So many things have happened since my last post. The last two years have been full of big changes, sudden turns, and unexpected challenges. Even when I've had time for storytelling, I haven't had much energy.
Overall, life has stayed beautiful. I've conquered fears, made mistakes, tested my spirit, and proved myself wrong. I've learned about failure and myself.
At many times and in many places, climbing has kept me above the waters of confusion and self-doubt. It's hard to explain my relationship with this sport, the essential balance that exists between the rock, my body, and my mind. I'm so grateful for climbing, for words, for friendship, and for fear.
I want to keep sharing my life here. I've wondered for months how I would execute my return. I never finished profiling Ecua-crags, and I didn't meet all of my training goals. I've been to so many new places. Where could I start?
I left Ecuador to work for The Climbing Academy, a traveling high school for rock climbers. We began the semester in Bishop. Eighty-three miles closer to home but on the opposite coast, I felt farther than ever from my roots.
The Happies and Sads offered a final humbling taste of volcanic bouldering between school days in our rental house. After a month in snowy California, we headed to Mexico.
In Potrero Chico, I climbed on limestone for the first time. After a few sketchy falls on crumbling choss, I found myself rebuilding the sharp-end confidence I’d developed in Ecuador. “This is limestone?” I asked myself. The tacos were worth it, but only just.
Weeks later, though, the tufa wonderlands of El Salto enchanted me. In the otherworldly Tecalote cave, I decided to become a capital-S-C Sport Climber. In Nevada, I fell in love with Mount Charleston’s deep pockets and invisible feet. I discovered a style to which my body felt truly suited. Taking whips and trying hard, I finally trusted the rock and myself. (Read on for the rest.)
I won't make promises this time. All I'll say is this: I want to tell many more stories.
I know you’re not supposed to hang out with strangers from the internet, but I guess we both crossed our fingers and it turned out great. The international climbing community is wonderful and continues to strengthen my belief that most people are awesome — especially climbers.Read More
Shattered boulders litter Coji's landscape. The town's traditional occupation is shaping tiles from the rock long-scattered across its hillsides. It’s a bittersweet sight for boulderers in a sport climbing mecca, but the area’s most important faces remain intact.Read More
I knew no one in this country. I had never lived more than 15 minutes from my parents, and my knowledge of Ecuador was limited to a vague mental image of an alpaca in a poncho. I had never even been to South America. So I understand why my presence here seems pretty random to taxi drivers, coworkers, and even fellow gringos. Maybe it seems more random when I tell them that I moved here for the climbing.Read More
In the meantime, though, I have Santa Clara Alta. Its gray volcanic rock has little in common with that of the Canyon, with few roofs, thin cracks, and what I must describe as chunky slab. The approach, however, feels like I'm back in Alabama — if Alabaman forests were jungly Andean affairs, home to giant birds and (probably) baby dinosaurs.Read More
I believe the first phrase I used to describe the boulders at La Perrera was “Cotopaxi’s dried-up lava barf.” While these gray beauties are mementos of volcanic eruptions past, that description may not capture the magic of this place. In fact, after a weekend in the lush green playground of igneous rock and baby waterfalls, I still don’t think I’ve processed the wonder.Read More
So I just kept climbing, daydreaming, and attempting to absorb the powers of the greats through YouTube binges and Crux Crush interviews. I slowly progressed past the V5 mark and toward V6, strengthening my shoulders and bettering my head game by climbing a lot of routes in styles I enjoyed. When the lady climbers I most admired talked about their own training plans, I shrugged some more: Sure, they train, but I’m not on that level yet. Well, I think I really am. I don’t even think there is a level. Climbing with purpose and cross training are probably beneficial no matter how long you’ve been scurrying up walls.Read More
The thing is, I haven’t been super motivated to climb recently. I sent my first two V6es the week before Peace Corps staging, and then I didn’t climb for two months. It sucks to feel how weak I’ve gotten so soon after that milestone, and I’ve had trouble dragging myself to the gym ‘cause I know how much bruising my ego will take once I get there.Read More
A lot of my climbing friends make fun of hiking. They don’t understand why you would want to spend hours walking uphill without the reward of a rock face waiting at the end. “It’s just a never-ending approach,” I’ve heard. “It’s like you’re walking to the climbing, but you never get to climb.”Read More
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I sure could use a few watercolor maps of my favorite Southeast crags, beautiful enough to hang on my wall but durable enough to survive the approach?” Well, now you have. Introducing: Creative Crag.Read More
Bloggers like myself pass the Liebster Award around the Internet to help their Internet friends find new blogs to read. The lovely Misotravelsandclimbs nominated me and asked me 11 questions. Once I've answered them, I will nominate a few other blogs and make my own list of questions.
Here goes!Read More
These are questions I have had at one point or another. I felt silly for having them, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one out there Googling things like “how to pee outside” and “sleeping pad v. yoga mat.”Read More
Most guys at the crag are totally chill. They can exchange small talk, directions, and beta with anyone, regardless of that person's chromosomal makeup or gender identity. But sometimes — dare I say often? — a girl meets a capital-DB Dude Bro who just doesn't get it.Read More
PBJs were out of the question; jelly was pricey, and so was ice to keep it cool. Bananas are swell, but the smushage risk was too high for my laundromat dependence. Apples are heavy, and dry cereal is sad. Enter: granolarritos.Read More
Favorite Person: Robert. Robert is 82 and wears a yarmulke. He knows a lot about history and likes making new friends. We started talking at the Black Sheep when he told me a knock-knock joke.Read More
There is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to them. Knowing how much music and poetry this state had inspired over the ages, I resolved as a child to one day visit the promised land and see its riches for myself.
Well, I’m finally here! Currently enthroned on a mass of sleeping bags in the back of Evan’s van. He’s been living out of it for a few months, and I got to join him on Monday. After three flights, a little turbulence, and one spilled beer, I reached Mammoth Lakes in time to end the day in a hot spring, watching my first California sunset. The next day, we headed to Way Lake for my first boulder of the West.
The approach to Way Lake is, it turns out, an actual hike. In the South, 20 minutes of mild steepness is a trek, but apparently 30 or 40 minutes up a mountain is NBD out here. We hiked up and up and up and ugh. It probably took us even longer than the average climber to reach the lake itself because a. we don’t hike and b. we kept stopping to look at all the pretty things!
I can’t believe how beautiful it is out here. Also big. My Western experience so far: everything is beautiful, and everything is big. The word that comes to mind is “magnificent.” And I’m blown away by the diversity of California’s landscapes. It’s crazy to think that people actually live in this fantastical place.
We finally made it up to Way Lake, which is currently a sad gray circle of dirt and rocks, but by the time we found our boulder and actually started climbing, the sun was pretty low in the sky.
We had oodles of fun on the Way Lake boulder as the sun began to set. I had just gotten the crux of a V5 called Beareagle when darkness hit, and after a few more burns we decided to call it quits. We maybe should have left sooner though, because trekking crash pads down a dark and unfamiliar trail in bear country with one dying headlamp and a cell phone light wasn’t really the original plan. We made it out though, obvi, and had a high-class dinner of rotini alla Ragu.
The next day, we headed to Rock Creek, a magical fairyland of water and rocks and gray logs that appear to have fallen ~*just so*~. There were aspen trees everywhere, and their rustling leaves were bright yellow and orange. Magical fairyland, y’all.
In the morning, we climbed with our new friends Melanie and Danny. I found them on Instagram a few weeks ago (follow Danny here and Mel here!), and it was great to meet the people behind the feeds. They are total crushers, full of beta and psych. I worked a V4 called Groovin’ Arête for forever, and while I never sent, I definitely learned some much-needed foot technique.
The climbing out here is really different from the stuff back home. Problems in general seem to require less power but are challenging in techy ways. I have been learning some strange-to-me toe stuff, and my biggest battle is trusting the feet.
So I never got the four, but it was a lot of fun to work. Our new pals left in the afternoon, but our ex-Athenian-now-Yosemitan Philip showed up with his friend Beth.
We had some fun on the Campground boulder and made friends with two older guys. Paul is roadtripping around the West at age 65. He chatted with us for a while about the history of Rock Creek and our generation’s duty as stewards of nature. Then he gave us beer. I didn’t catch the other man’s name, but he is British and a mountain biker. He was really into our climbing and watched for a long time, asking lots of questions and contributing psych.
Thursday was our rest day, and we ran into our Insta-friends at the Looney Bean coffee shop in Bishop. I guess there are only so many places in town for greasy folks in need of wifi. Oh hey! If you haven’t read my RootsRated review of Little River Canyon, get to it!
Today we climbed at the Buttermilks with Evan’s dirtbag friend Jeff. Jeff is six months into a one-year stay in Bishop. He wasn’t climbing but was nice enough to offer pads, beta, and a spot. He got us on some easy classics that were techy and painful but awesome. I’m learning to love crimpy highballs… one V2 project at a time.
Our skin was shot after a few hours; it hadn’t really healed from Wednesday. The rock out here is way smoother than the slopey sandstone we’re used to, but it’s still really textured and can definitely hurt. It doesn’t help when you are slapping and slipping and sliding around instead of trusting whatever tiny nonsense you have managed to smear your shoe onto… I have a lot to learn.
#Vanlife is fun so far. It would be nice to have a hot shower, but I am loving the ungodly amounts of Ramen. And pretty much everything else. <3
Dogs and babies flock to me. Their moms and dads have jerky and peanut butter, but they don’t even notice ‘cause we are busy playing What’s That Face and Where’s That Stick. I give a top roping cub scout beta, and he finishes his first 5.7. His joy is unparalleled.Read More
I was a little worried about being crippled by the fear factor of climbing semi-high over the deep, deep sea. But once we got to the cala, it was just too awesome. But also weirdly not a big deal. Just climbing, you know?Read More
And here's the thing about bouldering in July. Yes, it's really hot, but it's also really green. All the plants are stretching their limbs and yawning greedily in the sun, and the moss is creeping up over the rocks. There are evil thorns coming at you everywhere, and it is just really hard to find stuff.Read More