Monday, June 25, 2012

Love in the Border Country

In October of 2009, Katie Lambert, Ben Ditto,  a Slovenian climber named Luka, and I climbed on the north western face of Yosemite’s Middle Cathedral.  The route, Border Country, was named after a poem written by a well known climber. The night before the climber’s death in an avalanche in China, he wrote a poem about the climbing life, of living in the Border Country.
When we reached the base, I realized I had left my chalkbag in the car.  I ran down to get it.  Katie was waiting when she heard a voice cry.
“Heeey Katie.” Ben offered to tag our water up the first 200 feet.
This was the first time Ben saw his future wife
I’d told Katie that Ben was a Utah sport climber. She was sure he’d suck.  But the way he’d said hey, the way he’d said her name, she thought “whoa who is this person?”  
We climbed all day but hardly saw Luka and Ben.  They were too far ahead.  Every once in awhile, Katie caught glimpses of a flashing smile, weird long hair, and a bandanna.  Ben was climbing smoothly up the wall.  On the crux pitch, he broke a horn but caught himself on a hold below.  It was one of those days when Ben couldn’t fall.
At the top of the headwall, Katie led to the stance where Ben was taking pictures.  He first saw her through a camera lens. She arrived at the belay and went to lower down. She clipped a single biner and a mess of old webbing left by the first ascentionist.  Ben thought either she really knows what she’s doing or she’s kind of sketchy
When the shadow of the Nose hit the Zodiac, we rappelled.  We cramped into tiny belay stations. Katie and I were at the bottom. Luka and Ben, who had helmets, were on top.  We held out backpacks over our heads so we wouldn’t get pummeled by the rocks when we pulled our ropes.
At one ledge, while we waited for Luka to rappel, there was a conversation about relationships. “Well, what’s up? Any prospects?” Ben asked Katie.
“No.”   Katie replied
 “I’m sure they’re lined ten deep.”  Ben said, shaking his head.
I snapped this photo of Ben. He was charming even with long eccentric hair.
We continued down the route.  Ben talked about Keep the River on Your Right, the story of an artist and anthropologist who travels into the jungles of Peru.  Ben was being characteristically smooth, living up to his nick name The Coffee Shop Killer.
It was an adventure. Pretty exciting. Not like Katie Lambert getting lost inside her sleeping bag but exciting anyway. 
I read this story at Katie and Ben's wedding Summer Solstice 2012
When we got down, we parted ways.  Katie looked for Ben in Camp 4 a few days later but Ben was climbing on El Cap.  They stayed in touch while he went to Patagonia.  In the spring, Ben met Katie in Ridgecrest, when her car broke down. They climbed in Bishop and became partners.  These days, they live climbing together, defining intrepid, and living a life in the Border Country.

Congratulations Katie and Ben

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