In September 2019, I returned to Saxony to hone my sandstone skills. This time around, I hoped for slightly cooler temps, to better stick the walls, and to be (become) a self-sufficient, independent climber, in the somewhat unfriendly region with strange sandstone with stranger ethics. I climbed 19 out of 30 days outside that month, almost exclusively on the German side of the border. The day that Jane and I climbed the Böser Turm was the most memorable of them all and I’d love to share my memory of the day with you. A little excerpt from the story is below, and the full piece is online at The Climbing Zine.

Looking up, the moves appear in my mind. Long dynamic left-hand moves up, bump, place the left foot, but where? False start. Downclimb. I chat with Jane. The calm patience in her voice relieves me. I know I must let my left foot free, but it feels counterintuitive. I can imagine the next moves, climb it in my head again and again, but I cannot bring myself to commit.

A helicopter flies past, a basket dangling below. Do I believe in omens? I ask myself. “What is that?” I ask Jane. “Someone must have fallen,” she answers. I look at the gentle curves in my rope as it runs from the sling on the horn down to a knot wedged in a horizontal crack several meters to my left. The extended alpine draw on the knot rests lazily on the sandstone. Another body length below it, my last ring. Metal gleaming in the sun.

“Okay! I’m going to try!” My announcement surprises me, but I follow my own instructions.

Katie Keeley and I on top of Schwarzer Horn. September 1st, 2019. Photo by Maren Braun.