A Brief Walk With Bridwell



Bridwell and I hadn’t climbed together for awhile, but we had been working on our outfits and we had plans. Mostly Jim’s rigs involved adapting stuff from the men’s AND ladies’ racks at Goodwill in Merced for the fierce conditions we met out on the rock. I think these Jimi Hendrix-inspired arrangements usually rang in at less than $5, not including the driving to Merced. We wore through stuff fast in that bold era of daily offwidthing and wall climbs that lasted weeks. And Jim was clearly a leader in this trend towards the outré and the recycled. Kind of a year-round Halloween or Mardi Gras with certain unique festive aspects we brought to it as well.

Well this particular time, we were thinking to do "Henley Quits", and scope out the left side (which was still just a project) while descending from the anchors of the regular one-pitch summitless route on the right. We both had done this new popular and fun Klemens route already.

But I swear I had no idea what Jim had planned additionally. By the time midday developed---the proper time for white women of quality to finally make it up the half-hour long talus field, Jim was peaking on some Acid, and had sensibly slipped into a custom brocaded vest I think he made, ladies pink stretch Capri pants, and a really large white long-sleeved shirt, reminiscent of Rudolf Valentino---these two things from Merced. It was a new kind of Lionine Look, not seen before. And of course a large paisley bandanna which a number of us longer-haired climbers always donned to underline our general nobility, bravery and all-around wisdom. His design had attained complete freedom of movement a decade BEFORE Lycra! We were clearly ready.

I enjoyed the little route. Just another warm lazy summer day too. The climb had some water on it at the small roof but that did not matter too much. I set up and began the belay. Jim was slower than usual. Normally he pretty much swarmed up a climb and then it was over. Not this time, though. He was maybe having to negotiate with the surface patterns in the rock, you see… By the time he got to the roof, although strong, he just wasn’t the same guy, seeing him top out in that outfit while obviously distracted by all the stuff that was wriggling all around... and it seemed he might at least have one eye on that old Doorway of Perception. You know, the Huxleyian proposal of a portal to I guess another world. I was sober, though and we rappelled down while checking out the adjacent route that Hargis ended up with somehow. And we ended up too busy with much more important stuff at camp and Merced obviously, to be bothered with the left side.