Where was I? I was at the bottom of a crack in a gorge wall. I shared the crack with an incline train… quietly sitting in its little station. Traitorous damned train. Anyhow, what’s a guy to do but climb? So I started off on the direct route and got a pretty good way along.

The natural world is an inconveniently arranged place. I mean, occasionally it works out- the way that wind and weather caused the heads of four presidents to erode right out of a mountainside in South Dakota. And a parking lot to form on the other side of ice cream vendors from the heads. Now that’s miraculous. The pyramids, forming right where the Egyptians needed them. Lucky chance, there. But normally, the Earth and all its forces are out to get us. Like, say, Winter. Or in this case.

I don’t know how to climb. I’ve been to climbing walls since this happened, as if that was going to help retroactively. But while I was down in this huge crack in the rock, I discovered that comparatively smaller rocks were wedged between the walls. Now, when I say “comparatively” I’m saying that this was a 1200 foot tall crack. “Comparatively small” can mean a rock the size of a storage building. And in this case, does. I couldn’t climb past it. Didn’t have the skills. Going to climbing walls in a few months wasn’t going to suddenly teach me to get over this boulder right now. Something to do with time and space. I dunno. %$#@.

I turned around and looked back down the way I came. I could go back and start all over, as there seemed to be a high ledge that’d get me past this boulder. Did I mention that I was hot, sweating like a potato in tinfoil and that my head was cooking? In that condition the idea that I was going all the way back down to the train station and starting over didn’t sound like a great option. There was a tiny little ledge going up from where I was, though, It angled back down the crack, but up toward the ledge that I wanted. Cool!

So I started inching my way up this little ledge, belly pressed to the wall, toes tight in my little river shoes. ‘Bout halfway up, the little ledge was playing out quick. I was trying to recall anything I could about climbing, which is a natural thing to do when you’re sticking like a treefrog to a massive rockface and you’re out of handholds, toeholds and skills. I got a memory of a panel in a Huey, Dewey and Louie comic book about toeholds and not relying on your hands and arms. I got a memory of my brother talking about climbing and how you could lock your thumb over your fingers in a hold to strengthen it. I got a memory of that dumb-assed Sylvester Stallone movie where he loses his grip on an actress and she falls about a bazillion miles to her messy death. I got nothing about being halfway up an actual ledge on an actual rock wall and what to do about it. Comic books, movies and my brother’s inexplicable failure to teach me everything I would ever need to know in an emergency had let me down.

Back to the bottom for ol’ Greg. I inched back down the little ledge and returned to the spot where I could have, should have, decided to start all over, and I started all over. I shlepped back down to the bottom of the crack, giving a dirty look at the dead train and another hopeful glance to the top. I was up there a year ago, and dammit, it was crawling with tourists. Crawling with themepark employees and all. Was there REALLY no one up there? The heat and the distance was still keeping me from making out anything particular up there, and looking straight up was only going to give me a view of the bottom of the Royal Gorge bridge- not a view of a helpful face looking downward, locking distant eyes with mine and mouthing “They’re sending a helicopter… wait where you are!” Nope. Nothing. There could be a circus going on up there, and down here I was getting lonely, overheated and possibly trapped.

Trapped. Well, there’s a happy thought.

More on that next time.