Book Review: Sixty Meters to Anywhere by Brendan Leonard

 

Last Saturday, I found myself in Trident Booksellers, a cute coffee shop/bookstore in downtown Boulder, Colorado. Trident sits off the West End of the Pearl Street Mall, in the shadow of Boulder’s signature Flatirons—three iconic rocks that provide a slabby playground for the thousands of climbers that call the city home.

Even though the weather was beautiful, I wasn’t spending my weekend outside. I was alone, tapping away on my manuscript inside Trident. I spend a lot of days this way.

A man I know—a Bangladeshi Buddhist monk—tapped my table as he went to order a drink at the front. I smiled; happy to see him. He came back, Kombucha in hand. “We are studying out back, if you would like to join us.” I grinned a big grin, and said absolutely, I’d be out in a minute.

Boulder’s the sort of town where things like that aren’t too far out of the ordinary.

Out back, I found my monk with two friends who I had met once before, while rock climbing. They were all studying for their exams at Naropa University, a small Buddhist university. They asked me what I was doing. Writing my book, I responded. “Oh sweet, what’s it about?” one asked me. “Climbing?”

I laughed. “No, although you’d be forgiven for thinking that,” I said. “I am reading a book about climbing, though,” I said, brandishing a copy of Brendan Leonard’s new, bright-yellow book, Sixty Meters to Anywhere. “Have you guys been climbing since we last went?”

No!” the woman says. “We’ve tried to get out with Meg a few times, but it hasn’t happened.”

“I’ve got a rope and draws with me,” I said. “I could take you.”

We worked for a few hours, and then skipped off at 4:30, rushing home to grab our climbing gear, reconvene, and squeeze in some evening laps before the daylight died in Boulder Canyon.
We cheers over a few post-climb ciders and a vegetarian pie at Backcountry Pizza. Glad I ran into you two, I say. That was fun.

“I just feel so good after I climb,” the woman says. “I really want to learn more!”

This sentiment is what lies at the center of Brendan Leonard’s memoir, Sixty Meters to Anywhere.

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70+ Entries and 60,000 Words: Nepal One Year On

Wow. Today is Feb. 25, 2017 (ed. note: this piece got pushed a week b/c I wanted to publish my Iceland essay, ‘Travel in the Age of Trump). Exactly one year since I was left alone and heartbroken in the Hong Kong airport. I won’t lie, it was a painful anniversary for me, personally. I’ve been writing the story of my subsequent travels in Nepal for more than six months now—much, much longer than I spent in the country, in real time.
In that time, I’ve seen the audience on thisisyouth explode— and I can’t thank you all enough for that. It’s a huge motivation for myself to keep writing when I know there are people reading it.

To be honest, if I hadn’t taken the step of publishing these entries, I would have given up on the story long ago.

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Nepal 65: Teahouse Trekking

Colorful houses nepal

I was awoken after what seemed like three minutes.

Our guide had barged into our room. We were staying in a trekking lodge in Ulleri, also known as a “teahouse.” We’d been enjoying a well-earned nap after a tough first day of trekking. “Dinnertime,” our guide said cheerfully.

I shook the sleep from my eyes and glanced across the tiny room. My Malaysian trekking partner had apparently been taking a nap too, because he looked just as confused as I felt.

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Nepal 64: The Stairs to Ulleri

The stairs to Ulleri were never-ending.

We were off the dirt trail now, and climbing steep stone steps up, up, up. I had no idea who had made these stairs, or when; but whoever it was, they were clearly a sadist. Our guide remained silent on the topic, breathing steadily as we ascended slowly, slowly, towards our goal: the trekking lodges in the settlement of Ulleri.

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Nepal 62: A Journey Back in Time

I was trekking with two strangers into the remote mountains of Nepal.

My relationship, my job, and my life all hung up in the air—juggler’s balls abandoned to the whims of gravity—while I walked upwards, and away. The absurdity of the situation didn’t escape me. It seemed almost mythical, like something out of a movie. Walk into the mountains and return enlightened.

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