Darkness at noon in the dark time of the year…

smith rock

I feel totally lame that I have neglected my blog all fall….. what can I say, I was having too much fun! There were all sorts of adventures, Lurking Fear in a push with Rachel Greenberg for her birthday. Then Snake Dike in patagonian winds with my Dad, yes dad. Burly!

Top of Half Dome's Snake Dike with dad

Then all of a sudden I was at Smith Rocks, acting like it was my home. Two days on one day off, repeat. Two days on lead to more strength more skin and some serious fatigue. Half the fatigue came from the serious chill that fell every time the cliff went in to the shade. I battled through with thermos’ of hot earl grey, a huge Fitz Roy jacket compliments of Patagonia. I was often climbing in a Nano! ack!

James Lucas came at just the right time, I needed a climbing partner, Mikey hurt his ankle and was laid up, and all my favorite locals were out of town. James and I had our eye on the full Heinous Cling. It is a Smith test piece, 12c on a sky scraper of a wall with only 8 bolts…. the day we wanted to send, a 12 year old flashed it as his warm up. We both fell off and felt defeated…. This climb is on the same panel as Darkness at Noon, thus it all goes in to the shade at 12 noon exactly. James would valiantly try to get me out of bed and warmed up early so we could try it in the sun. (I hate getting up early).  We finally each sent! It was my ultimate goal, so what could be next?

Sarah and Rachel and Nico (the pooch) show up for super local Tuesday

Sarah and Rachel and Nico (the pooch) show up for super local Tuesday

Darkness at noon is about 11 feet to the left of Heinous. This was a climb I never though I would try. Run out and on beautiful red rock, it was a 13a that I had always admired. A shoulder stand with a stick clip was the only way to pre clip the first bolt… So obviously this was the route for me. Yeah right! I hate falling and I hate doing hard moves above a bolt. So not perfect! However, I got it in my mind that I might, just might be able to at least get the rope to the top so I could top rope it….

On lets say my 30th day climbing at Smith, I got some help clipping the first bolt, stuck the 2 finger pocket stab right off the ground, and started climbing on the sharp end. Mark Postal, one of my heroes belayed me, helping me with beta when I couldn’t see the holds. And I climbed past the first crux.

The beauty of this route is not only in it’s awesome pockets and crimps, but the huge rest in the middle. I was there for 15 minutes at least. Finally I got board, cause no one was up there to talk to, and I launched upwards. I forgot to clip a bolt and had to go back down to it (there are not many) and then did surprisingly well on the second crux. All of a sudden I was at the third crux, I hit the mail slot, and clipped the bolt. I didn’t know what to do but keep going, I was after all trying to get the rope to the top…

There is a big move that I was dreading, and so with some weird vocalization I threw to it. Oh my god, I stuck it, and that skinny rope felt so heavy clipping the last bolt. My mind was chaos, I was sending, and yet I couldn’t breathe or else my arms might fall off. The run out to the chains was all that was between me and freedom. The oppression of the proposition that I could send kept me shaking out and shaking like a leaf for way too long. By the time I grabbed the next hold I knew I was doomed.

My energy was sapped and the feet were bad. I was blinded by the pump and ventured in to the unknown. I fell immediately. Tragedy had struck! I would have to come back….

It snowed 3 inches the next day. All our friends left. One of them got stuck in a ditch in their minivan.

the snow melted

The snow melted.

I gave it another shot.

And as I climbed up on Darkness again, I knew I really wanted it. It was beyond putting the rope up. I had finally learned how to climb at Smith, and I wanted to climb THIS route. I did all the right things, as I had before. But I didn’t linger too long at those last ‘jugs’ I didn’t let the pump catch me. I tried hard. And that was that, I sent, just like that.


Now I am trying to get my work (jewelry making) done before I am allowed to go back to Smith. I get texts every day, saying “it is splitter, and where am I”? On the list of work items before I am allowed to go back was this blog. Lucky me, I did it!!!

This is what comes after Smith. Vamos a Patagonia!

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12 Responses to Darkness at noon in the dark time of the year…

  1. James Lucas says:

    so proud of you Kate! Great job!

  2. You crush like ice machine. You can work on jewelry at the base of Churning.

  3. Congrats on both Darkness and Heinous! I think Darkness is one of the hardest 13a’s in the park, so I’m sure the others will go down easily for you. Great temps for Taco Chips and Churning! Love your jewelry too. I’m sure I’ll see you out at Smith sometime- I’m the one with the big belly and the full body harness top-roping like a champ. ;)

  4. libby! says:

    have fun in patagonia!

  5. jim rutherford says:

    I have become a believer in your surreal life, to me, as I look at the pictures and remain in awe. I would like to ask a question by someone who has never climbed. Why do you carry so many hooks and can’t they knock you off balance or get stuck in crevices? Thank you for responding to a 72 year old sidewalk climber.

  6. Alexis says:


    After stumbling upon your clothing line and photo on patagonia, I googled your name and found your blog–curious about the background of a stellar woman climber. You’re an inspiration. I’m going to college in the Appalachian mountains and have fell completely head over heels in love with climbing rocks and nature itself in its vastness. I cannot get enough of being outdoors. It is such a God given treat and I don’t understand it’s free goodness.

    Ironically, the two things in life that I fear a great amount are blank canvases and heighty rock faces. I too am an artist. The blank canvas on my floor stares at me as it’s been raining for two days and the rocks outside have been wet–prohibiting me from making my favorite type of art. My fear of height has weighed me down for two years of climbing hard but I’m finally ready to slay some major dragons. Climbing trad is the goal for this summer. But top roping and working on some 5’10s at the rock wall isn’t such a bad idea sometimes.

    just wanted to thank you for inspiring, encouraging, and being real.


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    I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the
    hang of it!

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