We’re eager to show Dennis and Clare our favorite climbs at our favorite place, so we take them to Valley Massif at Vedauwoo, and put Clare on Soft Touch 5.5. She’s solid, but it’s tough to dive into leading Vedauwoo cracks, which is why I’ve been proudly leading the lowest grades I can find here all summer, this one included. She makes it to the first bulge, and I finish it off. It’s a great route, but maybe bit long and intimidating to start with.
We go around to the other side to climb Bill’s Steal, a shorter but sustained 5.6 hand crack. Ann studies it, and decides to go for her first trad lead. I can’t describe how exciting this is to watch. She places her first piece from the top of the block at the start, then moves solidly to the next stance a few feet above it. She slots a stopper that makes her happy, and climbs again. At the next stance she recovers gracefully from a small slip, then places another piece. We’re all holding our breath, but she makes no mistakes. At the bottom of the crux she sheds a big #4 camalot, cranks up to a half stance mid-crux, and quickly gets another stopper in. She says something about resting, but we all urge her on, and she pulls through the crux with a victorious yell. It’s a done deal, she finishes without a hitch, a textbook lead. I’m reminded why I don’t place great value on grades – does “first trad lead, 5.6” describe what she’s done? Not even close. For her, this has been four years in the making, a personal triumph.