Some Summer Climbs

I’ve spent the summer mostly writing on Medium (see my previous post), working, and climbing around Colorado.

Quite truthfully, I’ve felt a little too spent to write anything “serious.” That’s just how things are, for now. Y’all are used to me coming and going, I’m sure.

Here are some of the places I’ve been seeking my serenity:

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The Day We Climbed Long’s Peak

My good friend and climbing partner Meg was in a serious mountaineering accident last week. She was struck in the head by falling rock while attempting to climb Martha’s Couloir on Long’s Peak, a mixed ice and snow route. Her helmet saved her life, but by all accounts from those back home, she faces a long journey to recovery. Meg’s a strong person; the strongest I know, probably. But a traumatic brain injury is not a small thing.

When I saw the news on Facebook, I felt powerless. Here I was, halfway across the world in Morocco, while a good friend lay in the hospital on the verge of death. Had I been in Colorado, I might even have been on that mountain with her. I felt guilty.

My first instinct was to see how I could help.

I have a platform here, an audience that cares about what I have to say. I dashed off a post about the accident; imploring people to donate to the GoFundMe her family had started to pay for the sure-to-be-staggering medical bills. It felt good to be doing something. I was even going to send a message to my neglected e-mail list. I might lose some subscribers, but someone would probably donate. I wanted to help. I almost pulled the trigger.

But then I hesitated. Something didn’t feel right.

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Rif Mountains Chefchaouen

I went for a walk in the mountains. Here in Chefchaouen, mountains rise right outside of the town—their powerful presence is a big part of why I have lingered in this sleepy Moroccan pueblo for so long. Mountains have always been where I find my peace; where I find my best self. Meg, I know, is similar.

I walked out of town, accompanied by a new friend from the hostel, doing her best to distract me from my morbid state of mind. Admirable effort, but I still found myself thinking about the times Meg and I had shared together as climbing partners. I thought about the reasons we go into the mountains. I thought about why we do these things which we know could kill us. And I thought about what Meg would want.

Here it became clear to me, the story of a broken person in need of help wasn’t the story she would want told. That’s not Meg’s story. I wouldn’t dare to write it.

Instead, I want to tell the story of the day we climbed Long’s Peak.

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This Is Youth and Meg of the Mountain Climb a Mountain

Climbing snow on Long's Peak Cables Route in early July

Hey friends,

Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that in addition to travel, I have another passion: climbing. (For more context, see one of my favorite essays I’ve ever written: ‘Work the Problem.”) The “Pieces of Life” feed is a pretty solid example of this: it alternates between climbing pictures and travel pictures. The two don’t mix, they come in blocks. A month of climbing photos, then a few months of travel photos. Then back to the climbing. Then more travel. Etc.

The night before I left Colombia, I met an American expat for drinks. Happy for a friend, he kept buying me rounds. Uneager to leave Colombia, I kept accepting. Together, over the course of what was supposed to be just a quick get-to-know-you afternoon, we drank 26 beers. Our pyramid of empties filled the tiny table.

I traveled home the next day: 12 hours, three airports, one hangover. I arrived in Colorado late on a Saturday night. The next morning, Sunday, I was in Boulder Canyon, climbing. Leading 5.10d and 5.11a, although certainly not elegantly. Most people wouldn’t do that.

I wasn’t speaking Spanish, but I was speaking a language I loved — climbers have a language and a diction all their own. Kneebars, cams, handjams, crimps, onsight… words I loved hearing almost as much as chevere, súper, and ciao.

Ever since returning home from Colombia, I’ve been climbing a lot. I find this is the most effective way to fight the post-travel depression that always sets in when I return from an extended jaunt abroad. Luckily for me, home is Colorado, where amazing climbing literally comes at you around every corner.

While I’ve been doing a ton of climbing, I realized I haven’t written much about it. So today, I figured I’d give it a go.

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