In my new series, the protagonist is an avid rock climber. He “free solos” which means he climbs without equipment, nothing but a bag of chalk. I’m not that crazy, so I was belayed for safety, but in the name of research I did climb 200 feet up the nearly vertical face (70-80 degree pitch – rated 5.8 for those of you who know what that means) of Lover’s Leap in South Lake Tahoe using nothing but my hands and feet.
This was my first serious rock climbing experience, and frankly I still can’t believe what I did. My instructor, M. "Petch" Pietrolungo, just climbed up the cliff face like he was walking to the store – and then I followed. Unbelievable. I was expecting to start with some rocks, and then a hill, but Petch took me straight up a granite monolith.
Turns out you need two things to do this: 1) the right shoes, and 2) the ability to remain calm in an insane situation. Fortunately I gave Kyle Achilles both those things in the series.
Those are my feet, with Petch down below. This is about 100 feet, btw, we went twice that far before I'd decided I'd gone high enough for my first day. What can I say, I'm no Achilles.