Monday, January 23


Pachamama. I've completely lost count, but I bet I've tried this route 35 days. My progress for the first month was very slow but tangible on almost every climbing day. In retrospect I did not at all arrive prepared - I built the necessary resistance and power on the route. Day after day. It would be late December when I finally one hung the route from a low point. Days after that I was regularly climbing into the red point crux from the ground. Albeit desperate, I felt confident that with my remaining two weeks I could send. Just a day or two into the new year I tore open my finger on an all out one hang effort - again from low on the route. I took nearly a week off from climbing for skin and something different. While my skin healed my body weakened. I returned to the route with a significant loss of progress and stoke. After beating my head against the wall again and again over the next week or so I finally began to crack. Last Monday in freezing cold, windy conditions I finally accepted failure, and in a desperate need to enjoy climbing again I (for the first time since Nov 28) climbed on something different. I did T1 Full Equip 8b+/c, which was outstanding, and so fun. Last Tuesday morning I decided that it would be my final day of attempts on Pachamama.

So much of my life pivots around climbing. I am full-heartedly passionate about it. I am so driven by goals that at times I genuinely feel as though I can't move forward in my life until I succeed. Usually this is a strength that pushes me to my very best, but in times like this it can be downright maddening. This is the longest period in my climbing - ever - that I have gone without accomplishing a goal (since September) and it's certainly not for lack of trying.

I am not (one of) the best, I am not (one of) the strongest, I am not (one of) the most talented. My strength is mostly in the fight. This route has pulled me to the bitter edge. How long am I willing to hold on? When do I throw in the towel? At what point is it just.. simply too much? I have never tried a route so many times before in my life. This is not at all about the grade any more, it's not about the victory or about the high fives or about the accolades. In some ways it doesn't even feel like a climb, it just feels like a challenge. This is purely about my passion and to what extent can I endure all of the doubt, all of the tension, all of the emotion.

Remember when I wrote last Tuesday would be my final day? On my first try I fell on the last move of the 'first half' - an enormous move that's incredibly hard for me. I've likely fallen here 40 or 50 times. On my second try, I climbed through this move and well into the red point crux, falling a couple moves from a likely send. Dru (my good buddy and climbing partner) laughed as he lowered me, 'Well, fuck' I said, 'suppose I'm not giving up quite yet'. This was the first time I had reached this part of the route since I tore my skin open. Each of the next two climbing days I fell in the lower section again, but proceeded to do the huge move, rest on route, and climb to the summit. Saturday I climbed twice into the final moves of the red point crux, with my first try being my best, essentially 1.5 moves away from the route's best rest and a very likely send. Today I somehow bested that effort, but fell just a breath away.

I love this. As maddening as it is, as stressful and expensive and altogether pointless in most respects -- climbing somehow uniquely elicits such powerful emotion and introspection. I feel thoroughly tested, delirious from desire and uncertainty. When I climb Pachamama it will be unquestionably my hardest (mentally if not physically) route and furthermore one of the greatest achievements of my life thus far. I move into my final few days here, after extending my ticket twice. I never quite knew if I had the strength to hold on for this long, through so much doubt and through so many utterly exhausting ups and downs. Now I know. I do.

Wednesday, January 11


Quite the fast-foward here I know. Sometimes that's the way life is though. I left a summer living in Estes Park and drove straight to Southern Idaho. Long, cold nights. Beautiful stars. Tear inducing sunsets and many mornings with tea, alone. Good friends were also there, long sessions trying an incredible roof boulder called 'WarPath' but the stars never aligned for me on this one. Something that would unfortunately become a bit of a closing theme for 2016.

I escaped back to Colorado and began a rigorous training program. Putting all of my energy forward for an upcoming trip to Spain. A few little objectives mixed in there, some fruitful, others not. I built confidence in my training and tried to look ahead.

Well here I am, nestled into this stone-built restaurant just after 10 am. Indoors, but still I'm wearing a puffy. Two sixty-something men across from me share laughs and a glass of red wine. The bar is full of long haired story tellers, with smiles and a posture that hints to some gnarly adventure that they've enjoyed. This place that I have come to call home, Organya, is mostly known for its incredible Paragliding. Furthermore we have come to know it as the place that's always sunny. An inversion and a formidable creeping fog engulfs much of central Catalunya during the winter. It's hell. Alas, a little ways into the Pyrenees or near the sweet Mediterranean and you'll find reprieve.

I've been here for over five weeks. Friends coming and going, meeting strangers that become close in an instant. We've all made memories together exploring. Meet the vibrant, after midnight streets of Madrid or the beer bars of Barcelona. We've watched Spanish TV, unwillingly been towed to France, Partied, ate well, collectively turned a corner and said 'Wooooowwww!' too many times to count. I've made a sea of memories in the last 5+ weeks that I'll keep and cherish.

The climbing. I've never tried a route so much before in my life. When I first arrived I felt like the thought of a send was nothing more than a joke. I drew inspiration from my friends that have punished themselves on a route seemingly above their level. For months, years even - eventually meeting victory. Slowly I made progress, most days I would make the smallest, albeit tangible, progress. Just enough to keep me going. Suddenly I broke through. The links became longer and longer, I started to have confidence that I could at least get close. And last week was truly the turning point. I climbed twice to within one or two holds of the final rest - making it to this rest is a very likely send for me. Then on the next try I went from very low on the route, all the way through the finish to the anchor. For the first moment I felt confident I would send. Looking down I noticed blood on my hands. My skin had torn open in the sub zero conditions. A severe set back, I took nearly a week off - escaped to Madrid to forget about climbing and see something new.

Now I'm back. My ticket is extended, my skin is healed, but it seems my progress could be lost.

It's hard to really communicate here, but this is so much more than a route to me. For years my strength has been patience. My strength has been in the act of hanging on. Not as in hanging on to the wall but hanging on to the process. Like a raging, spinning bull there are so many moments when your body and mind tell you to let go - to end the doubt, the suffering, the ride. I'm hanging on like hell but damn it is taking everything I have. My experience on this route has been deeply emotional like nothing I've ever quite experienced. It has been months and months since I had a win. Perhaps it's because I am truly reaching my limit, if not physically, mentally. No tricks or short cuts or easy outs here... I know that if I want to send this thing I have to walk up the hill and try to the death every day. Anything more than that is unfortunately out of my control.

I really want the lesson to be that I held on through so much doubt and sacrifice to finally, finally meet success in the sweetest, most relieving way, most heart opening way. But I also know that it's just as likely that the lesson could be; sometimes you give every fucking ounce you have and it's still not enough.

Two weeks left here, I accept whatever the outcome is. Venga vichos.