Glacier blue limestone surrounds me, laced with long pink streaks (the color of wild salmon), the whole wall looking like melting candle wax. Python tuffas in every direction. A flock of birds glide overhead, their chirping echos off the walls soothes my nerves. Standing on two slippery slopers I reach up and drop two fingers into the most comfortable pocket on earth, as if it was molded from my very own hand. My chest vibrates with adrenaline, a controlled release, I look down to place my foot and a beam of sun catches my eye, a reflection bouncing off the bolt hanger 20 feet below. My belayer is nothing more than a grain of sand on the beach, if it wasn’t for her yellow jacket, I’d be lost completely. I look up to an ocean of holes and pinches, there’s not a bolt in sight. I’m lost anyway. Going down is pointless, we have to go up to go home. I pull hard on my two digits and crank up to another flawless pocket. Another 10 or 20 feet up, I’m trying to be patient, I’m trying to be calm, but the wall is looking more and more bleak. The strength in my arms is slowly fading and the fall potential is growing exponentially. Suddenly more than 50 feet above my gear, I see a shelf, the sort of shelf that can save your spirit. Not only that, but above the shelf sits a thick glue in bolt. “Thank god” I whisper, if only it was within reach. I search for answers. A tiny sharp sidepull to my left, and for opposition, a shallow pocket to my right. I clasp the thin holds and with everything I have left in my body, I paste my feet high and lunge for the shelf. There is no holding back, no second guessing, no plan B.
I throw myself deeper than I need to go and my sweaty mitt wraps over the gigantic lip, only to find a slippery rounded bulge. I hang the slope, barely, but it’s far worse than I ever expected, my foot catches a sharp crystal and sweat saturates my brow. I brace myself for matching with the other hand, and suddenly there is an excruciating pain in my lower right abdomen, I grunt to fend off it’s strong force, but it’s hopeless, I enter space and fall through the French sky of the Verdon Gorge, not sure when I’ll stop, everything is a blur – the blue, the pink, the yellow jacket – a long and wild blur, and suddenly it all stops. My eyes open and I’m laying in a bed nearly upright, clutching the staples stitched in my side and staring at a white brick wall.
Less than 24 hours before this dream, my ruptured appendix was removed from my body and I’ve been ordered to stay in the hospital for three days for monitoring. The really crazy thing about being bed-ridden is how far your imagination can take you. The doctor told me it would be 6 weeks before I could climb again. Usually it doesn’t take this long, but because they had to open the cut wider and clean out my insides from all infected areas, it was said the healing takes nearly twice as many days.
The first night I dreamed of my projects high on the walls of the Chief in Squamish, the second night I dreamt of the Verdon and its impeccable limestone. The third night it was high mountains of Patagonia. I forgot how strong my passion for climbing really is, I love every second of it down to my innermost core. My desire to go climbing was so magnified by the fact that I couldn’t - that I was having dreams inside of more dreams. I will try to carry this experience with me, when I’m back hanging in a harness dangling from the rope after falling off a crux I just can’t solve. I want to close my eyes and try to recall what it was like sitting in a hospital bed for three days, and the couch for three weeks, dreaming about doing this very thing, because it’s a part of me, because one way or another I need climbing, because I’ll never be whole without it. It’s cliché, but it’s true.
Photos and text by Sonnie Trotter. His recovery is going well. He recently sent a V8 and a V10. Not bad for a guy recently out of the hospital!