I bought a GoPro last summer for a specific project. It has been rarely used since. Nothing against the GoPro – it’s a tremendous camera – but using it changes the context of things.
Climbing is one of a vanishing number of modern situations where you can feel free of cameras and expectations. Your buddy might bust out the phone for a quick photo at the belay, but in general the nature of the activity prevents obsessive documentation. All the really great climbing photos are taken by a third party, usually planned well in advance.
We brought the GoPro out on a recent outing in RMNP thinking we might capture some really badass mountaineering footage.
Normally I write a “year in places” post, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent much of this year at home, in Colorado and other states of the American West (WY, UT, CA). A look back on the year thus involves a bit less horizontal distance, and a lot more vertical!
Most of these climbs involve 5-10 miles of hiking in addition to the technical climbing. This isn’t Europe, and you can’t ride the telepherique to your objective. Here, you gotta walk.
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.
“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.