I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.
Unknown climber on “Visions of Impalement (11d)” at the Trinity Aretes
Lately, my ability to squeeze enough satisfaction out of my weekend warrior-ing to keep me content has been waning. Like Jack London, I want to live, though currently I feel as though I am simply existing. Existing between one work day and another, trying to wring out as much pleasure as I can from my brief trips to the mountains as possible.
Perhaps this sounds over-dramatic, but I didn’t always feel like this. In fact my first month here all I wanted to do was stay in the city and explore my surroundings. However, those were some strange times while I was battling changes in life that demanded my mental attention. I also was living in Bishop, CA where I was surrounded by endless outdoor recreation possibilities. Now that life has calmed down a little bit and my scenery has changed, the climbing spark has been reignited. I can trace this back, actually, to a series of weekends I spent sport climbing in the Trinity Aretes.
“Regeneration is active: We become full participants in the process of maximizing life’s creativity. This is a far more expansive vision than the familiar eco-critique that stressed smallness and shrinking humanity’s impact or “footprint.” that is simply not an option today (…) we are here, we are many and we must use our skills to act. We can however, change the nature of our actions so that they are constantly growing, rather than extracting life. (…) We can accelerate simply through our labor, the restoration and regeneration of living systems, if we engage in thoughtful, concerted action. ‘We are actually they keystone species in this moment so we have to align our strategies with the healing powers of Mother Earth, though there is no getting around the house rules. But it isn’t about stopping or retreating. It’s about aggressively applying our labor toward restoration’. (…) from here on, when we take, we must not only give back ,but we must also take care. (448-449)
Naomi Klein- This Changes Everything
Over the past few months I’ve put my blog on the back-burner as I’ve grappled with a lot of changes in my life, some good, some bad and others whose end influence has yet to be determined. In the course of six months I’ve moved from traveling in my car and sleeping under the stars from one BLM spot to another, climbing and camping in Europe, moving to a house in Bishop and now finally living in San Francisco. It’s been a half-year jam-packed with intensely vivid experiences as I’ve learned more about myself and probably gone through more emotional troughs and peaks in that time period than in any other. I
With this blog post I wanted to highlight some of the things I’m excited about in my current stage in life, along with some quotes from a novel I’ve read recently called “This Changes everything Capitalism vs. the Climate” by Naomi Klein. This book, for sure, gets a high spot on my reading list for all humankind and I encourage everyone to read it as soon as possible.
The introductory quote highlights the power and importance of ecological restoration as not only a tool to use in our arsenal against climate change, but as a foundation for an overall philosophy that needs to be globally adopted if we are ever going to make the cultural shift necessary to combat this immense threat. Klein uses it broadly, but here I am going to use it specifically to talk briefly about habitat restoration the type of work I engage in every day.
Accidents in the mountains are less common than in the lowlands, and these mountain mansions are decent, delightful, even divine, places to die in, compared with the doleful chambers of civilization. Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain-passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. – John Muir
In Tuolumne Meadows, there are no shortage of routes available to the motivated climber. Three of these routes make up what is known as the “Triple Crown”- Tenaya Peak, Cathedral Peak, and Matthes Crest. All three routes get you above 10,000 ft. for a moderate grade, and all are unique in their own way. The strongest and quickest climbers try to link them up in a day, which is an ambitious task. Emmanuel and I wanted to climb all of them, but honestly thought we would have to pick one or two of them. Well, turns out we didn’t.
Our plan was to head into Tuolumne from Lone Pine, sleep outside of the park and then climb Tenaya on Thursday morning. After Tenaya we planned to try to get a permit to backpack into Echo Lakes on Friday. As Cathedral Peak and Matthes Crest are about 2 miles from another (and both close to Echo Lake), many link the two routes in two days by backpacking to Echo Peaks. This lets you avoid having to hike back and forth and also to sneak in some backpacking in the middle of climbing two classics.
So, in three days we climbed the three most prolific “easy” routes in Tuolume meadows, Here, then, is what happened along the way…
He who binds himself to a Joy,
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the Joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.
– William Blake
What makes someone a “strong” climber? Is someone who on-sights 5.14a (8b+) regularly a stronger climber than someone who can only on-sight 6b+? (5.11a). Certainly in other sports, this is generally how it works; Usain Bolt is the fastest person to ever run the 100 or 200m dash. This year, Germany was the world’s best soccer team. Climbing, however, is a bit more nuanced than running the 100m dash or playing in the World Cup. Hazel Findlay said in Reel Rock 8 that to her a stronger climber is someone who can can climb whatever rock face he/she wants to, in whatever way the features demand. To meet this criteria a strong climber must then be well versed in all of the techniques and logistics involved in the various forms of rock-climbing one can engage in. I can’t help but agree with her; if I can only clip bolts I cannot really consider myself to be much more than a mediocre sport climber, no matter if I’m climbing 5.9 or 5.13. Rock-climbing is a multi-faceted, complex sport and I want to unearth and delve into as many of its layers of it as possible (except ice-climbing, screw that). Whereas Usain Bolt is always running on astro turf, climbers feel, touch and engage with various types of rock in various places, from overhanging limestone tufas in Spain to the slabbiest of all granite in places like Yosemite. I do not want to limit myself to just a handful of styles because I will then be directly limiting the diversity of experiences at my disposal. This spring, I decided that I wanted to become stronger, but this time I was going to make a new type of training program. For my summer training, I left my stop-watch at home, stopped doing pull ups and dead-hangs and totally indulged in chocolate. This summer’s training would be centered on one thing and one thing only – getting outside to do as much traditional climbing as possible (see the next paragraph for a quick run-down on the difference between trad and sport climbing) All this training asks of me is a good attitude, a good head and a desire to get completely thrown out of my comfort zone. Oh, and, as I would soon find out on my quest to build a trad-climbing rack- a little bit of cash ;).
The simple act of broadening your horizons and trying new types of climbing often allows you to explore magical places that before seemed unaccessible. Me on Matthes Crest in Yosemite Wilderness. Photo by E. Léger
With spring came great Yosemite Valley climbing weather, but also my last (and most difficult) quarter at UC Davis. Somehow, I managed to pull off going to the Sierra Nevada four times to do some trad climbing, but with my 21 unit load I never found the time to actually do all of the blogging I wanted to about these trips. With so much time past since these trips, I have decided to make this a “photo blog”, which I figure will be appreciated by my number one blog reader- my mom. Here then, are the adventures…
Driving from the Sierras… to another part in the Sierras… man, life was good. I finished up climbing in Lake Tahoe for five days and was on my way south to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite to visit my friend Colleen, who works there, and to climb on some more granite. This time, however, I was going to mix it up a bit. For the past 8 months I’d been basically exclusively sport climbing- climbing up single pitches and pushing myself to new, harder grades. This time I was going to follow up Colleen, a decently experienced trad climber, up some trad multi-pitch climbs whose grades were much less easier than the things I’d been climbing in Spain and in Tahoe, but that were logistically more difficult and involved different techniques. Essentially, to move forward in climbing, sometimes you have to technically move backward.