I didn’t want to do it. I knew it was wrong, but I had to do it anyway.
The day started out innocent enough. My friend Aaron and I drove down for Rocktoberfest in the Red River Gorge and got up early Saturday morning to attempt our first multipitch hard trad line as partners. Our goal was a route called Jungle Beat, a menacing old school 5.9+ at Military Wall that we scouted out last summer. It was two pitches, separated by an intimidating roof, which Aaron thankfully signed up to lead. I only had to lead the “easier” first pitch.
We arrived at the wall early, but still managed to be the second group on the route. Apparently everyone had the same idea that weekend, as parties lined up behind us to tackle this classic hardman route.
While we waited for our turn to climb, I must have peed like 5 times. Apparently I wanted to be super hydrated for the route. It was brisk fall morning, but we could tell the sun was going to peak through the clouds and give us an amazing fall afternoon. Then our time came. Just as I tied into the rope I had to go again. Sheesh, bladder, what’s your problem?
Finally I started up the route. It starts in a cave with little protection. The climbing is pretty mellow for the first 25 feet or so. That’s about where you can get your first piece of gear in. After that it was game on with a difficult but protectable crack straight up. Eventually the crack widened back into a milder chimney until I pulled myself up onto the belay ledge, just big enough for one person or two people to sit down in, as the roof was only about 3 feet above the ledge. I built an anchor in this beautiful crack in the roof and yelled down to Aaron.
He made his way up and eventually belly flopped onto the ledge and we had a good laugh at the craziness of the route. It was very different from most of the sport climbing that we had done together. We swapped gear and Aaron eventually made his way out to the end of the ledge where the intimidating roof starts. He put in several pieces and started to disappear from my view. He sat there for what seemed like ages. I had to talk to him several times to make sure he was good. Eventually he moved up and I fed him rope as he went.
As I sat there on the ledge feeding rope out to my friend, I realized that I had to go pee again. Seriously. Hadn’t I already gone enough today? The feeling kept getting worse and the rope didn’t stop moving. He was still climbing and all I could think about was having to go to the bathroom.
Eventually the rope stopped moving and I was pretty convinced he was at the top, anchoring himself in. He finally yelled down to me that I was on belay. Sweet relief. But what was I going to do? I looked down the route and the next climbers were at the base, waiting for me to move. I couldn’t hold it any longer and I realized I couldn’t pee off the ledge.
I looked around the “cave” and saw a spot on the ledge that was away from the lip and shaped just enough to hold some liquid, I knew it was wrong, but I had to do it. I was not going to make it another 100 feet of climbing. I was pretty convinced that I would pee my pants if I didn’t go right then. So I yelled up to Aaron to hold on a minute and I scooted over to the far end of the cave.
The idea was good, but the execution was terrible. As I leaned over to pee, I realized that I couldn’t quite reach the area that I wanted to hit because the roof sloped down where I wanted to kneel. But I couldn’t hold it any longer and so there it went. At first, the pee pooled exactly on target, but then I realized that it was too much and it started flowing down the ledge, right over to the lip where everybody pulls themselves up. What do I do? I couldn’t stop going at this point. I watched in horror as it started to cascade like a waterfall over the edge. Noooooooo! I managed to control myself and stop the madness. I zipped up my pants and started to panic. What had I done? The ledge was soaking wet and there was no way to hide from the shame of what I had just done.
Quickly I removed my trusty bandana from my head and started mopping up the wet rock. So. Much. Liquid. I stuffed the dripping rag into my pocket and mopped the rest up with my shirt. I felt dirty, ashamed and downright angry at myself. Why couldn’t I have just held it? Why did I have a bladder the size of my grandma’s? What was the next party up going to think? Luckily a stroke of genius hit me and I pulled out my chalk ball from my harness. No one was going to know because I was going to cover this up. And cover I did. The whole ledge. In chalk. I wouldn’t mind if the following party thinks I’m a nubie, as long as they don’t have to belly flop onto a soaking wet ledge.
Finally I finished dusting the grounds and continued with the task at hand, climbing the rest of the route. And then I understood why it took Aaron so long to start this pitch. The roof was hard. Out of the gate, hard. I was on top rope, but it was still SO Intimidating. I finally managed the courage to give it a go. High step right. Right hand jam. Left hand pull….Aaaahhhh! I pitched off the route into open space.
I swung out left and eventually grabbed the rock. Wow, that was scary. I got back on and traversed in from the left to avoid the crazy roof. I managed to tackle the rest of the pitch, which did ease up and finally made my way up to my lonely friend at the top of the route.
As I pulled over the final bulge to the top, I laugh as I tell him all about what I did in the cave. I showed him my wet pants and we had a good laugh together. We joke about how hard the crux was and how we both were grateful we made it to the top. I was also reminded why I love climbing, for moments like these.
We setup a rappell and I went first. The first rappell was straight down 100 or so feet into the branches of a tree where multiple slings have been left over the years. Aaron joined me in this large swaying tree and we laughed at the adventure we partake in. We pulled the rope and I make the second rappell to the ground. I’m glad I did because apparently Aaron overheard the second party talking as they relaxed at the top of the first pitch. He heard them say something about how much chalk was on the ledge.
We quickly pulled the ropes and gathered our stuff. I may have been ashamed for what I had done, but I certainly didn’t need to stick around. And, to be honest, I think I had to go again.