We watch Terry climb the outcrop solo and rig up the belay station and safety ropes for the rest of us. When the call goes out for the first one, I step forward to be strapped into the harness before I lose my nerve. ŒTake your time and look for places for your hands and feet,‚ he calls down. ŒYou have to climb it your way, not mine.‚ The first section is surprisingly easy ˆ plenty of places in the smooth rock for my boots to get purchase, to push myself up with my legs, not pull myself up with my arms. ŒWomen make better rock climbers,‚ he‚d said. ŒThey can‚t rely on their upper body strength so are more inventive with their routes.‚ The sun warms the back of my neck, my head, the rock face that is only inches from my face. I can smell it: something like rain, the dark of my grand-father‚s tool-shed. I pause ˆ gorse and brambles in my way ˆ look right, then left, to the space above me. And I see it ˆ a tiny overhang just above that I can grip with my fingers then traverse, stretching out a foot and jamming it in the small crack to my right. I keep going, a slow measured ascent, finding my balance between rock and sky, the weight of one and the weightlessness of the other urging me on.
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