I’m standing on the ground, belaying, while Abram clips the aider into a cam and shifts his weight to bounce-test the piece. Bouncing up and down on a piece of gear to test it seems counter-intuitive, but the other option is to climb up the aider, get well above your last piece of gear, and then figure out that the piece won’t hold as you’re falling through the air.
Abram is making good progress. We came out for a training day two weeks ago and he was much slower on aid. He has already worked out how to organize the new aid gear on his harness and how to move in a series of efficient steps to make upward progress. Clip an aider to a piece—bounce, bounce, bounce—transition to the new piece, unclip the aider, clip the rope in, step up the ladder, set a new piece, clip an aider to the new piece—bounce, bounce—repeat. The goal is to be able to aid climb a pitch on The Nose in 45 minutes (as opposed to the three hours it takes inexperienced aid climbers).
Abram reaches the top of the pitch, sets up an anchor and rappels down. Once on the ground he helps Brad set up his gear to clean the route. I stand by and watch, feeling irritated and restless. Brad starts moving up the rope on the ascenders and aid ladders and it looks fun. I want to try that! Damn it! It looks fun!
I’ve felt a lot of hard things while climbing. I’ve felt frustrated, stuck, afraid, shaky, tired, hungry, angry at Abram, angry at myself, insignificant and discouraged, but this feeling I have right now is worse than anything. This is what it feels like to be grounded.