I lean back and look at the wall, examining my route. About 15 feet to the top of the alcove, then some overhead holds before reaching around the corner to climb out from under the roof. Then another 25 feet or so to the top. The wall under the alcove is a slight overhang, and I seriously doubt my ability to climb this route today. My forearms are already protesting from the previous route, and I'm just not sure how to work the reach around the corner.
No matter. Whether I make it or not, I will try. My belayer (the person holding the other end of the rope) and I work well together. She'll watch out and I'll be fine if I make a reach that I can't finish. There will just be a little swing on the rope is all.
We do our safety checks, and then:
"On belay?" I ask.
"Belay is on," she confirms.
"Climbing," I say.
"Climb on," she tells me.
Our commands completed, I take a breath and reach for the first hold.
The holds are rough under my hands, and the soreness of the skin and the immediate cramping of the forearms do not bode well for this climb. However, as much as I doubt my ability to do the entire climb, I do know that I can make a reach for the next hold. If you can do the next hold, then it's not time to give up yet.
Fairly quickly, I find myself approaching the roof of the alcove. The route takes me deep under the alcove, and I know that if I fall, I'm going to swing out from under that roof. I don't mind. Swinging is fun. I go for the first hold on the ceiling. Easy enough. I walk my foot over to the next foothold. Then there is another overhead hold. This one's a little tougher. I try several different positions, but nothing feels quite right. I fiddle around a while, trying one thing and then another, but finally I figure out how to advance my hands and I make it to the edge of the roof, ready to come out around the corner.
By this time, my hands are tired and don't want to obey my command either to open or to close. I try to see where to go next, and my belayer helps to talk me through it. Only one problem. The next hand hold is completely out of reach. As tired as my arms are, I can't use the left to get me close enough to reach with the right. "That's it," I think. "I'm ready to come down." However, instead of giving the command to lower, I yell down to my belay buddy, "Take!" She pulls the slack out of the rope and I sit in my harness, holding on to the wall enough to avoid swinging, but coming off the wall to give my calves a break, and shaking out my forearms. She holds the rope tight, and I don't lose any ground when I let go.
As I rest, I take a look at the holds, and poke my head around the corner to see where I had to go. In a moment, I realized that I hadn't used one foothold. It was only a couple inches over, but it was a little closer. I let my belayer know that I'm going to climb again, and I reposition myself on the wall, this time using that foothold. Amazingly enough, that was just enough to allow me to reach that first hold around the corner, and in a second, my foot was around as well, and pretty soon I had climbed out from around that little alcove.
I immediately called for a rest, and catch my breath before making my way up the rest of the wall. I'm sweaty and tired, but I finish.
This is my wait right now. There are times that I don't know if I will make the next hand hold, but I can try. Then there are the times that just plain old hurt. I couldn't try another reach or step if you paid me. I'm just done and there is nothing left. I can't be hopeful and positive, I'm stuck with being depressed and depressing those around me. Those days, I am learning to yell to God, "Take!" and He does. He holds me up there, patiently waiting until I've caught my breath and have the strength to continue. Perhaps in that rest time I don't make any forward progress, but I'm preparing for the progress by resting, if that makes sense. In some ways, I am on the wall alone, but when I am sitting in that harness, suspended above the ground, I realize that I am not alone and that I do trust the One holding me there.