The opening chapters depict a working class unmarried couple who are struggling. The woman really likes the man but he already has his mind set to move on from the woman (and her young son), and to find better work elsewhere. I want to say they are squatting in a small house in rural CA somewhere.
The man decides he wants to take the woman’s son climbing before he abandons them. He wakes the boy up early and they drive to (I believe) Yosemite National Park together in the man’s truck. The man takes him on a long, multi-pitch roped climb, which I remember really enjoying reading about.
When the two get back, the man does indeed leave. He goes on to find a job working as a carpenter or cleaner or some laborer type position on roofs and gables and other high places, which I assume he can do because of his experience climbing. He makes a coworker friend and one of the last things I can recall is he teaches the coworker how to not be so afraid of heights.