The Anchor (Part 1)

Billie was raised in Boulder, Colorado along with a younger sister and an older brother. Her parents were both rock climbers and mountaineers and had all three of their children out in the mountains at an early age. Billie took to the mountains like a duck to water, she couldn’t get enough. By the time she was in high school she already had a name for herself amongst the climbers in and around the Boulder area.

She earned a certificate in Outdoor Recreation Leadership at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. After that she worked at the National Outdoor Leadership School out of Lander, Wyoming for a year, working with young adults. For whatever reason, she left NOLS, moved to Salt Lake and started working for REI. She was one of the toughest women I had ever met. Her mornings before work were at a nearby cross fit center. I would join her a few times a week and she always showed me up with her strength and stamina. She thought nothing of a ten run mile at five in the morning. Her goal, by her thirtieth birthday, was to solo Everest. She was now twenty-three. I had no doubts she could and would, somehow, manage to do it. At this moment, I was wondering if she would live that long.

“Billie, dammit, set some damned anchors. You’re scaring me,” I screamed up to her.

She yelled back down to me, “Shut up Ryan. I’ve got this. You’re making me nervous.” She reached for her next handhold. Then she stretched out her leg at an impossible angle, found purchase with her toes and swung her body another two feet upward, two feet closer to the top or, possible disaster. She had maybe ten or fifteen more feet to the summit. She now had to be over sixty feet high, her last belay anchors set maybe thirty or thirty-five feet lower.

Another climber had joined us. “Wow, she’s amazing. That’s a really difficult route, gotta be in the 5.12 to 5.15 range. She’s gotta be one of the best climbers I’ve ever seen.”

“Yeah, she’s good alright but I wish to hell she’d set herself some anchors.”

“Oh crap! Yeah! Oh my god, yeah, she hasn’t. That’s no place to be free climbing. That’s a dangerous wall.”

To be continued . . .

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