As another fall morphs into winter, I find myself dreaming, working, and training for another season of exciting adventures in Argentine Patagonia. On November 28th I'll walk out my front door in Peshastin, Washington, putz down a small country road to the train station, follow the railway over the Cascade crest, and then connect to a long flight out of Sea Tac. The stoke, like usual, is sky high.
Preparing for a trip like this is absolutely non stop. 50 hour work weeks sandwich a few moments of climbing. Luckily, during the harvest, my job provides awesome alpine training. If you can clean the press in driving sleet, long after the sun has dropped behind the Stuart Range, 13 hours into your 20th consecutive day of work, then you can climb a big route in a wild place. Bottom line.
Drew and I on the job
I'm fortunate to have a great friend and employee, Drew Shick, who will take care of the wines while I am gone in South America. Even better, he is an inspiring climber who helps motivate me for cragging sessions after work. This past fall we snuck out a time or two a week to a magnificant cliff of granite called the Miller High Life Crag. Tucked into the Sky Valley of Central Washington, the Miller High Life zone is quickly becoming a fabled land of overhanging knobs and steep crack systems. The Disorient Express (5.12c/d) and Welcome to Washington (5.13a) stuck out as two of the best routes I've ever done, one a steep roof flake and the other a sustained boulder problem capped by endless 5.12 techiness. It felt good to get into rock shape again after a discouraging year of injury which began with the development of dupuytren's contracture in my right hand.
Slapping through the crux on Welcome To Washington (5.13a)
When an abnormally wet fall soaked our local rocks and shut down the Sky Valley season, we expolored The Sanctuary, an obscure cave of steep choss located in the deserts of eastern Washington. While most of the state toiled away in slimy climbing gyms, Drew and I cranked down as beautiful sunsets washed over wide open spaces.
Drew cranks on one of Washington's best desert sport routes, The Jugulator (5.12d)
My rock season wasn't defined by steep sport routes though. Jessica Campbell and I made a valient effort on Tooth and Claw (III 5.12), one of the state's best slab testpieces. When Jessica slipped off the second 5.11 pitch, shooting dissapointment flooded her psyche. I encouraged her to not worry and hold her head high. Putting the pieces together on routes like this is difficult. One slip can ruin an otherwise perfect day, but pushing yourself to these levels is what it's all about. I showed her that heart breaking dissapointment is part of the game when a foothold broke under me as I was sending the last crux pitch, darkness falling over the Cascades. What could I do? I had climbed very well all day, but even now, I recognize I did not send the route and it will not be "ticked" in my climbing journal. I'll be back to correct that little mistake, that is for sure.
Jessica on the pitch 4 of T & C (5.11b/c)
Most recently, on my first day off work in a month, Blake Herrington, Vern Nelson, and myself romped up the NE Coulior on Argonaut Peak. We found challenging conditions that provided some real climbing moves over mixed steps of perfect granite. I relished being in the mountains with friends, fresh snow, and my ice tools. Best of all I was treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets I've witnessed in my 7 years of climbing in the Stuart Range.
Myself staring in awe at the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart. This moment was one of my most cherished in 7 years of climbing in the Stuart Range. The North Ridge is the obvious buttress falling from Stuart's summit. What a line! I've climbed it many times, including making its second winter ascent in 2008 with Cole Allen.
The name of my blog is a direct reference to my life as a climber and mountain lover. The combination of grace, athleticism, and adventure in high places is what drives my burning passion for moving up mountains big and small.