Jarring Transitions

It’s snowing in Bozeman right now. Hard. Last month I landed in the Portland International Airport in a rainstorm in near-darkness at 4:30 PM. Less than a day before I was sport climbing in a t-shirt at 8:00 PM at a crag in Coyhaique, Chile. International travel is weird. Austral Summer is rad. Transitions are hard. I’m finally finishing sorting through some of the video I shot while working for NOLS Patagonia on a Spring Mountain Section. I’ll let the video summarize the experience: I also shot a bunch of photos: After being on the move for what actually has been a few years now, I decided I needed to not-move for a few months. So I unloaded my truck in a friend’s basement in Bozeman, MT with the intent of cooking food, going to the gym actually regularly and ice climbing and skiing a bunch. A friend and I are putting plans together for an Alaska Range expedition in late April. Thanks for peepin!

Stories

In between lots of field work in Alaska, the Winds, and City of Rocks in Idaho this summer I managed to sneak a few climbs in. Here are some stories: Cirque of the Towers Traverse “This knowledge isn’t coming from a sense of invincibility or delusion, but a sharp and clear rationality born from extreme stress. You know that without any doubt that given your body position and the forces at play, that you will not fall. And you move from one of these positions to the next, testing and confirming that each new hand or foot feels this way before releasing the other.” Black Ice Couloir “And the sensation, the all-consuming feeling, isn’t fear or anxiety or pain or exhilaration or anything at all, really. It’s just focus. There isn’t space in your brain for anything else.” Heading to Patagonia for some NOLS work and climbing in a few days — peace!

Sand to Snow and Back Again

“This is why,” a mentor once said to me. I was sitting on my pack, soaked and beaten after a stormy day in the mountains. As he walked by he saw me staring open-mouth as the storm clouds pounding us all day rolled off of a distant peak like curtains at a big show — gut-grabbing glory and scale. “This is why,” he said with a nod, and it felt like enough. I’ve had quite a few of these moments in the last few months. In January I worked a climbing course at Cochise Stronghold in Arizona. It’s dusty and scary and magical to climb there: In February, Bryan and I hosted our second annual Colorado ice climbing trip — except this time we went ice climbing in Colorado. Stories and photos here. In March-April I worked a Canyons section of a NOLS semester in Cedar Mesa, Utah. I got really thirsty, snowed on, swam in the coldest water ever, and saw a bunch of incredible human history. This deserves a story of it’s own, but here are some photos instead: After washing the sand out of my orifices, I snuck in a final few days of ice climbing at […] Read More

Catching Up

Yooooooooooooo! Been awhile, huh? Here’s what I’ve been up to: After the Cascades, I fumbled my way up some big walls in Yosemite. Stories here. After Yosemite, I went back to the Cascades for another beating on highway 20 — but this time, at work! The MSPE is a NOLS staff seminar to get a couple of folks into the mountaineering program. The original route was a traverse of the Picket Range, which would have been a disaster. Thankfully we were able to change our route to Shuksan and Eldorado. We climbed neither. It rained. Lots. I did get assessed to work in the Mountaineering program, though. And after a rushed detour to Salt Lake to re-certify my WFR, I immediately got work back in the PNW on a Waddington Range course, which was one of my coolest life experiences to date. Check out a video I made of the course: After the WAD, I headed to NOLS Alaska to go hiking for 30 days in the Southern Talkeetna range, which was rainy and wet but beautiful and restorative. Some bumming around the PNW afterwards led to my first fall work for NOLS on a Rocky Mountain Semester. This was […] Read More

Cascades, Take Two

Last January, Marcus and I climbed for a month in the Cascades. I started writing something about it a few times, but didn’t end up with much because we didn’t really climb much of anything, bumbling from alpine failure to alpine failure. A bummer at the time, but we apparently learned a thing or two because there was a success or two among this year’s failures. “Yup, yup, yes,” Marcus says as the car slides forward at an off-trajectory angle. The packed slush-snow is deeper than the wheel tracks of my lifted Subaru and we swim down the road on the brink of control. And then, we don’t. I watch the RPM needle flatline as the engine dies and we slide to a stop in the middle of Cascade River road. I arrived prepared for this eventuality, but my heart still dropped with the tachometer. Shit. Fourteen months ago I found myself driving down the same road in the same car with the same white knuckles. Knowing the consequences of getting the car stuck this deep in the mountains, we stopped seven miles from the trailhead for our objective, Eldorado Peak, and skied seven miles of snowy road to start […] Read More

Cracks, Coyotes, and Car Life

For the fifth time that night, the feet I have jammed into the crack above my head slip and I am spat out head-first onto the crash pads below me. An hour, a few shots of whiskey, and some moderately-sized skin abrasions ago I was sitting in my campsite gauging the damage my hands had taken on a full day of crack climbing. A group of campground neighbors I met the day before walked by with crash pads and said, “Hey. You wanna come try an offwidth invert boulder problem with us? We’ve got whiskey.” I looked down at scabby knuckles and thin fingertips. “Of course,” I said and grabbed a roll of athletic tape. For the laypeople: an offwidth crack is a crack in the rock that is larger than your balled fist. They take what is usually an awkward and gut-wrenching effort to climb and are avoided by most people. A google search will turn up lots of fun lore and photos about off width crack climbing — here’s a good video. This particular boulder problem calls for a technique called ‘inverting,’ which is exactly what it sounds like. You take your feet and shove them into the […] Read More

Along for the Ride

Youssef creeps slowly towards the crest of the sand dune. It’s winter in Jordan now and Youssef is wearing the heavy, ankle-length fleece coat that Bedouin add atop their Galibeya in the cold months. He peers over the crest of the dune and slides the heavy coat off of his shoulders, holding it up. Five feet away a desert fox is nestled in the sand, wind frisking its fine fur. Youssef had spotted the fox nearly one hundred yards away while smashing sidehill across a steep sand dune in his Land Cruiser, and had pulled around the dune to sneak up on it. I don’t know what Youssef plans to do after he catches a wild desert fox in his winter coat, and I don’t get to find out. “It’s dead,” he says after creeping forward a few more feet. Youssef’s scrunched-up creeping posture drops and he whips his coat back on. It’s not dead though — not yet. I get close and the fox is lying on its side, legs mechanically sliding back and forth in the rich red Wadi Rum sand. Glazed eyes stare at us, spectators of a slow death, as the fox’s legs make the one-sided […] Read More

City of Magic and Beauty

“Dahab: City of Magic and Beauty,” a battered steel sign says in both English and Arabic. It rises in an arch over a section of desert highway that feels to me, random. Sand encroaches on the asphalt; tire tracks leading off the road into the yellow beyond further diminish the boundaries of road and desert. The paint is chipped and the sign is dented, but I don’t necessarily disagree. I am on a long walk. Fifteen kilometers outside of the city of Dahab, Egypt is a complex canyon system. A flat, sandy bottom rises slowly up from sea level into a warren of steep walls of precambrian granite. A lot of it is choss, but a lot of it isn’t. This is Wadi Gnai. Home of the Bedoin, and in the last few decades, some rock climbers as well. What takes me three hours of walking in sand and brutal sunshine usually takes only a half-hour in the back of a truck. Today, I told myself in a grasp for autonomy, I would walk to Bedoin Garden, a bolted crag deep in the Wadi, and rope solo. In August I bought a plane ticket — four and a half months […] Read More

Life Update + Writing Things

My record-compulsion has been nagging at the back of my head for months now, so here I am. Marcus and I concluded our run with a semi-burned out trip back to Sierra Eastside to get some alpine climbing in on our alpine climbing trip. You can read about our misadventures on my Sierra Alpine trip report. This saga concluded with a few more memorable characters: Angelo the very stoned Hostel caretaker in Bishop who answered the door in the middle of the night in a rainstorm, took us in, and earnestly discussed the merits of Totem camming devices in his dank bouldering cave well into the next morning; and Stan the Man, the most excitable FS ranger anyone will ever meet. After the Sierra, Marcus and I parted ways — both beat and ready for a break. I motored home to Myrtle Creek, Oregon to stay for a few days before heading East to Wyoming. After working the rock climbing section of an Outdoor Educator semester I bummed around Lander for a few weeks getting my sport climbing on. I made an interesting few friends in the free camping section of Sinks Canyon and was reminded again of that powerful and […] Read More

Life in the Desert

“Campghanistan,” one of my climbing friends and Red Rock local called the particular patch of BLM land we inhabited for two weeks. “The worst campground you’ll ever pay money for,” the rest of the climbers we met in the next few months would call it. We’re right outside Las Vegas, Nevada, climbing at a mecca for long traditional rock climbing: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Only 15 miles outside of Vegas and visible from the strip, almost 200,000 acres of public conservation land house a set of red rock formations called the Keystone Thrust. The walls are steep and as high as 3,000 feet. In short, it is awesome. Lying shirtless in my underwear on a concrete slab, our neighbor from the campsite next to ours approaches me and launches into the introductory conversation typical among climbers: What did you climb today, what’s on your tick-list, et cetera. Except when my part of the conversation is over, the guy doesn’t stop. He goes on a veritable rampage of his most recent climbing accomplishments and future goals. In climbing culture, “spray” is a derogatory term for the unwanted monologue of climbing accomplishments or route information. Thus our neighbor earned the […] Read More