Childbirth, Induction variation (IV, 5.11a, A3)
July 14, 2000

Matt and Maren Robertson

It's amazing how climbing some routes can be such a life altering experience. I'm not talking about some difficult route at the local crag - red pointing Godzilla at Index certainly comes with bragging rights, but I'm talking about those intense, Grade IV, all-commiting climbs that cause you to examine your inner self, to question your true motivations, and to place complete and utter confidence in your climbing partners. Three and a half years ago Maren and I had just such an experience when we did this route for the first time (click here for that trip report) - our lives have never been quite the same since. However, sometimes once is just not enough, and about a year and a half ago we started talking about maybe doing the route again. We knew a bit more about what we were getting ourselves into this time, and so we pondered the decision carefully, making lists of the positives and negatives. Before long, the positive list far outstripped the negative, and about nine months ago we commited ourselves once more to Childbirth.

Based on the wonderful experience we had had last time, we again retained the services of Dr. Isbell as our guide. We have done a fair amount of climbing in the last three and a half years, but we still felt unprepared to attempt a route of this seriousness alone. We again allowed about nine moths for a training regimen, which would this time position us for an early to mid-July attempt on the route. Knowing that the condtions would be completely different than last time, which was a mid-December climb, we relied on the wisdom and guidance Dr. Isbell could give us regarding when the optimum time for our attempt should be. Based on his years of experience, he thought July 8th would be the date we should shoot for if we wanted to do the normal start, and we were all surprised when Maren started thinking she might be ready to start the route almost a week and a half earlier than this. Although we all could agree that Maren's abs were in fine shape and ready to take on the climb, Maren wasn't able to maintain her motivation for more than about 2 hours at a time, so we decided to continue to wait. The July 8th date came and went, and still everything wasn't in perfect condition. At this point, Dr. Isbell broached the idea of using an aid variation to the start, as we did last time, since he felt like evrything else was in peak condition now, and things may start becoming more difficult if we delayed much longer. If aiding through the first crux was what it was going to take to get on route, then Maren and I decided we would again start the climb using the Induction variation.

Avoiding an alpine start, we arrived at the base of the route (Evergreen Hospital, Kirkland, Washington) a little after 7:00 on the morning of July 14. Once again, Maren insisted on leading every pitch. This was probably appropriate since even though I'm a confirmed gear head, this is one climb where I am woefully unequipped to lead. I knew my main resposibilites were to provide a tight belay, and plenty of encouragement. Once we were on route, Maren's previous experience on this climb started to shine through. Although I'm certain the climb hasn't gotten any easier, the speed and facility which Maren demonstrated on the early pitches of the climb astounded me. Maren led out on the first pitch shortly before 8:00, and although this section had taken us six and a half hours last time, by 10:30 we were already facing the first crux. Since the last climb, Maren and I had talked to some close friends who had actually done this next section free, but their descriptions only served to reinforce Maren's belief that for her, aiding through this crux again using an epidural was the correct choice. I have to agree, because once the aid was applied, this crux flew by almost effortlessly - Maren's conditioning was really paying off now! Although each move was certainly as difficult as it had been the last time we had done this climb, the rate we progressed, and the facility with which Maren met each new move was truly astounding. This is not to say that Maren wasn't working hard - the concentration on her face, and the energy she was expending made it obvious that she was leading near her limit.

Up until this point, Dr. Isbell's assistant guides were accompanying us, but as Maren completed each succeeding pitch more quickly than the previous, they decided it was time for Dr. Isbell to rejoin us. A little after 1:00 he rejoined our team, and none too early! I think Maren was moving through things a bit more quickly than he was expecting, but none the less he was present and ready to help her when she reached the final crux. Stronger and more experienced this time, Maren needed no further aid to complete the crux, and at 1:40 pm our newest climber, Gavin Keith Robertson, joined us. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 1 ounce and was 20 inches long. He was already short roped to Maren, but Dr. Isbell determined that the remainder of the climb would proceed more quickly if we third classed things, and suggested that we disconnect Maren and Gavin. Not wanting to take the time to untie him Dr. Isbell suggested I simply cut his rope, and that done, we were on our way. Not having any previous climbing experience, Gavin was a bit overwhelmed with just about everything, but Maren came through again, giving him just the reassurance he seemed to need, and providing him with exactly the snack he seemed to crave. The final section of climbing last time had featured some tricky aid moves that Dr. Isbell performed - this time, however, Maren freed the final pitch, and before we knew it, Maren, Gavin and I had topped out and were celebrating!

Not long after reaching the summit, Bryden, the climber we had met under similar circumstances on this route three and a half years ago, joined our little group to be introduced to Gavin. I'm still not sure if it was Gavin's size, or his complete lack of teeth that impressed Bryden most, but the two of them seemed to hit it off immediately, and I'm guessing they're going to be spending a lot of time together in the future. A 24 hour final crux to car time is pretty standard for this route these days, but with as well as Maren and Gavin did we were able to better that time by almost an hour, and actually stopped in at a small celebration being thrown in Gavin's honor on our way home on Saturday.

A route like this certainly isn't for everyone, but for those so inclined, it is an awe inspiring experience like no other I've even known. I am still stunned by Maren's physical capabilities, and for any of you hardcore men out there who think you're tough - this route has yet to see its first male lead!


Gavin has demonstrated a rather remarkable appetite. Unfortunately this is coupled with a very small holding capacity. This has resulted in his demanding (yes, he can already demand) to be fed about every two hours, resulting in Maren and I again becoming part of some sort of sleep deprivation experiment. Other than that, we are all doing wonderfully!

Last updated: April 2, 2001