Some Colorado ice climbing.Continue reading
Climbing Blitzen Ridge, RMNP (with a few pointers for beginners)
I got interested in climbing the Blitzen Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, after several acquaintances asked me if it was a good beginner alpine climbing objective. (Alpine climbing here defined as remote & technical rock climbs in the high mountains). On paper, rated 5.4, the climb seems quite approachable.Continue reading
In reality, my boulder was barely large enough to provide shelter. My legs, pulled up into my chest, were still getting wet. My partner, a few yards away in a better cave, described themselves as on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
I shot this photo on my 35mm film camera. The storm soon passed. We summited an hour later.
“Dr. Tony Fauci would be so pissed if he could see us,” the climber to my left says. He imitates the USA’s top Coronavirus expert, a well known figure in recent days: “‘You’re all the way out there, on the side of a mountain, and you fuckers still can’t stay six feet apart!?’”
All three of us at the anchor laugh.
We’re in tight proximity, for sure. Me, my climbing partner, and a stranger are in what’s called a “hanging belay”: literally hanging off the side of the Diamond, a huge alpine wall in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There is no ground below us — just thousands of feet of air.
A few pieces of climbing gear stuck into cracks in the rock and some short nylon tethers are all that keep us from dropping to the glacier below. We aren’t all attached to the same gear — but our anchors are built around each other, at the only possible stance. The wall is too smooth and vertical to spread out much.
We are climbing the same route, chasing each other up. There are two climbing parties in front of us, and one behind. It *is* a bit ironic: we are more remote than most people will ever get in their lives, and yet… our new acquaintance is right. Dr. Fauci would not approve.Continue reading
“There’s no way of knowing that your last good day is Your Last Good Day. At the time, it is just another good day.”— John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
You could feel it coming.
As the Coronavirus crisis was mounting in the US, we were in Southeastern Utah, near Moab, rock climbing the impressive desert towers that dot the area.
My climbing partner was a Swedish woman, Anna, a full-time climber who lived on the road. A “dirtbag”, we say in the climbing community. Without a permanent home, remote desert was about the most socially-distanced she could be.
I had a home; but amidst the mounting anxiety, I’ll admit: I wanted to escape. Lockdowns had not yet begun in the USA. But I read the news everyday. Italy closed. France closed. That omnipresent graph, always growing. It was coming.Continue reading