Fog fills the valley below. I’m freezing. We’d been told it’s not uncommon to see 12 cars parked for Flyboys, an 18-pitch 5.9 sport climb on the Goat Wall in Mazama, Washington. Today, we have the wall to ourselves. It’s no longer raining, but the rock is soaked. As I start up pitch one, seconding my friend Cole Osborne’s lead, my feet slip off the wet stone. I hold myself on jugs, reset, and continue toward a short face where Cole French-freed across smears.
My chalkbag contains four hand warmers, and I give my digits a quick toasting before moving up toward the wet friction. The chalk disappears from my skin as soon as it hits the water. Before long I’m in the Pacific Northwest fog. I can’t see how far the wall extends above or below. It’s just me and the rock in a void. From the road, the wall looked to be a dark, monochromatic gray. Now up close, I see flecks of orange and green lichen among white, black, and gray crystals. I grab an edge of the funfetti rock and step up. We’ll only succeed if we keep moving.