Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Winter of Discontent

Being an athlete is not always easy. The pressure, the restlessness, and the drive (all self imposed) constantly spur us towards future goals. At times this cycle is gratifying, our success building confidence and leading to more inspiring endevours. But there are also the dry times, when we fall short of our expectations and no matter how bad we want it, we don't send.
2009 was one of the best years I've ever had climbing until a cold night out froze Cole's toes and sent me into personal crisis. I felt lost in my ambition, charging into the mountains only to be gripped with fear. Even though 2009 was a year for sending, it was also spicy. A flake of rock fell off Dragons Of Eden, shattering into dozens of granite missles that obliterated our lead line and nearly did the same to my head. A fifty foot fall below the Burkett Needle threatened my life within hours of arriving in Alaska. And then there was Cole's frostbite.

Raymond Cole Allen, for those of you who don't know him, defines the word beast. His strength seems super human due to endless positive phsych and a deep love for the mountains no matter what they're serving up. It also doesn't hurt that he's 200 pounds of pure muscle.

In the past few years I've done some wonderful climbs with Cole, summits that may not have been reached without him. Since the eighth grade we have shared friendship and intense passion for all mediums of climbing. If anyone understands what I feel when I look towards the mountains Cole does. Niether of us has ever fought that magnetic pull, unwavering devotion to the sport defining our lives. One joy we shared the last few years is the discovery of winter climbing. Frigid temps, short days, and hard climbing demand intense motivation. We have grown to love this style, our endless psyche funnled into upward movement in an icy, beautiful world. The anciness that we feel at the crags or boulders has no place here. We never have to wait our turn and we love moving in the mountains for hours on end. When Cole's toes blackened with cold injury our dreams for 2010 were shattered.

Although I still managed over forty pitches of ice and four summits this past winter, it was not with the desired confidence and joy. I felt scared and unfocused, always struggling to live in the moment. I tried my projects, but with little heart, bailing after the approach each time.
Now, as winter shifts to spring, new feelings are breaking the ground of cold memories, reaching towards the brightness of future. My head is clear and my heart is thankful for life and lessons learned. Exciting adventures are on the horizon and Cole's toes are getting better each day. In a life of climbing there are bound to be tough times. I'm glad to have this particular rough patch behind me.

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