How Cairns Saved My Life
and our new group project
Many years ago, I was climbing in Yosemite Valley. Ambitiously I had selected Royal Arches as my route of choice. For many reasons it was simply the most perfect climb in the valley. First, it was a number of levels beneath my skill level. This means that I did not have to worry (constantly) about falling. It was a long route, 16 pitches, which means that I would have to carry a lot of gear, food and water. Being heavier is not a goal in rockclimbing! (lol!) For more information about the route, you can click here. You can see things like the fact that the route is 1400 feet of climbing, and it shows which way to go and where to start, all vital information. The photo below shows my crude sketch (in red) on top of my photo of the valley, it is to the left of the actual rock formation known as Royal Arches.
The guide book says to be very careful. DO NOT ATTEMPT AFTER DARK. People HAVE fallen to their death attempting to get off this route. We did not know when we started that if we had carried up two ropes, instead of just one, we could have quickly and safely rappelled to the valley floor. We were left with the walk-off route which was not obvious. We got lost multiple times, and it is not a place where you want to get lost. And because we took so long climbing it, it was getting late. And then I saw fresh bear scat and totally panicked. The woods were filled with mosquitoes. The exposed rocky descent was, well, exposed, and crumbly gravel...and we were up 1400 feet. Not that it would make much difference if you fell. After the first 50 feet of falling, it is sort of moot.... However, I didn't want to fall. I wanted to LIVE! And, someone, some very-nice-and-considerate-person (or persons) who came before us, left cairns to show the way. This is the point of the story. We are not alone. We mentor those who come after us. Show them the way. Teach, teach your children. Be kind to others. Learn from your history.
group quilt, cairns, I knew that it was right for me. And in a way, a wonderful metaphor, because as in my last post I mentioned that art is a lonely business, as a group we support each other. We teach each other new tricks and old tricks. And so we move into our next group adventure!
Sherri McCauley brought a bag of polished stones for us to play with while we visited. These slippery little rocks were difficult to stack. See the Nilla Wafer box in the background for scale!