Monday, May 23, 2005

The Pursuit of Excellence

Sweat rolled down the back of my unprotected neck as I squinted my eyes to focus on the climber 50 feet above me. Shaking with exhaustion, he paused to cool his feet in his own shadow, but it was to no avail. The sun had just reached its apex and beat down mercilessly on his bare and glistening shoulder blades. He reached up to place the last piece of equipment.

He was the third of our group to attempt to lead the trad route we'd chosen for the morning. The other two climbers had much more experiences, but were unable to finish out the route. They'd already placed hundreds of dollars worth of gear, and someone had to get to the top to clean it from the side of the cliff. He was the youngest of our group of climbers and had never lead a trad route before. As he got to the top, he called to his older brother below. With a forced confidence in his voice he said, "I don't trust myself up here."

From below I caught my breath. Now he was dangling 75 feet above an asphalt road and was beginning to question himself.

Slowly and calmly, his brother answered back, "Well, that's too bad. Sometimes we get ourselves into situations where we just have to keep going."

After a brutal hour long battle in the 104 degree sun he at last unclipped his daisy chain and was able to repel down the route, cleaning gear as he descended to a group of proud and impressed peers.

He had more than defeated a great challenge; he had earned the respect and admiration of a group of people more than a decade older than himself.

Just another small demonstration of the need to either push yourself/or be pushed into excellence.

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