Saturday, November 19, 2011

Good Days, Bad Days

This morning I woke up excited. Peering out of my sleeping bag and through the rear window of my van I saw the North Sixshooter lit by a golden beam of sunrise, rearing out of the dark desert toward ashen clouds above. Two days ago I stood on its summit, laughing incredulously at the beauty of a magnificent sunset seen from atop an island in the sky. I was glad I hadn't planned to go up there today. The growing storm clouds hinted at foul weather to come.

No, I was excited because today is a rest day. A well-earned one at that. The last two weeks have been full of fantastic climbing in Indian Creek, truly one of my favorite places to climb. I swear I'll never tire of driving past these sandstone cliffs at sunset, watching the stone turn from orange to maroon to chocolate while the blue sky above burns away in a fiery explosion of reds, pinks and golds. I've climbed some hard cracks, gotten spanked on some easy ones, and loved nearly every minute of it. These have been good, good days.

Yet life is a magical balancing act and the good cannot always come without the bad.

I logged into my email this afternoon in Moab and learned that a good friend of mine from college died earlier this week. He and I were both in a street-percussion group and we spent many hours banging on trashcans, slapping plastic tubes together, and laughing hysterically at our own terrible jokes. I was pretty crushed to hear the news and still can't quite believe it. I feel terrible not only for his loss but also for his family and others who knew him even better than I did. He was only 25 years old.

What makes me feel even worse is that this was the first time I had thought about him in a long time. I've often wondered how he was doing or where he was, but I never took the initiative to look him up and give him a call or send him a letter. Hell, I never thought that I would get an email telling me he was dead. And that's the terrible thing about it. I wish that it could have happened some other way, but my friend's death reminds me of how important it is to let your friends know how much you cherish them each and every time you see them. You never know when you might not have another chance to do so.

Walking around Moab after reading that email I called up a couple of friends that I hadn't spoken to in awhile. They were surprised to hear from me, but glad nonetheless. We didn't speak for long, but I made sure to let each of them know that I care about them no matter how long we go between phone calls. If you want a surefire way to put a smile on someone's face, go call a friend you haven't seen in awhile or send them a letter. They'll love it.

The relationships that we have with others are truly some of the most important things we will ever have in this world. If you're reading this, even if it's been awhile since you and I have spoken, know that I care about you and wish you the best. If you want to talk, always feel free to give me a call (206-683-1672). I'd love to hear from you. If you send me your address I'll send you a postcard from wherever I am. I promise.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Make It Hurt So Good

Since I'm headed down to Indian Creek for a few weeks I thought I'd post the following little piece that I wrote in March after returning from my first trip to the Creek:

I blink against the sharp glare of Jeff’s headlamp as he squeezes into our small tent. His movement kicks up the thick layer of red dust that covers everything inside our meager abode and permeates life here in the desert. A cloud the color of dull copper obscures the air and I hold my breath for a second to ward off the fine powder before quickly realizing the futility and letting it settle dryly into my throat and lungs.

Crawling into his sleeping bag, Jeff sits up to stare wearily at his hands. Countless handjams in the splitter sandstone of Indian Creek have left the backs of his palms spotted with large scrapes and gouges - “gobies” as they are endearingly called by climbers. While most Creek veterans might sport a small scrape here or a layer of skin gone there, Jeff’s hands feature wounds the size of small countries. His wrist looks like its been gnawed at by one of the dogs that roam the campground around us, the torn pink flesh and dark red blood gleaming in the beam of my own headlamp. He grimaces silently, slowly curling his fingers into a fist.

Desert Days

I just finished a ten-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course here in Moab, UT and I am glad to say that I passed with flying colors. I actually feel prepared to deal with most any emergency I might face in the backcountry and I can't believe I went so long without getting WFR certified. If you spend a lot of time in a wilderness setting and haven't taken a WFR course you should drop everything and sign up for the next available class. Trust me. Not only will you gain the knowledge to keep you and your partners safe, but you'll feel confident to help anyone in need in the wilderness. Plus most people who take these courses are awesome and I just made a whole new string of great friends stretching from Alaska to Arizona.

One quick funny story from the class: Near the end of the course we conducted a night-time emergency scenario in the desert outside Moab. I was a mock patient in the exercise and was supposed to be suffering from an open fracture of my right tibia and fibula (lower leg). The instructors outfitted me with some fake blood and an actual piece of bone attached to my shin, and told me that I was to take a fall when they gave the signal.

When it came time to fall I looked around me, saw a promising rock slope leading into a sandy wash, and tumbled down it with a howl of pain. I rolled and rolled and just when I was starting to worry that the slope was much larger than expected I came to a sudden stop. I screamed louder, releasing a stream of expletives as I realized that the sandy wash I had rolled into was in fact a large stand of cacti. I quickly rolled out of the cactus that I was lying on and looked down to see at least 30-40 long thorns sticking out of my left side. Before I could remove any of them my rescue party showed up on the scene and I had to pretend that the pain in my "broken" leg hurt more than the scores of cactus barbs in my body. Awesome. We all knew that we had to keep the scenario as realistic as possible, so even when they asked about the thorns I kept screaming about my leg. In the end it took about 45 minutes before I could take them out and I'm pretty sure that there's still a few lurking in the coat I wore that night.

Anyways, now that the class is over I am headed down to Indian Creek, the crack climbing mecca of the world. I'll be down there until the end of November trying to learn the dark arts of finger stacks, ring locks, fist jams and off-widths. It's gonna be an ass-kickin good time.