I climbed with Corry today. He had a day off from guiding at Devil’s Tower and wanted to get some climbing time in. Since it was a rest day for him, we didn’t get started till after one.
As we were roping up, he suddenly stopped and looked over at me. “You know how to clean anchors, right?” I said that I did. “Good. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t guiding today.”
Guiding and climbing is actually fairly new to Corry. He had been working in a coal mine for years and started to climb in his 40s. He quickly became good at it and one day asked Frank (yes, the Frank Sanders of Devil’s Tower fame) if guiding could be an option soon. Frank said that he was ready right then. After getting his certification, he quite the coal mine and is now guiding full time at Devil’s Tower.
When he wasn’t showing me how to set a third easy anchor point on bolts (or many other helpful tips), we talked a bit about this experience as a guide. “It is a hard job, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.” He said that the hardest part is not the rock climbing, but the mental challenge. As a guide, you always need to be 10 steps ahead of the game. What are you going to do if your climber gets stuck at a point? What if the weather goes foul? Normally rock climbing requires all of your focus. To climb with someone who doesn’t know what to think about requires a whole other level of thought.
He also said that people from every walk of life want to climb and each want to get something different out of the experience. It is not just about the climbing and keeping them safe, but identifying their goals and helping them accomplish it.
Even though he wasn’t guiding me, I accomplished things I wouldn’t have thought of. I followed him clean on a 10b. Next he went over to an 11a. “This one is pumpy,” he said with a grin. I tried it on top rope and got up there, though I did need to rest a couple of times. Even though I didn’t not officially “send” it, I was glad to have followed Corry to the top.