Tuesday, December 20, 2011

West Coastin'

OK, a long time since I've posted, but I've been busy!

To wrap up the last month: the good weather in Indian Creek inexplicably continued well into December and I was climbing in a T-Shirt in the sun even on my last day there. I feel like I progressed a lot as a climber during my time in the desert and I remain convinced that Southern Utah is one of my favorite places on Earth.

That said, a cold front blew in for a few days while my brother was visiting me in the desert, and while everyone else in the Creek bailed for warmer climes we sacked up and went for a 4-day hike in Canyonlands. Despite the cold (it never got above 35) we had an amazing time exploring the twisting slot canyons of the Needles area. I'd be lying if I said that we were totally comfortable the whole time (the cold at night pretty much necessitated that we cuddle up against each other for warmth) but that was kind of the point - sometimes you need to seek out discomfort in order to better enjoy the privileges of your daily life. By the time we finished it was a true pleasure to simply stand indoors.

I spent a few more days in the Creek after my brother left, but my body kept telling me that it was time to leave. I couldn't seem to recover after climbing and my psyche was getting lower each day. So I packed up and made the long drive to join some friends in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

The place is literally a climbing paradise. There might not be massive walls or huge routes, but there is rock everywhere! Awesome boulder problems sit right next to the campsites and you can solo for hours without walking more than a couple hundred yards from camp. Plus the landscape looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book: blocky boulders of all shapes and sizes stand piled in perilous stacks above sandy valleys covered with sage, creosote, cacti, yucca, and of course, the iconic Joshua Tree. Thrusting up through the desert sands these trees stand by the thousands in this part of the country, their shaggy brown trunks leading up to balls of lime green spines that spread like tentacles in every direction. Knowing that I was nearing the end of my road trip I focused simply on having fun while I was in Joshua Tree, and my friends and I ran around the desert climbing like little kids in a playground. Each night brought big campfires, raucous sing-a-longs, and delicious meals, and we even hit the hot springs for a day of rest and relaxation. It was a tough place to say goodbye to.

Leaving the Mojave behind I reluctantly began the long drive up the West Coast back to Seattle. My first stop was in San Jose to hang out and climb with my good friends Keith and Luke. Despite the fact that I hadn't done any sport climbing in four months (or perhaps because of it???) they dragged me out for a weekend of climbing at the Jailhouse, a crazy steep wall of orange and grey basalt in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. I thought the name of the crag was appropriate as my climbing was on lockdown the entire weekend. The easiest climb at the Jailhouse is 5.11d, so I spent the weekend relearning how to crimp, side-pull and knee-bar on the "warm-ups."

Still, I had a blast and it was amazing to be climbing shirtless in mid-December in a beautiful location. I was also fortunate enough to witness my buddy Keith send his first 5.14 - sick!!! It's official ladies and gentlemen, Keith Share is a Silent Crusher. The man can barely walk on flat ground without tripping over his own shoes, but get him in the vertical world and he dispatches hard lines like a coke fiend set loose in a Colombian drug mill.

Now I'm in San Francisco for a day before finishing up my road trip with a few days of solo hiking in Central Oregon. I can't believe this trip is almost over. What has become a way of life is going to have to change and I'm not sure how the transition is going to be. I have a lot to process, tons of photos to edit, and over 100GB of raw video files to filter through. Oh, and a lot of Christmas cookies to eat.

Happy holidays everyone.

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