Leslie’s story has been in my head for years and now it’s written in this book. It brings together some of my loves, strong women doing cool things, rock climbing, movies, Joshua Tree National Park, and supportive communities. Before time and wandering attention distracted me, I spent many happy hours in climbing gyms and outside climbing crags. I loved rock climbing because unlike my real life, there was a problem to solve with a beginning, middle, and end.
I have so many fond memories of climbing. My first experience climbing was with a group of women camping in Indian Cove, a campground on the north side of the Joshua Tree National Park. I just thought it was going to be a fun weekend but I got my first taste of climbing. First lesson: hiking boots are not the best climbing shoes but are way better than bare feet.
I got so into climbing that I took my climbing gear with me when I traveled for work and hooked work buddies into going to local climbing gyms or outdoor crags. I even conned my non-athletic wife into climbing but mostly into being my belay babe (the woman on the other ending of the rope keeping me safe).
Wanting to learn more about outdoor climbing, I took a three-day private lesson with a young world class climber who’d been featured in Climbing Magazine. He was nineteen, whipcord thin, over six feet tall, and amazingly strong. He’d set 5.8 climbs for me, climbing in flip flops and he made everything look so easy. He’d show me a move and then expect me to repeat it. Well, I’m five-four. Even accounting for the fact that he was being able to reach all of the holds with his elbow, our inequities in body length and strength still made most of the moves tenuous for me.
One of those moves I was supposed to attempt was a sit start with my left hand on a small hold and my right foot against a depression in the rock. I then had to lift up and grab a small lip in the rock face with my right hand about three feet above my left hand. He had made it look so easy, hanging in place from one hand with a single foot balanced on the rock. I studied his move and then reworked it to fit my frame and wingspan. I sat on the ground, placed my hand on the initial hold he’d indicated, but I adjusted my foot to a small nub closer by about two feet. After adjusting my grip and my balance, I lifted up and grabbed a hold lower than the one specified and inched my way up in three moves with associated counterbalancing feet to the small rock lip. I had used his techniques but made the climb my own. He looked at me in amazement and said he’d never thought about doing it that way. By the end of the trip, I was a better climber, but I also had a greater appreciation of the wonderful, fascinating world of climbing and climbers.
Writing Calculated Risk gave me the opportunity to share a small fraction of the climbing world with you.
Katherine Rupley’s debut novel Calculated Risk will be available from Bella Books on September 16th. After a successful engineering career in aerospace, Katherine Rupley decided to try her hand at writing, utilizing the skills she learned while taking UCLA extension classes.