Sunday, June 15, 2014

One Mountain to the Next

From the Colorado Rockies to the Sierras of California I have once again decided to relocate my home in my journey of self discovery.  The hardest thing about my restless life, a life filled with an endless yearning for motion, is saying goodbye.  I love developing new friendships and sharing my experiences with others while hearing about theirs.  This is what makes a life filled with travel one of constant excitement and fills it with value.  However, the desire for novel experience inevitably leads to a lot of goodbyes.  In the past year I've lived in five locations for a month or more and had significant experiences with people on shorter excursions in between.  I find deep personal connections with people that I've known for only a short period of time.  Change can be hard but usually I am greeted in a new location by a scene of natural beauty that shows me I am on the right path.

This time that experience was my first sight of the Sierras in eight months.  I had been on the road for 10 hours and had just driven through the lowest point, and one of the hottest places, in the U.S. Death Valley.  I was anxiously watching the temperature gauge on my car over the final rise out of Death Valley.  When I looked up from the dash I was breathless at the scene in front of me.  The early evening light dropped through the overlaying cloud layer.  Delicate sunbeams snuck through the undulations in the ridgeline and fell on the dust that had been swirled in the air by the unimpeded winds of the Owen's Valley.  Instead of the clarity and certainty one would hope to see in their future at this moment I saw mystery.  This unknown path that I have embarked upon is what excites me and propels me in my journey through life.  While I know that I must say goodbyes I continue to greet each new experience and personal connection as an essential ingredient in the melting pot of my soul.

Mother's Day Weekend on Mountain Momma

Living at 9,000 feet sometimes you are feel desperate to escape the snow and go in search of a climate that more resembles the season it is supposed to be.  That is why I decided to bail on the impending storm that was projected to dump two feet in Colorado's high country in the middle of May.  My car is always packed for a quick dash out for the weekend.  The work day ticked by and the tapping of my foot steadily became more rapid.  I couldn't take it anymore and burst out the door.  I jumped in the car, turned the wheel south, and depressed the accelerator.  In a few hours I pulled into one of Santa Fe's distinct adobe neighborhoods and met up with my friends Brandon and Nicole who were hosting me for the evening.  Brandon and I gathered our thoughts for the next morning and turned in early.

A gentle knock woke me up and some black coffee helped to pry my eyelids open.  We hoped into our expedition vehicle, a Jeep Rubicon, and off we headed towards the Sandia Mountains.  As usual driving through New Mexico was enchanting.  My eyes searched through vast lands and past small towns to the stunning mountains in the background that show their character best in the morning and at sunset.  I have been nowhere else where a landscape becomes painted so vibrantly during the rise and fall of the sun and the mountains absorb each day in remarkable hues of purple and red.

A winding mountain road and a cracked bottle of blue raspberry Mountain Dew is not always the best combination.  We reached the summit and after I had staggered around speaking gently to my angry stomach the immense feeling of nausea began to fade.  As soon as it was clear that my body would retain the blue liquid we began jogging down the La Luz trail.  Fueled by excitement (And Mountain Dew) I was soon hopping over rocks with a fervor intent on cruising a day of climbing.  We broke from the main La Luz trail and scrambled down talus to the old La Luz trail and then back up a gully steering towards our formation.  The gully ended up at a cliff and we began scrambling.  Fifteen feet below Brandon and 30 feet off the deck I heard him say, “Whoops this is definitely not it.  We need to be lower.”  Thus began our first rappel to get back to the base of the difficult and loose scramble we had just surmounted.

In the days preceding our climb Brandon and I discussed an approach that was more direct than either the guidebook or Mountain Project outlined.  Since he had climbed a route below the Torreon called Mexican Breakfast and had the approach dialed I decided this was a wise choice.

Down we hiked past thorny brush that drove straight through our clothes and into our flesh.  We regained the old La Luz and met a gentleman on a day hike.  Brandon asked him about the approach to the Torreon and I heard him mumble something incoherent, “Mmm, blahumph, five mile.”  I anxiously glanced over my shoulder trying to decipher his communication with Brandon but he was already 50 feet down the trail and so I followed.  We ran into the La Luz again and then veered sharp right up what looked like a heinously thorny gully.  Observation from below proved to accurately define this stretch of our approach.  Thick cat claw thorns were easy to avoid but it seemed that any plant that sported lush green also had thorns attached to stalk and stem.  A machete would have been valuable but according to Brandon if you bring a machete on the approach you must carry it in your teeth on the climb.  That seemed reasonable.  By crawling, swiping, and straddling thorn brush we eventually topped out the gully at another cliff band.  Whoops!  We had just spent another hour wallowing upwards only to realize we had again climbed the wrong gully.  When we turned around and headed downhill we both broke out in laughter as we found a brush free descent near the cliff that was merely a few feet from us the whole time.

We reached the trail again it was clear to both of us that we would have to hike back up to get a better view of our approach.  Switchback after switchback we climbed until we had a perfect view of three gullies.  We had climbed the highest and the lowest but the one in the middle gleamed like the yellow brick road leading us to the Torreon and our climb Mountain Momma!  We bee lined the approach from here and in no time were racking at the base of the climb and shaking our heads for our hasty decision to dive into the woods without accounting for our surroundings.

Soon I was headed up the first pitch sinking my fingers into the frigid granite and quickly losing all sense of touch.  Beads of sweat froze to my forehead and I continued clipping buttonheads and running the rope between placements.  Fantastic horizontal edges were juxtaposed between vertical cracks and the climbing felt adventurous.

I brought Brandon up to the first belay and he must have been wanting to maintain his core temp because he swooped the rack and ran up pitch two towards the sunny ledge above.  A thin seam led away from the belay and then wider constricting cracks reached upwards to a dihedral capped by a bulge.  Brandon crushed up to the bulge where he spent the most time sewing up the next moves with a small cam and two tricams.  He then hollered down, “I’m done screwing with this gear,” and then made what was likely the most fluid move of the pitch as he rocked over on his left leg and bypassed the bulge.  I followed his lead but the first “jug” I grabbed pulled out of the wall and followed the tug of gravity to the boulders below.  Two other monstrous blocks shifted in a horrifying fashion before I met with Brandon at the belay.

A bit shaken by the rock quality I looked at what looked appeared a relentless pitch of bulging rock above.  I took solace in knowing that this pitch would have a perfect hand crack splittling somewhere between bulges.  Good exposure led away from the belay as the route lead up and to the right.  A #0.5 Camalot protected the first bulge as I pulled on my fingers to reach a sloping jug and my heel was thrown over the lip.  True to form a 20 foot long splitter hand crack met my face as I balanced on a small ledge over the bulge.  This crack was worth the lower 300 feet of climbing for the few moves with secure and perfect hand jams.  Up next was the second bulge that widened a little before the lip and I threw my hand into a bat crap filled pocket to turn over the top.  I set up the belay and turned the iPhone to the one song I had in my music library, Three Six Mafia's "Stay Fly."

When Brandon met me at this belay we both raised our eyebrows and crained our necks looking for where to go on the traverse pitch.  It turns out the traverse was directly horizontal (Oh... a traverse...) but involved some thin 5.9 moves with no protection and dizzying exposure.  Brandon worked his way through the difficult traverse with a dearth of explicatives.  In short time we were making our way up the final pitch.  Other than it being a crumbling pile of choss it was fun and straight forward and we were soon high fiving and searching the ridge for a suitable location to anchor and find our way off the top.  We rappelled 80 feet to the notch and then found our way up a gully to the top of another fin of Sandia rock.  We were soon back in the Jeep and twisting down the road in the golden afternoon discussing our next objective.  One thing is for sure, with Brandon their is no telling what sort of epic our next adventure will hold.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lonely Desert Tower Seeks Climbers' Affection


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Driving down Ida Gulch
Six inches of fresh snow laid on the ground from the night before.  While most people were piling their ski quiver onto their racks and heading up into the mountains I was headed the opposite direction with lubricated cams, a short sleeve shirt, and to an area where moisture is more rare than any other commodity.  I was headed to the desert.

Moab, Utah is much more than a monotonous landscape devoid of life.  In fact it's just the opposite as the millions of annual visitors to the Arches National Park can attest to.  Erosion from water and wind created some of the most obtuse and abnormal rock features which often defy logic and one's imagination.  As a climber who has spent some time in this region over the past few months I have become intimately drawn to obscure formations and the belief that some of these astounding vertical pinnacles of geologic mastery can be surmounted with the adhesion of skin to rock.

In November I climbed my first two desert towers, South Six Shooter and Castleton Tower with "The Monkey Spankers," Simon Hirst and Andrey Romaniuk.  Both towers are listed among the area's best introductory climbs.  It was certainly a good place to start as a desert climber because little of what I had knew about climbing would benefit me on these beastly excursions.  You quickly become familiarized with eating piles of dirt and antiquated gear cobwebbed together at anchor stations.  As a belayer you learn that paying attention to your partner on the sharp end is as much for there protecting as your own.  The first waffle shaped rock that flips past hissing angrily like a tie fighter will remind you of your responsibility to focus.  These lessons were learned on two of the most modest lines where one would expect to find relatively clean climbing.  Now that I have started to venture into the realm of obscure towers things have started to get spicier.

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Castleton Tower Novermber 2013
When I sat atop Castleton Tower after topping out via the Kor-Ingalls route (III 5.9) I became intoxicated with the tower experience.  I looked across the plank connecting the Rectory with Castleton and observed a few parties on the stellar parallel finger cracks of Fine Jade (III 5.11-).  The route instantly made my future tick list.  What I did not noticed at the time was the formation a bit further in the distance known as Sister Superior which hosts Jah Man (II 5.10). Jah Man ascends the tallest spire of the group and this tower would be the first of our destinations on a weekend whirlwind of towers and four wheeling.

I turned onto the 128 pacing my speedometer against the setting sun.  Luckily I ran into Brandon Gabel's silver Jeep at the Ida Gulch turnout just down from the La Sal Mountain Loop.  We delighted over the rapturous sunset on the sandstone spires in front of us.  The truck and the Jeep hobbled down the wrinkled and narrow gulch until we reached our camping site.  We scouted out the approach and noticed a pair of bicycle tracks leading through the arduous sandy wash.  I commented on how it would be funny to run into a pair of rockstar climbers who I knew were traversing the desert on a quest to climb 50 towers.
In the morning we rose with the dull chill of the desert and watched as a group of four climbers who had more alpine in their start than us passed by our weary camp.  Eventually we shouldered packs and hiked the direct approach from the wash to the base of Jah Man.  We racked slowly as the two parties in the lead struggled to compress themselves into the infamous Sister Squeeze that defines the second pitch.  After the fourth member had grunted and nearly suffocated herself in the chimney I was glad that Brandon had eagerly decided to lead.  I started out and placed two cams over the low fifth class terrain and onto the pedestal under the chimney.  When Brandon arrived at my belay I kicked back thinking he would want to scout the moves ahead of him, but before I could make my first  joke he had already pulled the cams off my waist and was sucking in his gut and diving straight into the tight chimney.  He stayed within reach for a few minutes as he centimetered his way up to the breathable section of the chimney.  From there he blasted to the top of the pitch and belayed me up.  We both grinned and chuckled over the struggle with the rock as we collected sunshine on the first of many roomy belay ledges.
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The Sister Squeeze
I had the next lead which was quite different from the first as the face opened up and there was more exposure.  Thin hands lead to a traverse left under a bulge.  When I hit the traverse section it hit me that I hadn't placed a cam or jammed a crack in three months.  Not always the best feeling before committing to an airy traverse.  I pulled out a pretty simple trick I had learned watching Britney Griffith climb that involved oxygenating breaths oscillating from right to left hands jams.  When I had shaken my flash pump I dove under the bulge, trusted my jams, pulled over, and cruised an easy ramp to the next anchor.

The next two pitches were fluid as I had adjusted to the air beneath my feet and the familiar feeling of the sandy stone hugging my jams.  Each pitch was followed by a comfortable ledge that allowed for us to look over the Castle Valley at the monolithic Rectory, sovereign Castleton Tower, and the majestic La Sal Mountains flaunted their fresh coats of snow in the background.  We topped out and had plenty of time to share stories together on the summit before the next group arrived and courteously snapped our picture.  We rappelled and descended to our cars.

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Summit of Jah Man

We arrived at the Archway Inn on the North side of Moab and quickly parsed out gear and hoped into the Jeep for the bumpy ride into Canyonlands National Park.  We headed down Potash Road, past the mine, and over BLM land until we crossed the park boundary.  In all we traveled 30 miles in two and a half hours.  We were so relieved when we pulled into the turnoff for washerwoman that we simply threw our bags in the dirt and crashed.  In between dreams I awoke to look at the beautiful night sky darkened by the waning moon.  The stars vividly poked through the pitch black blanket and a few would occasionally streak across the horizon.

Washer Woman.  In Search of Suds (III 5.10) ascends the opposite side of the bin on the left, over the arch formed by the woman's arms, and up the head of the woman.
As the dawn broke and washed away the night we yawned and drew ourselves from our bags.  The new day brought a clear view of our objective the aptly named tower of Washer Woman.  Sometimes when I look up at vast climbs I can't comprehend how to ascend to the summit. However, when you are absorbed by the vertical each individual move matters and you find yourself gaining the ground you found unachievable as a whole.  The approach involved a stout hike to the base of the notch.  Below the notch a fixed rope weathered over many years left us to struggle with griping the sandy holds or trusting the frayed line.  When we arrived at the top Brandon once again eagerly jumped on the opportunity to lead the first pitch.  A twin crack with fingers on the left and tight hands on the right led to a bulge that required a fist jam to surmount.  From there off width sections were interspersed with easy but loose climbing to a belay at the "Eye of the Needle."  The eye is a sliver of the tower that has been eroded and allows you to see clearly through the other side while you pull yourself into a marginally protected chimney to start the second pitch.  A 5.7 chimney quickly led to more difficult jams around a bulge and shortly thereafter into a narrowing off width.  I was forced to stuff myself into the squeeze until I could reach up and sink a #5 Camelot that would protect the next few moves to the anchor.
Sweet belay ledge with Monster Tower behind
Deciding who would lead the next pitch involved a little verbal wrangling.  Despite Monster Tower's ominous lurking in the background I decided to lead and jammed perfect hands to another bulge.  Looking up, the holds looked less than positive.  Some poorly placed chalk marks convinced me to lead out to the left on chossy holds.  When I was completely committed to a crumbling mess the route clearly revealed that it had been straight up from my original position.  I slap tested a wobbly looking chockstone poorly cammed against a boulder and felt that it would hold to pull me over the bulge.  With a flick of the rope we were back on route and shortly up to the top of the wash bin.

Brandon led the traverse over the arch formed by the woman's arms and up the 5.9 face climb clipping a poorly driven knife blade piton as his choice of protection while his rope billowed in the wind.  He set up a spectacular belay under the head of the Washer Woman.

Final belay
Starting the headwal



Adding our marks to the summit log
When I caught up to him he graciously offered to let me lead the head wall on the varnished rock face protected by two pitons and a bolt.  It was difficult work on thin and sandy sloping crimps but we were both able to finish on the summit where we slapped high fives and shared our stoke.  We took the time to leave our mark in the summit register and returned the contents to their protected location in the crack on the summit.



Getting down to the anchors of the second rappel was entertaining

A exciting series of rappels led down from the summit involving a spectacular free hanging rappel off of the arch.  The wind was whipping and blowing the ropes dead horizontal while we rapped.  Lose rocks in a gully and high rope stick potential made the descent rather unnerving but neither became serious issues. We even scored half of a Mammut Infinity that a prior party had stuck.

We climbed back up over the notch and down the old sketchy fixed line to our packs.  With the success of being back in the horizontal world we shared some snacks, water, and a couple of Dale's Pale Ales before our hike back to the car.


Ground sweet ground
Shadows of Washer Woman and Monster Tower
Brandon had the foresight to reserve us a campsite beneath airport tower.  Since we did not have to bump our way back into town we enjoyed a hearty dinner and a long sleep.  After a walk along the canyon rim we decided to hit the road.

We rolled along pointing out all the other exciting towers that we hoped to climb someday.  Shortly we came across an orange jeep pulled off the road.  In the middle of the road stood a guy in a green shirt who looked a lot like Alex Honnold.  As we drove by I mentioned to Brandon that we had just passed the second iteration of the Sufferfest.  The original movie was a BANFF Mountain Film Festival Selection and followed Alex and Cedar on there journey to solo all of California's 14ers.  They are currently out in the desert making a sequel as they climb 50 desert towers moving across the land on bikes.  We came to find that they also had legendary alpinist Hayden Kennedy along as part of their support crew.  Alex, Hayden, Cedar, Canyon, and Sam were all very friendly and we swapped some stories about our recent adventures.  They were even happy to let us snap a picture to commemorate the obscurity of a meeting modern climbing legends in the middle of the desert.  We let them get back to their business of climbing Chip and Dale's towers seen in the background of the photo below.

Hayden Kennedy, Cedar Wright, Alex Honnold, Brandon Gabel, and Me
Brandon and I frolicked around a little more in Canyonlands and then headed down to Wall Street for a few more climbs before we parted ways.  A dust storm blew in signaling the end of our weekend in the desert.  I drove back to the mountains of Colorado chasing the precipitation and driving between rainbows.  I couldn't resist the temptation to stop off in Colorado Monument to gain some inspiration for the next adventure.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Art of Winter Trail Running

The white Dodge Ram creaks and rumbles into the snow packed parking lot before the morning sun reveals itself from a long night's slumber.  It's often difficult to summon the will power to leave the confines of the artificially heated vehicle and break the barrier separating humanity from nature.  Sometimes I sit and let the truck idle while I mentally prepare myself for the rush I will experience when the locks click up and the handle of the door is lifted.  The radio plays at an inaudible level while some dreary graveyard DJ signs off.  Despite the constriction of the driver's seat I power on my headlamp and begin to move my limbs.  By the time the first rays of sun breach the horizon I am committed to what lies ahead.  In the swiftest of motions I pop open the door and when my feet touch the frozen platform I'm already moving.
 
The first three steps are the hardest, after that there's no turning back.  Delicate foot placements are precisely located as I navigate the slippery surface.  Once I make it to the trees the snow will soften and I can open my stride a little more.  Inhalation is a forced effort that also requires a cautious start.  If your first breath is too deep you will choke on the harshness of the frosty air as it desiccates the alveoli of your lungs.  Gradual progression is a requirement despite the desire to quicken your movement to keep pace with the cold.  The crisp breaking of the snow's surface is like crunching into an apple that is at the peak of ripeness.  A newspaper is ruffled with each step.  My breath is heavy with the weight of the air and the characteristic inclines prevalent at the start of many of Summit County's trailheads.  This trail leads out of the parking lot and up a winding mountainside.  The solitary line of a hard packed trail cuts through the fresh snow and I follow the prints formed by a parade of snowshoers as they floated over the clouds that are inaccessible to the man on foot.
 
The sun is rising now as the grapefruit colored peaks stretch throughout the daylight world.  The sun is felt immediately through the fibers of my dark clothing.  This warmth is a hug from Mother Nature thanking me for spending the morning with her.  This feeling originates in my heart and radiates throughout my body.  I'm in the trees and moving swiftly now.  Light flashes intermittently through the gaps and shadows formed by the barren aspen trees.  Daybreak is my favorite part of Earth's rotation from West to East.  The snow softens as the sun soars into the sky and replaces the pink and purple on the snow laden peaks with a golden welcome to a new day.  Inevitably mountains will transition back to the pristine white that will remain until the sun bids this part of the world goodnight.
 
At a certain elevation the trail has seen fewer travelers and the snow is deeper.  Despite gentle steps there exists a point in every winter run between 10,000 and 11,000 feet where there is no respite for the foot traveler.  A soft footfall or balancing attempts between patches of firm snow may buy me some time. Eventually I will end up post holing if I am lucky or swimming through the mixture of air and water if I am unfortunate.  The turnaround point is usually reached when the ratio from running to swimming changes from 1:1 to 1:3.  I usually end up flopping out of my snow hole like a beached marine mammal in the wrong environment.  I always end up laughing as I try to catch my breath and pondering how ridiculous it is for me to attempt some of these trails in the heart of winter.
 
On a stable patch of snow I let the sun take over my thermoregulation as shake off the snow and smile while looking over the isolated patch of Earth I have found myself on.  Sparkles of light reflecting off of the snow crystals  perform a ballet in a virgin meadow untouched except for the paws of an elk.  I stare into the trees where they are most dense and I wonder what stares back.  Brief moments of nirvana are what push me to wake up early in the morning and find the warmth to run.
When you can't go further physically it's a great time to see where you can go mentally as you let your thoughts drift over the snow and up the mountains.  Heading down the trail I am able to notice the things I missed due to the darkness and exertion on the way up.  The shadows of trees fall over the snow in a thick tangle and, a trickle of water reveals itself through the snow.
 
 
 
I reach the car and come across the next crop of skiers strapping up to lay their tracks on top of mine.  Snow is so beautiful because it can preserves a footprint meticulously while holding the ability to erase the image within a matter of hours.  The transient nature of human impact is where I find beauty on these winter trails.
 
I strip down in the truck, toss my damp clothes on the dirtbag dryer, and I think to myself, "Man  I've earned this morning's cup of coffee."


 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Coffee Means More

I love the essence of the small coffee shop. A place where a few funky paintings furnish the walls and the decadent aroma of unblemished grounds waft about powered by an oscillating Robbins and Myers fan. A couple glance seductively at one another in the corner, most likely they are on a first date, while an old man flashes a peek over his reading material at the newcommer who just set the bell above the door into their harmony. A lazy looking barista, on his tenth espresso of the day, assists me with my routine selection of coffee and I wander to a cozy looking armchair to open my book. The first sip is magnificient the last sip can be depressing as the light brown stains around the edges of the cup remind you that your time in this cozy local are coming to an end.

I don't have the luxury of supporting the little shops as I whisk through one town and then another in the darkness of night before the early rays of sunshine pierce the horizon.  My life on the road tends to be a blur between convenience stations and Starbucks coffee shops. Normally I'm not a huge fan of supporting Starbucks but lately their wifi connections seem to be the most reliable source of my connection with the digital world. These days I become quite disconnected if I am unplugged for too long. In my attempts at poaching the elusive wifi signal I have come into cofrontations with the autocratic Starbucks manager and lurked in the back of my truck at night continuously adjusting the angle of my computer to eek a little more signal from the airwaves.

In my repeated visits to these cloned locations I have begun to notice the nuances that make each gas station or franchised Starbucks a little different. Sometimes it is the friendliest clerk in a gas station in the middle of nowhere who tells you her story and wants to hear yours. An exchange where the currency is a human presence willing to listen. Other times I have noticed the sneers from the underpaid coffee representatives when I require the simplicity of a black coffee. I have learned that the secret with Starbucks is to bring in your own mug and ask for a refill. Technically you are supposed to have a purchased a coffee earlier that day but they rarely question you and you can save over $1! The Starbucks in the City Market in Moab, Utah is not the place to try this technique. With the constant stream of dirtbags attempting this trick they are well informed of this practice.

A lady I know, who appeared a purist when it came to nutrition, suprised me on a roadtrip outside of Yuma, Arizona when she informed me that she was a coniseour of crappy gas station coffee. We proceeded immediately to the counter in the gas station and I was treated to one of the most acidic cups of coffee I had ever experienced, it actually made my cheeks pucker. This cup of coffee provided the necessary strength to wheel back to San Diego at 4 am after a hard day of climbing.

Since this first run in with the gas station brew I have found myself stumbling into gas stations between Monticello and Pagosa waving my cup sanctimoniously through the air. I peer into the glass a symbolic orange ring encircles the top of the molten black liquid. The glass is always sitting modestly on the counter and may have been left unattended for days. I glance to my left and catch the sublime, open mouthed, stare of a man in a cowboy hat and I can read in his expressions, "Is he really going to drink that?" Given the fact that this ritual usually occurs many days between showers when I am wearing an impenetrable coat of dirt from a few focused days of climbing I try my best to flash my smile. Considering it's the only thing I have not fully choked with desert sand I find it to be one of my most disarming features in these civilized places. Unabashedly, yet carefully, I refill my cup knowing from experience that this ultra hot beverage will burn my flesh if it escapes. I have found that gas station coffee almost always tastes better if you pay for it in change. Perhaps I feel better about not having sold my sole for a $5 latte but the truth is I feel glorified by having put my change to use. I even feel like a serious environmentalist letting my body filter the coffee instead of having the clerk pour it down the drain where it will eventually escape to the ocean and alter the mating rituals of the South African Kosi Rock Skipper.

Every coffee provides me with a novel experience and a few minutes out of the cold. Next time you visit a gas station with your eyelids dragging your entire spirit down and hundreds of miles of road ahead before your next climb I recommend the High Octane blend from your middle of nowhere gas station. Chances are that Walter White spiked this concoction with a little blue but if you don't have a serious heart condition it will get you where you want to be.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

And So It Began


Two months ago I said, "Goodbye" to Southern California.  I arrived on the beach early in the morning and slowly traversed the shoreline.  The waves gently lapped at my bare toes and played with the sand beneath my feet.  A final day in the pure blue perfection of another San Diego Wednesday, the kind that draws so many people to this part of America.  So many people like me.

You know that feeling you get when you've been in a place too long.  Maybe you haven't experienced it yourself but it's in every horror movie when you're pleading with the actors and actresses to stop being so naive and run away from the haunted house.  The feeling pursued me for over a year.  It was a shadow of a hand that I knew was following me and waiting to grab me and pull me away.  Life was as easy as it could get; wake up, work, sleep, repeat.  Every time I whipped around the hand vanished but I felt its presence in the way it disturbed the air.  Throughout the year I learned that catching this phantom would be a gradual process facilitated by my experiences and connections.

There is no one particular catalyst that can be attributed to the cascade of actions that led to my departure.  Many occurrences had to do with my ego's perception of success and failure.  Augmented personal priorities leading to an uneven life balance provided further subunits in this reaction.  If you wanted to name the enzyme responsible for lowering the activation energy in my conversion I would name it, "Climber's protease."

A protease is an enzyme that breaks down complex proteins into its building blocks or amino acids.  Climber's protease takes a life full of convoluted needs, wants, and desires and breaks it down into the basic needs for food, shelter, water, and climbing.  In this transition one learns most about the necessity of friendship and family in providing these basic needs.  A half full box of oatmeal, some Mountain Chow, and a couple of bottles of beer, imparted to you from a climber ending their stay at Indian Creek, holds a greater value than any materialistic needs of a chic society.  Joy in life comes most simply from a friend giving you a couch during a cold night, the warmth of being home with family for a few days, or a morning sunrise after a night spent under the stars.

Climber's protease allowed me to catch the spirit and helped to encourage me to seek more from life by giving up a desire for excess.  I rose from my seat on the beach and walked over the dune back towards the idyllic traffic coasting down highway 101.  In my final view of the ocean I looked past the unoccupied lifeguard tower watching the endless blue, took my last gulp of the briny ocean air, closed my eyes and listened to a final wave quiver and clap against the hard sand.  The clarity of this moment revealed a grand journey ahead.