All posts filed under: Essays

Reflecting on Death in the Mountains

Imagine the perfect day. Under bluebird skies, you’re scurrying across a knife-edge ridge. Jagged peaks sprawl out before you as far as the eye can see. The easy terrain allows you and your partner to move quickly. But then, a large block comes loose and you’re falling… if you were given the chance would you take it all back? Would you give up the summit for 60 more years of adventures? Or would one day of perfect climbing make it all worth it? Accidents are a part of life. They are inevitable, unpredictable, and are never easy to reconcile. The outdoor community has lost a number of incredible people to some terrible accidents over the decades. The stark truth of mortality shines bright in these moments and the age-old question of “is it worth it?” resurfaces. There’s no doubt that being in the mountains fills our lives with a sense of richness that is hard to find elsewhere. The integration of physical and mental challenges required while climbing teaches us how to be self-critical and mindful. We …

Pushing Through New Dimensions

“Regardless of our actual level of fitness, if we feel strong, agile, and adventurous, then we climb better than if we feel weak, clumsy, and meek. Climbing hard involves making moves that feel improbable, and continuing when the situation seems nearly hopeless.” – Arno Ilgner I jammed my hand into the crack, lifted my feet off the ground, and then jammed my feet into the crack. My muscles felt fatigued. As I climbed higher I placed two, three, four cams into the crack. Every move upward felt dense and heavy. Every move took effort. As I reached a small ledge, the top of the first pitch, I set up an anchor, pulled up the rope, and began belaying Andrea. The past week had been filled with some amazing climbing. In fact, the previous day, Andrea and I had an incredible time pushing hard – she redpointed her project and I onsighted my hardest route to date. But clearly all the challenging climbing was catching up to me and my endurance was wavering. It was the …

Goodbye Old Man Winter

Adam and I are celebrating – celebrating the beginning of February, which means that the worst of winter is behind us (hopefully). This winter in the van has been particularly challenging. From enduring the biting cold of 10 degree nights in Bishop, to a week straight of snow and rain in Red Rock, to a weekend of 50 mph winds and flooding in Joshua Tree, we just couldn’t seem to escape the frosty clutch of winter. Ice covered windshields and snow covered landscapes followed us from one desert to the next. Every day tasks -cooking, getting dressed, going to the bathroom – were a struggle. I wore the same pair of long johns under all my layers for over a week because it was solely too cold to even consider exposing my bare skin to the raw air. The constant cold numbed us. My motivation to climb dwindled. My motivation to run disappeared. I found no pleasure being outside. I simply wanted to feel warm again. And then, the other morning, Adam and I woke up to …

6 Must-Climb Cracks of Bishop

If you mention Bishop to a climber, chances are good that the first image that pops into their head is highball bouldering. While Bishop is best known for world class bouldering, what most climbers don’t realize is that hidden behind the hype of these giant pebbles is an amazing collection of beautiful crack climbs – and you don’t have to venture high into the Sierra to find them. Here’s a few to get you started: Sheila (5.10a) Dihedrals Area, Pine Creek Canyon This must-do moderate is located on the aesthetically angular blocks that make up the Dihedrals Area. After a thin traversing crack delivers you from the wall’s face into the corner, sinker jams lead up the middle of a large, clean-cut dihedral. As you approach the top, enjoy a short section of chimney climbing before reaching the anchors. V8 Crack (5.10d) Cardinal Pinnacle Located on a smaller formation just to the left of Cardinal Pinnacle proper, this striking crack zigs and zags through a prominent red streak that stains the granite wall. Once you reach the first …

The Salathé Wall, El Capitan (VI 5.9 C2)

“Harding’s route up The Nose is the boldest line up El Capitan. In contrast, the Salathé Wall is the most devious – traversing, arcing, and even rappelling on its lower half. But the reason for the devious appearance is that the Salathé Wall follows the chief line of weakness on El Capitan. In the opinion of many top climbers, it is the greatest rock climbing route in the world.” – Galen Rowell   [Excerpts written by Royal Robbins regarding the first continuous ascent of the Salathé Wall as it appears in Galen Rowell’s book, Vertical World of Yosemite, 1974.] “As we started climbing early on October 10, the sky was clear and the temperature cool. There was as yet no sign of the forecasted rain. However, later in the morning, clouds, fragments and clumps of nimbo-stratus, began moving swiftly from the south and it looked as if the Weather Bureau, which had been unsuccessfully forecasting rain for several days, might finally be right. As the clouds scudded over our heads toward the north, Tom skillfully …