My concentration is broken by Ginnie Joe's friendly smile. I look up, the piece of duct tape I was working with still stuck to my fingers. "I thought you said that jacket would never head up another mountain?", she said jokingly. She's right. I did say that, but I also wasn't expecting Sol to call and suggest we leave that very evening for Colfax Peak (near Mt. Baker). We laughed as I continued to patch my tattered North Face. Never say never.
That jacket did suffer through a few more climbs. It was quite comical really. It had certainly lost more than half the down that was once present (probably more). The reality of a worked piece of equipment came into focus during a particularily cold open bivy on an intimidating solo effort. I never wore the jacket again after that long night.
Although it was in no way shameful to throw this jacket in the trash, it sat for weeks on my front porch. I just could not get rid of it. Everytime I picked it up, the memories flooded through my mind. I spent the majority of my life in this jacket over the last few years (there were other jackets before this one). Dirtbagging across the deserts of the west, climbing big walls and long free routes, resting between boulder problems, new routes and classic lines in the alpine, belaying a sport lead on a crisp day, sinking tools into ice, being sick halfway across the globe, passing a cold night on an airy perch...the list goes on.
Just the other day as I was packing to leave for Cali, I noticed the jacket on the porch. "Time to deal with this", I said to myself. I quickly snatched the jacket up and...I sat there staring at it for a minute. I felt like a heroin addict who swears he is about to throw the needle away. It is hard to part with those items that have at some level been a symbol of a certain way of life.
I had my moment with Old Red (my jacket) and stuffed it in the trash. As cheesy as it sounds, I immediatly felt like I had entered a new period in my life as a climber. The adventures that I had in the jacket have brought me to a point I have never been to before. I have always had an unbridaled enthusiasm for climbing and practiced all of its disciplines, but now, I know what climbs truly inspire me. I spend more focused time training for those objectives. I understand elements of the climbing game that had eluded me before. Of course, I still have so much to learn.
Knowing that Old Red was dead, I have found a new jacket, particularily for an expedition Max and I will take in a few months to try and establish the first free route up Alaska's Burkett Needle. I will be there in New Blue, launching into the next phase of my climbing life.