“This is the crux move, keep me tight,” Crista barked from 60 feet above us, as she prepared for the biggest risk of the route. Lead climbing (without the safety of a rope secured to an anchor above her), the next few moves—a slabby foothold and a crimpy handhold by her fingertips—would dictate a clean send or a big whip down of nearly 25 feet. These quick words were a request to Travis to pay close attention, so that a potential fall would be caught quickly.
On our third day of climbing at City of Rocks in the center of southern Idaho, the two had already spent 20-odd hours tied to a rope together on this trip alone, trusting each other’s diligence and skills. A mistake by one of them would be covered by the other, assuming they were communicating well. Fortunately, neither took a major fall during the trip, managing to ascend dozens of routes without a costly mistake. Unfortunately, big falls weren’t our biggest safety concern.