July 15th, 2014, I wrote: “Most of my plans in the past were chosen out of convenience, and not true desire. Sometimes, we have to take our plans and scrap them. Start from the beginning, wherever that may be. Lose that control. That was what moving to Brooklyn was for me. Climbing was my new chapter, and Brooklyn helped me find it. I don’t want to fall into that trap again. You know, doing things because they make me feel safe. It’s important to have a plan (and then sometimes plan B), but more important to always be ready for the unseen obstacles that inevitably come our way. And hopefully when those obstacles come, know that it’s okay to tear down the walls and forget the tough guy act for a little while, let your ego step aside and learn to be more vulnerable.”
Six months between then and now, and I’ve figured out that there is no plan B.
I don’t think I would have been able to figure this out on my own. I’ve got a good support system: those who have been with me since I tied my first figure eight, those I’ve met on the road in the past four years and then, of course, those who can still remember when I was climbing out of my second floor window in high school and scaling buildings downtown.
And there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
I spent a day in Boulder Canyon with Kevin Riley. He took me to Dream Canyon (which, yes, was absolutely dreamy) where we warmed up/I got scared on a 5.9+ crack before moving onto a beautiful 5.11 pitch called Spiders From Mars. The dihedral was tricky but held good pro – the tricky part of the climb was stepping up to a face that was virtually blank aside from lichen. I waffled, Kevin waited, and I eventually made it through with some convincing conversation from Kevin. It was a beautiful climb on a beautiful snowy day. Call it blasphemy, but I dug the climbing at Boulder more than Eldo (don’t un-friend me, Jared!)
And as dreamy as I thought Boulder Canyon was, I thought my time spent in Golden, CO and Shelf Road in Cañon City to be the dreamiest. Jared O’Brien, Ryan Smith, and Jeremiah Cooke spent a total of three days at Shelf (including Christmas eve and day) climbing the most beautiful limestone I’ve ever crimped down on. I didn’t believe any of my Colorado friends when they said you could climb year round in their sunny state, but it’s true. Yes, the weather dictates where you’ll be going but luckily I’m not too fussy!
We made haste to the Bank where Jared recalled one of his favorite sport 11s – and what an amazing, amazing roof! (the adrenaline pumping, feet cutting, “hero clipping” kind). The beginning felt balance-y and a bit delicate, but in moments you’re blasting off, cutting feet and heel hooking like a madman.
On Christmas day, Jared and I celebrated the holiday equipped with helmets, santa hats and reindeer antlers (oh, and white trash pizza – because there was nothing open during the snow storm on our way home from Cañon City). Crimpy, bouldery moves and the question of how much endurance do I actually have? for seventy feet – PURE. BLISS. Lost Planet Airman (5.11c) and can be found at the Bank and NOT to be missed.
I thought the climbing at Shelf Road was spectacular and well-varied, and look forward to coming back with more time to shred in the sun!
Ryan is beginning to experience and enjoy the nuances of rope climbing again, while Jared is doing the same with sport. In an interesting day in the Moab a few weeks back, after a bail and a good laugh, Ryan and Jared joke about “paying the piper”. I think this is something most climbers know all too well. How many times have we had to pay our dues in the climbing world? I’ve probably taken my gear for more walks than my dog, at this point.
Ryan talked about his shut down with enough frequency that you might think it had bothered him, but I don’t think that was the case at all. I think he was fueling his desire to go back and conquer that crack – and I think that succeeding the second time around makes the victory so much sweeter than attempting it and getting it right away.
He said to me, “I’d rather go to sleep in the dirt if it means I get to wake up and see the best sunrise of my life.” Isn’t that what it’s about? I hope we never get to a point in our lives where we forget about sunrises. Traveling around Moab a few weeks ago with NYC friends Gingere, Dan, and Cory, I was reminded about the best things in life. The TRUTH is, the things that really satisfy us are still totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.
597 miles and a brand new set of tires later, I found myself in Zion – a place that words cannot even begin to describe. The beauty, the openness, the quality of sandstone routes. Even in the middle of winter, even covered in snow and frost, I am left speechless standing underneath these walls of orange and earth brown and black. I’m humbled.
The sun is shining on my face and this place is a part of me, now. It’s funny how places can become a part of you, much like people. Zion filled me up and swallowed me whole – and I would let it do it again and again (and again).
Most importantly, I am learning that it’s okay to fall apart for a little while and to let go. I think we all spend too much time trying to convince ourselves that we need to be strong, when we really just need to be ourselves. I came out here with no purpose in mind, but I’m falling apart, letting go and putting the pieces back together all at once. I am taking things slowly and moving in the direction I am meant to, I think.
I don’t know where the thirst for adventure comes from, really. But for all of those who wander, we know that our experience in nature and self-exploration and challenge is the common ground that we share. There is no denying a connection (be you bro or old timer or weekend warrior or newb). Nature becomes the great equalizer and through climbing, we’re able to channel emotions through something physical. More important than finding ways for the mind and body to connect, though, is the connection we are making with other humans. Re-connecting with ourselves. Finding ways to unplug your life and instead of looking for the release, letting it find you. Embracing it fully and then drowning in it. See what kind of person you become when you resurface – and hopefully, for the better.
Progress is the kind of thing we don’t necessarily see happening until it’s complete. It’s like watching a puppy grow. I always take a moment during my day to try and figure out what’s different about me from the day or week or year before. I keep expecting to be able to see a physical revision in self, like a haircut or new pair of jeans…or like when you start a new chapter in a book. The page is always so clearly marked. Change doesn’t work that way though; it isn’t tangible. It’s a perception. A knowledge. A different mind frame. And conscious change is harder than climbing mountains.
But oh, it’s so good (even the hard changes).
Changes mean getting it wrong sometimes. I’m learning how to be okay with that, because it’s still at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. In the long run, I’ll end up regretting the things I don’t do far more than the things I did.
I will work on being less idle, because I can’t change what I refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. I’m not going to run away from my problems and (try to) face them head on. Easier said than done! I am realizing that there is no single person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. That’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
“Sometimes, we have to take our plans and scrap them. Start from the beginning, wherever that may be.” Today, my beginning is right where I’m standing; I can’t do anything more than start from there. I won’t worry like I used to. If I’ve been guilty of it before, then it is my new goal to stop worrying so much and overlooking the beauty of the small moments. One day, I may look back on my small life and discover that they were actually the big ones.