint, no send at all.
After swinging off the wall, I could regain the jug, hit the next series of crimps, the mantle, the undercling pocket that first caught my eye, and boom, you’re at the anchors. There is a V-something boulder problem guarding the FA on this line. So, it gets bolts. It is beautiful, difficult, unique, and over a mother effing lake that you can canoe your gear to.
When I lowered from the climb after my first attempt, after failing to flash it, after working the crux over and over, after moving on from that move and finishing the climb, I collapsed on the belay ledge. I sat and folded over my knees at first giggling about what I had just done and then cry laughing about what all I am doing and then sobbing. Uncontrollable sobbing. I don’t know where it came from, but it came. It washed over me and through me and I allowed it to. I am unashamed of the emotion that I felt and that I continue to feel about the climb I’ve just described. It is absolutely unreal that I am here in this place, in this time, doing these things. When I wake up from this, I just hope I remember how it feels. It feels so very good.
I accepted defeat on Blueberry Fortress and the boat, captained by the very lovely Dustin and Michelle, picked us up. Instead of returning to the resort right away, I showed the crew a spot I had previously attempted a pair of deep water bouldering projects. We worked one as of yet unnamed line and another that earned the name Forever Young after a touching story Michelle told on the ride to the rock. Route names for me, as a tangent, are coming from moments like the one in the boat, from songs, from memories, from stories of days gone by, or are completely whimsical and in the moment. Every route name has a story, every project has a history.
My guests were gone by Monday and I allowed myself to rest. I slept in, took a pair of naps, and returned to work for a casual evening at the bar. It is now after two a.m. and the resort is finally quiet. The dock boys are done partying, the loons are too far off to be a bother, and the air is still.
This is but one story I have to tell that spans the time between my last post and today. I can’t share it all, though. I have to be out living these days in order to build this dream. When I finally wake up, oh, the stories I will tell. The stories, I will tell.