40 Degree Limit

40 Degree Limit
Photo by Joe Klementovich

I can’t stay away: I was back in the Cathedral Cave Friday afternoon. It was 40 degrees and cloudy, but that hardly mattered. The Cave gets morning, not evening sun anyway. But I’m excited to visit my Sanctuary, a longterm project that now feels enticingly possible, so after warming up on the Cote Boulder I headed in.

I can’t say I was ever truly warm despite my warmup, but I was psyched enough for three goes. The dynamic start, which I’d been having trouble with the last two sessions, went first go, as did the crux, and then each time after. The cold rock quickly took its toll, however, and my fingers couldn’t tell if they were actually working after a long set of crimps. There was no send, but I was getting closer.

But the chains didn’t matter. As always, IT WAS AMAZING. It’s so cool to have a route so spectacular I’m excited to fall off it and keep falling off it. I feel tantalizingly close to sending, but I don’t care. I’m just looking forward to another session of linking the moves, of sustained movement so at my limit.

But what is my limit? Friday evening, despite the cold, Sanctuary felt doable. I made it through with one hang on the third burn. I’d climbed through the crimps and was into the endurance section when the cold caught up with my fingers. I took, but I got right back on and finished with strength to spare. It will happen.

The result has me looking forward to the next month, a month I’m usually scratching around for ice but this year might be spent warming rock shoes inside the puffy and fingers on my neck. With the limit so close, I just want to tap it, to press it gently to see if I can make it move.

And it will move, one way or the other. They, like everything else, are not static. They are fluid, cresting, crashing and receding like waves on the beach. Do not trust them. They don’t own you. They are not real. Limits are only waypoints, meant to be shattered. Arbitrary, ever changing, worth ignoring because knowing them is the only thing that wills them into existence. What if you didn’t know them? What if when they stared you in the face you laughed and jumped anyway? What would would happen? Would you fall? Maybe. But maybe you’d fly.


I brought my camera with me Friday and captured footage of the final burn. At the end I lean gently into my fear of falling…

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