Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fall Back: Quick Reflections on Spring and Summer

Since returning home from South America last February my focus has been on survival. The depression and anxiety that follow an event like Chad's death are more powerful than I could have ever imagined. The emotions and depth of sadness surprise me constantly, as do the blessings that trickle in at just the right rate to keep me sane and precariously balanced.

I've continued to climb at a fairly constant pace, but it is different now in some ways. The lens I view my life and climbing from is on a different setting. Rather than constantly making plans for big trips and lofty goals, I'm operating on a more day to day schedule. I wake up, look outside, ask myself what I want to climb that day and then go do it. I've spent time with friends old and new, each person finding (or maintaining) a definitive place in my life. I used to think I only needed the mountains. Now I know it's all about people, the love we can give one another, and as climbers, the experiences we share in high places.

In this post, I thought I would give a quick recap of the spring, summer, and fall. Then, I can get back on track and hopefully provide a more constant stream of material about the coming adventures of my favorite season: Winter!!

In May, I left my home in Leavenworth and traveled to Yosemite Valley. At the time, I was feeling desperate, unsure of what to do or where to go. I needed to get back to my roots. Even though I climbed for many years prior to visiting Yosemite in the early 2000's, every move I've made in my life since was connected to my time in the Big Ditch. I arrived to old friends, many of whom had lofty ambitions. As much as I tried, my first few days were depressing and I almost left. I felt paralyzed with fear. The big walls, as close to the road and as solid as they are, seemed too intense. I climbed poorly, always envisioning the worst scenarios. Fortunately, my friends were compassionate to my feelings and never made me feel bad about bailing off climbs that were no problem for them. It took a week to sort my heart out and the partnership of Quinn Brett and Josh Lavigne to help me feel strong enough emotionally to go after some cool objectives. We climbed some rad pitches, but our best day was on the classic South Face of Mt. Watkins. We managed to climb the route in eight hours which I thought was pretty good for three people who barely knew each other and who hadn't really climbed together. Quinn has a good recap of the ascent here.
Josh, Quinn, and I after a fun day on Watkins

Later in the trip, I had the opportunity to try and lead all of the Romulan Warbird (Fifi Buttress), a really nice route pioneered by one of my favorite characters in the community, Dan McDevitt. Years later, with Dan's encouragement, Lucho Rivera freed the route, finding nine pitches of steep, super fun climbing. The Warbird features a crux 5.12c pitch sandwiched between two other 5.12b pitches and a stack of 5.11. Lucho has been a close friend for years and when he offered to belay and follow me on the route, I couldn't say no. I didn't send the 5.12c pitch that day, but I felt I had made some progress during my time in Yosemite. Usually, I would be frustrated with a failure, but merely trying to lead a hard, multi-pitch (for me) route was a step in the right direction. After almost giving up and heading home the first week, it felt good to make some progress in regaining my confidence.

After spending a few weeks back at home in Leavenworth, I decided to take Quinn up on her offer to show me the amazing climbing in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. This trip injected a full dose of psyche into my blood stream. RMNP is freaking awesome and climbing the Diamond for my first time was a dream come true. What a rad and unique piece of stone. We climbed Ariana and enjoyed a perfect day in the park. Quinn put a nice piece of writing together about that day here. I climbed on a host of other fun routes around Estes Park and really enjoyed the running there too!
Quinn soaks in the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park

I returned to Leavenworth in early July with intentions to focus on a link up of my three favorite rock routes in the Stuart Range: Let it Burn (Colchuck Balanced Rock), Drangons of Eden (Dragontail Peak), and Der Sportsman (Prusik Peak). Blake Herrington was the perfect partner for the job and on July 27th we spent 23 hours and 45 minutes tracing an aesthetic line through our backyard peaks. In preparation, we also made a free link up of Dragons of Eden and Der Sportsman the week prior to the triple dip. Check out this article  on for the full story.
Blake leads pitch 3 on LIB a few hours into our link up
Photo by Max Hasson

I also used my time at home to squeeze in as much climbing at Index as I could. The long days of summer mean I can work full time and squeeze in evening sessions on some of Washington's (the world's?) finest routes. I managed to climb some great pitches I'd never done before and really enjoyed sharing the stoke with my close friend Jessica Campbell. I've had a lot of fun watching her blossom into one of the best rock climbers I know. 
Stepping through on Bobcat Cringe, one of the finest thin cracks at Index 
Photo by Blake Herrington

My final summer excursion was a mini-road trip with my good friend Mark Westman. We coaxed my beater Subaru through the heat and scored a wonderful week at Elephant's Perch in Idaho. The Perch is stunning and the climbing is brilliant. I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said about this amazing venue. If you have not been, please, please go. It is rad. We climbed The Fine Line, Myopia, Astro-Elephant, and Sunrise Book. Each of these routes were phenomenal, but Myopia took the cake. It must be one of the finest alpine rock climbs in the States with brilliant stemming and thin crack climbing forever. Wow! When rain came to the Sawtooths, Mark and I pointed the Subi north and headed for Squamish. We had a great week there also, climbing the classics and soaking in the summer scene.
Mark and I stoked atop The Perch! 
Photo by Mark Westman

So, there it is. A very abbreviated recap of the past few months. There are many, many climbs that I'm not mentioning or forgetting. I'm feeling very psyched for the winter ahead. Sharpen your tools and wax your skis. It's on! Oh yeah, but make sure to stay in good rock shape too. Winter high pressure windows at Index are for sending!!
Myself enjoying another Squamish classic, Sentry Box
Photo by James Lucas