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The Enchanted Forest

The Enchanted Forest
The Enchanted Forest
The Enchanted Forest
December 22, 2010 -  Lisa Hathaway    

Last year, I was invited to write a piece for the "On Belay" section of The Alpinist. As one can imagine, I was thrilled for the opportunity!!! And they even used one of my photos, so double thrill! For a previous issue that ran a feature on various women (#27: and why we climb, with a lovely photo essay by James Q. Martin, I had numerous email conversations and a phone interview with the editor, Katie. Following that she proposed I write about my experiences "growing up" at Mill Creek.


The content is available on-line to subscribers at or can be read in The Alpinist #29. Here is a sample of two of my favorite parts of the story to hopefully stir your interest!

"From dime-sized footholds, Noah reached his left hand out. I could see nothing for him to grab. To my surprise, his hand inverted to an undercling on the subtly featured slab—not your normal undercling, mind you, but a “thumb-dercling”: pressing up into the hold with the meat of his thumb. Then, from this precarious stance, he squatted on the miniscule perch and matched his right thumb to his left. Next, a razor-blade crimp allowed him only one fingertip, upon which he stacked the others. With such improbable, delicate and powerful contortions, he and Eric unlocked the intricate sequences of testpieces that—many years, ascents and tickmarks later—stymie most visitors’ first attempts."

" … cairns of bones led my partner Brent and me through what we called “The Enchanted Forest” to the Insta Crag—a wall so obligingly featured, its dozen or so plum lines had been developed “instantly.” I gazed across the canyon toward the faint figure of a belayer, one pitch off the ground. Then I stared, aghast: the leader, Tom, was lobbing repeatedly off his latest find, The Trad Warrior. Each time he careened down, the belayer flew upward into the air. Both climbers kept at it, apparently unscathed and unflappable. Brent cackled at my needless horror. In that moment, all I thought I knew about climbing unraveled. My eyes opened to a new and vast world, a scary one where control could be vanquished, conventions broken and fear subjugated by boldness. At that time I was a student of a far more conservative philosophy: trad leaders did not fall and certainly not repeatedly! In the years to come, I learned that Tom was notorious for his approach, and I watched the younger climbers emulate him. I began to appreciate the value of bringing my head and nerves, as well as my biceps, up to the grade of a route. Now, each time I quake above my last piece, I recall this moment, as if mere memory can bring to my wobbly feet some approximation of Tom’s bravado and perhaps just a smidgen of that trad warrior in myself."

Photo: James' Alpinist #29 Full Page photo of me on Aesthetics, a photo of Mill Creek from the story, The Alpinist #29


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