One hand slides along the coarse, sun-drenched surface searching for a crevasse to serve as the next piece to the overall puzzle, while the other hand remains strategically positioned, part of an impromptu choreography climbers sometimes refer to as "dancing on the rock."
One wrong move or a single false step can prove disastrous " facts not lost on Tony Mayse, who has quite literally written the book on climbing when it comes to Oklahoma and its most popular climbing destinations.
It's that freedom, that constant contention with peril and the extreme mental and physical demands required in climbing that Mayse and others find so appealing. The thought of man against mountain may seem extraordinarily daunting to the masses, but the 45-year-old Mayse is in his element, whether it's the challenge of a familiar course in the Wichita Mountains or scaling the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
He has become, over last 15 years, one of the foremost authorities on the sport, especially where it pertains to Oklahoma and its growing community of climbing enthusiasts. His book, published in 2004 and titled "Oklahoma Select: A Climber's Guide," details the ins and outs of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and the Quartz Mountain climbing area.
"I was inspired to write my own guide for Oklahoma climbing, mainly because I was excited to share what I have learned about the areas and routes that I've climbed for many years," said Mayse, a one-time U.S. Marine and former powerlifter who resides in Moore.
So well-received was the book " it sold out this past summer " Sharp End Publishing commissioned him to do an updated edition that will be released sometime in 2010.
According to fellow climber and longtime friend Clay Frisbie, Mayse is the right man to reference when searching for the perfect climbing guidance.
"Tony is an authority when it comes to climbing, no doubt about that. He has extensive training in the area of guiding, he's developed his skill set over a number of years, and he's proven himself on some of the most challenging climbs in the world," said Frisbie. "I've trusted my life to Tony numerous times over the years. It's part of what you do when you climb together as partners, and that's not something you take lightly."
Mayse, who was born in Germany and lived the typical nomadic life of a self-described military brat, moved to Oklahoma in 1986, and he has spent the last 22 years working in the aerospace industry. His wife, Lori, introduced him to climbing in 1991, and within six months, he made the first of what has become an almost-annual pilgrimage to Yosemite.
"We went down to the Wichita Mountains and then to Quartz Mountain, and I was just bit by it. Climbing was such a great challenge, and being in the Marine Corps and coming from a competitive background, it was something that had a lot of appeal. I was hooked," he said.
Possessing a background in powerlifting and cycling, Mayse was perfectly suited for the physical aspect of climbing. But he was not quite prepared for the mental wall it presented.
"I found out in a hurry you can be the strongest person on the mountain, but you can get beat up from a mental standpoint in no time," he said. "Being patient and finding the right keys to unlock that mental part of rock climbing was maybe my biggest hurdle. Once I did that, the two went hand in hand."
Mayse was a fast learner and he ascended from novice status to that of a veteran climber over a relatively short period of time, mainly because he dedicated so much of his spare time to his newfound passion. By 1993, he had initiated his own climbing business, Guide for a Day, offering his services as a professional guide and rock-climbing instructor (see www.guideforaday.com).
A would-be climber hoping to escalate his or her learning curve can hire Mayse for a day and receive valuable one-on-one instruction via a daylong trip to the Wichita Mountains.
Acknowledging there is a certain level of intimidation and fear that every climber faces, he said determination and desire and learning proper climbing techniques are paramount to success.
Oklahoma City attorney Bruce Day has been witness to Mayse's expert instruction over the years and he's convinced the Guide for a Day route is the only way to go.
"Tony is the real thing. Not only is he a gifted athlete and an expert climber, he also is a fine instructor. His book is kind of like a climbing bible for both beginners and experts," Day said. "I have climbed with Tony and I have seen him evolve and mature through the years. He's certainly one of the most respected climbing guides and instructors in Oklahoma.""Jay C. Upchurch