Failure is like homework. Sometimes it is a necessary evil that is required to achieve my best. It can be the grease that is needed to push me into realms I thought weren't achievable. After a failure, I know the lay of the land a little better. Frequently, that failure and that familiarity eats away at me, knowing that success is possible.
Almost 30 years ago, as neophyte rock climbers, Karen and I set out to climb out first multi-day wall - the South Face of Washington Column in Yosemite. It was May. Dogwoods bloomed, days were cool and conditions were perfect. We set out, but the gods conspired against us. Someone literally defecated on Karen's head from hundreds of feet above us while she led the second pitch. After reaching Dinner Ledge, 3 pitches up, we climbed the Kor Roof and the pitch above it, then rappelled back to the ledge for our first wall bivy. During the night, Ringtail cats invaded the ledge. They boldly climbed on us as we slept, leaving footprints on our sleeping bags. They stole food and chewed anything we left out. After waking us, the raids continued into the night. Beady green eyes peered from behind small boulders in the light of our headlamps. They scampered along the ledges with grace in almost total darkness. When the gray of dawn finally arrived, we bailed.
Frustrated, we returned to the wall in the heavy, dead summer heat of August. We didn't exactly fly up the wall, but we were determined to finish. Our commitment to success was much higher in August than it had been in May. We suffered on the south facing wall. Sun and heat and sweat were everywhere. But nothing was chasing us off that wall. We ran out of water on top and spent a memorable night on the summit. Dehydrated and weak from the heat, we stumbled down talus and back to the valley.
Last summer I was chased out of the Arrigetch Peaks in Alaska by relentless bad weather. Now it is winter and it is time to think about summer plans. I'm drawn back to the Arrigetch. I want to finish the traverse we planned. I know the place now. Instead of diminishing my desire to go back, our retreat last year has fueled the fire. Someday, if that stops happening, I'll be a little less alive then I am now.