25 years ago I scraped my way up Orchard Rock, a flakey plug of sandstone only a few miles east from where I live now. Since then, I've climbed with maniacal devotion. All the lazar cut cracks, ice flows, and soaring faces flutter in the recesses of my mind. The mountains and walls have blended into a collage of rock and ice. Faces of partners, creased and weather worn, pulse through the memories. The experiences are like a quilt, each intricate stitch part of a greater whole. Part of who I am.
The vertical world offers a perspective that is honest and bare boned. It will smother you with joy and crush you with pain. Between those places I search for contentment. Rather than the blatant psyche of my youth, my modern mood is more reserved. I'm learning to pick my battles. Still, the ember of inspiration glows electric. I'll give everything to a route that calls my name because the mountains affect me. They strip me to my most basic self and this nakedness in raw nature feels pure. Can I take that sense of being to my everyday life? Can I love, create, give, and achieve with that simple heart?
Self knowledge, relationships, work, and other interests have always taken a backseat to climbing. Right now I'm trying to find out who I am besides runouts and sleepless pushes. If climbing didn't exist who would I be and what would I do? If I was never strung out above a TCU or falling on the last move of a project, would I be happy? Something tells me I need the grittiness. That I won't be content with an easy life.
Over the last year I've had to ask myself if I want to continue climbing. It's a question that I couldn't face at first. It took me over a year to admit out loud to a best friend that it felt like my devotion was wavering. Since that confession I've allowed myself to contemplate a life without the mountains. Tucked beneath faded visions is the original joy I experienced so many years ago on Orchard Rock. That wide eyed challenge of finding the next hold, that moment when there is nowhere higher to climb. A summit perspective. I've retraced my steps back to the starting point and realized nothing has changed. Climbing still makes me feel alive.
For now I am laying low. I had surgery on my right ankle 8 weeks ago. It was a long time coming and recovery is the key for me to continue my athletic endeavors. By the time I'm climbing again, winter will be settling into the Cascades. I might search for adventure in the frozen mountains or I might clip sunny bolts in a far away land. Maybe I'll just take a road trip. Whatever I choose to do will originate in that sense of awe I felt above the orchard so long ago. I can't wait to tie in again.