Carotid Artery

Everybody does it. We all have relationships with inanimate objects. For certain classes of object, like vehicles or weapons, personification is so common it seems normal. Every climber I know has a relationship with at least one route. Sometimes it is a hostile relationship. Sometimes it is an abusive relationship, featuring a masochistic blend of fear, pain and desire. Usually, it is a mentorship, albeit a harsh one.

I once heard a historian lament never having gone to war.  He felt he missed the opportunity to find out if he was a coward. A naive sentiment, to say the least, but I understand the thinking because I always saw Carotid Artery as a similar sort of opportunity. I felt it like eyes on my back every time I climbed My Only Valentine, on the sunny side of the same rock amphitheatre where the Carotid Artery resides.

Climbing it the first time took a string of charms. During the drought years and before a large avalanche changed the water flow a bit, the ice formed late in the season if it formed at all. Once I’d worked up the nerve to climb it, the ice never touched down. So, I packed my rock gear. Honestly, the rack of cams and pitons was a talisman all along. The mixed version of the route is part of the Alex Lowe legend and an improbability for me. But the rack has worked its magic every time. The column was formed to the ground that first time I brought the rock gear and each time thereafter.

The mentorship has been rewarding, too. I’ve had all sorts of important questions answered on that climb, like ‘You’ll get no rest, so hows your gumption?’ and ‘Got your metaphysics in line, ’cause that last screw is a piece of shit?’. Trouble is, I think the magic may be wearing off. Last time, the ice was still touching, but with a gap in the middle. I had to use my ice tools on the rock. The placements were improbable, but they were possible. I even set a piece of gear in the rock, and it was good. The promise of salvation is a dangerous thing. I’m afraid the lessons may not be over.

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