A buddy and myself climbed in Red Rock last Monday. It was, most likely, my last big day of rock climbing before the wintry season ramps up. I had this roller-coaster ride of motivation, finally fulfilling the promise I'd made to climb. I imagine Ian had no idea I'd considered bailing. I hadn't really considered it, really. 'Cause I said I would climb. Anyway, that's not the real point. The real point comes from 10 feet of cliff in a day filled with about 700 feet of cliff. In no particular order, the background: Ian is about half an inch taller than me. We climbed "The Walker Spur" in Red Rock- an older-style route, naturally protected with cram-widgets in the cracks. The crux, the hardest part, is that 10 feet of smooth rock. There are just enough edges and flakes to make it climb-able, but it all sits immediately over a very flat, 2 foot deep ledge. And then a big drop below the ledge. The highest useful protection is about 8 feet up. Getting a chunk of metal in that particular crack and then getting the rope clipped to it is key to the leader's safety. If I were to fall without that bit of gear secured, I would slam into the ledge. Not cool, not really an option. I fiddled, strained, reached and got the safety system arranged from that ledge. I really wanted it. I wanted both the protection, and the attendant confidence. I wanted to make the moves safely and smoothly.
I worked out the moves, racing past the protection to the next section of more secure climbing. It all worked out just fine.
Fast-forward. I reached the belay stance and pulled the rope in. Ian climbed the pitch on top-rope. Far safer, especially in this case. He got to that same ledge and tried to remove the gear I had placed for my own protection. Ian, even with his extra height, couldn't reach the protection from the ledge. What's the difference? Why could I make it happen and he couldn't? There's various explanation in the body mechanics of it all. Skills. Skills we each had access to. But really, it all comes down to wanting it. Given my circumstances, as the leader, I wanted to reach that part of the crack more than Ian did. And that made all the difference.