Serendipity: A Climbing Vignette (~1980s)

Occasionally the world of climbing, though we’ve always sensed it to be fairly compact, proves to be so small as to surprise us.

On Cathedral Ledge one morning, topping out on Toe Crack, I looked across to the second pitch belay on Thin Air with an eye to traversing over to continue to the top. But the route was pretty busy so I moved up and right into the chimney on Standard Route, either to wait out Thin Air or to rap down to do another climb. A couple of guys rappelling from higher up appeared and joined us in the wait. The wait proved long—there was a line at the bottom of Thin Air, and then climbers approaching from below in our own chimney and so—idle chat ensued.

Hardly a minute into our conversation one of the guys reached over to me and, indicating my rack, said “I have a wired stopper just like that one: booty from a climb I did this spring.”  I was astonished and replied, to his equal astonishment: “And I know where you found it: on the top pitch of Knight’s Gambit at Ragged’s main cliff.” “Wow, right!” he said, “how did you know?” “Because that stopper was mine,” I replied.

The guys were indeed from Connecticut.  My stoppers were unique because I had filed in them distinctive grooves to enhance their placement security. I recounted how, the year before, I had placed the piece. My second couldn’t get it out and, after having rappelled down to try myself, I couldn’t either. And so, I really hammered it in, thinking that it would probably be there forever.

That evening in the parking lot, as we were gearing down and cracking open our beers, a car drifted by with an arm extended from the passenger side window—in the hand of which was my lost stopper.

More climbing vignettes:
Bobo to the Rescue
The Gendarme
“Travails” With Charley


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