Ambassador of the Year: Nathan Williamson
I should’ve seen the rain as the omen that it was. For months on end it seemed every day I had off to climb it was raining, limiting my climbing to only a few hours a week. I had to pick where and what I wanted to climb very carefully.
First on my To Do List a free solo in the Uintas that I had to back out of when I got spooked by a freak storm that had started to develop with increasing intensity overhead, forcing me to down-climb a very difficult line as lighting flashed close by and the boom of thunder reverberated in my chest. I hate backing out.
Lost & Lost. 5.11a.
10:00 AM. I sat at the bottom of Lost & Lost, its mammoth 200-foot-plus face staring serenely down at me, tightening up my climbing shoes and studying what I could see of the route. A beautiful climb, two hundred feet of perfect pockets and crimps on bulletproof limestone. I clearly remembered the first hundred or so feet, but after that it was all new territory – my favorite.
I began to climb, telling myself to find strength and move steady. I took a deep breath in through my nose and found my footing easily. The air was crisp, the sky a deep blue. The moves came easily and my body felt calm and strong. Around halfway up or so, I found a good rest and glanced up ahead for a clear line to the top of the fin-shaped face, and to wipe my running nose on my sleeve. The cold rock had begun to turn my hands an unnatural blue color under the thin layer of white chalk.
To the right of me a wiry, defiant pine tree grew out of the solid rock, its small roots clinging tightly to the thin crack from where it burst forth. Life clinging from impossible places, I thought. Kinda like me. Little did I know.
After a few more moves, my right calf muscle was starting to cramp up from smearing. I found a few good holds to rest on and tried to regain the feeling back to my now-tingling foot by rotating my ankle in a circular motion, but it wasn’t getting better, it was actually getting worse, and – much to my horror – was now completely numb.
I started to panic – exactly the last thing you want to do a hundred feet up with no rope. Within seconds my mind became my worst enemy. Thoughts of dying flooded over me. How long before impact? How much was it going to hurt? My body started to shake as a brisk wind blew over me. Between the sound of my teeth chattering I could hear myself scream. I could feel myself falling. I don’t want to die, I thought, I have too much to do. I tried in vain to put pressure on my right foot – nothing. My right foot was completely useless.
I tried desperately to regain control of my spiraling fears. Don’t panic. Wait until l the tingling goes away, but it wasn’t going anywhere, the numbness had increased and was beginning to spread up my leg. My forearms were on fire, strained from over-gripping, sending shooting pains up my burning arms. I should have been done by now. I was breathing from my mouth now. Fear. Fear taking over. Look up. Keep moving. Move now. Numb foot, blue hands, burning arms and all. Seventy or so feet to go. Look up. Keep moving. Move now. I repeated the mantra. Death will have to wait.
No sooner had the fear of actually falling left me that my concerns shifted to my right hand, which was taking on exponentially more weight due to being unable to properly push upwards with my useless right foot and cramping leg. But there was no time to dwell. Look up. Keep moving. Move now. A very clear line suddenly opened up to me. The thin crimps turned into block shaped holds. My foot skidded over rocks as I slowly dragged its near-dead weight upwards.
With only a few moves away from the top, I heard laughter, and much to my own surprise, realized it was coming from me. With one last burning effort, I grabbed hold of a large jug and pulled myself up and over, splaying my aching, tingling body on the cold rock, breathing hard, still laughing. I laid there and shivered for a few seconds, grateful for any sensations, comfortable or not, grateful to be breathing from above and not bleeding out from below. With considerable effort, I sat up and managed to take my shoes off, rubbing my cold, numb foot until it was prickling with warmth and life. Only then did I finally allow myself to take in the beautiful vista that surrounded me. Look up. Keep moving. Move now. Stasis is death. Movement is life.
Other highlights include when I sent my first V11 in Little Cottonwood Canyon and when I linked together a sequence on one of my projects in American Fork Canyon.
My lows were only making it back to the desert to climb twice and also that it seemed to rain on every one of my days off for months.
KÜHL was wondering if I had encountered any characters in my adventures over the past year. I primarily climb in really remote areas so I don’t really tend to see anyone. So I would have to say the strangest characters are my climbing partners and photographers. Dan, my climbing partner, has me laughing more than I think I actually climb.
If I were to sum up my past year in one sentence, it would be: Pick your friends wisely.
I think next year will bring lots of videos. We have been working on plans to film some sick climbs. Stay tuned y’all.
In the past year I’ve been most grateful for my family.
Despite soloing scary things, I think the scariest thing I did in the past year was begin Working a full time job. It’s also one of the most wild things I’ve done
This past year saw a lot of personal growth too. I’ve had to learn patience on a huge scale being a climber in Salt Lake City.
Looking back, I think I might have told myself a year ago to remain focused on one thing. I have a tendency to try too many things at once so I get distracted and don’t finish anything.
Some of my best memories of the past year are the general shenanigans while climbing. Every time we had to do large approaches it was laughs galore. Someone may have laughed so hard that they relieved themselves accidentally in their pants. I will not name names.