Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Healing, wide cracks, espresso, and beer…

As I stepped out of the car and gazed at the countless sandstone cracks towering above the green meadow in rounded plateaus. The cracks which came in all sizes, shapes, and lengths beckoned me to climb them, and toyed with me to really delve into my own spiritual healing, to return to who I used to be.

The stars rose that night shining viciously through the dark blanket of the night sky. Constellations lit up the valley floor and the sliver of a moon reluctantly joined. Stoked on seeing many of my friends from Idaho, and slightly buzzed from a long day driving combined with a few too many beers I settled into my sleeping bag, letting the heat encompass me, and starting to slowly drift back into my own head.

A full day of climbing at the original meat wall met me the next day added to the therapy of the Indian Creek experience. Sinestra, a climb I’d been looking at for quite some time was the big lead for me that day. While it is a hand crack, it is long, has three roofs, and a no hands traverse in the middle. With my last piece of protection, a really solid cam, being about three feet below me I started tippy toeing onto the dime sized edge on a dead vertical wall. I searched for handholds only to find none. With my hand in the crack on the right I was still three feet shy of reaching the crack on the left, and this miniscule plank was the only way over. After timidly committing to the traverse, I hooked my toe into the crack on the right got my left foot out as far as possible, and dynoed over to the other crack. My core tightened and the fear of taking a 20 foot swinging fall held me onto the rock. As I came to a stop I let out a huge yell and put another cam in! I pulled over the first roof only to realize, that due to my timidness, I didn’t have nearly enough #3 camalots to top the climb out.

I lowered collecting those that I had placed early thinking about the sharp focus I’d just had climbing. Thinking of this focus or flow makes me think of work, and those of us who are lucky enough to be passionate about what they do. It makes me feel sorry for those who kind of float through life only experiencing quasi flow/ escapism through substance abuse, tv, and shitty food. Life is too short to live in this sort of mediocrity. This is also one of my greatest fears, falling victim to false comfort, and failing to achieve more.

I fought my way through the second roof and onto the third. Sitting at the hanging belay and looking at out the valley really turned a switch in my head and started the healing that the trip continued to provide. I spent the remainder of the day taking special enjoyment in reminiscing about old memories, drinking warm beers, climbing easier cracks, and watching the vivid orange and red sunset behind the black varnished cliff.

That evening while taking pictures and talking with a friend she made a comment that has stuck with me. She said that her biggest fear is watching someone fall out of love with her and having no control over the situation no matter how hard you try. I immediately connected and feel this will be my own crux in recovering from my recent bashed and broken heart. This feeling is so mind numbing that it psychologically screws with one in ways you never see clearly until years later. It rips into one’s inner fabric like a well sharpened knife. It slices morals, hopeless romanticism, motivations, and makes one truly question their own self worth. It changed the way I viewed the world, and changed who I am as a person. As I slowly regain self worth, and my own identity I also need to overcome the fear of losing love. The solitude and openness of the wilderness made me once again realize that it is better to have loved, than to have been too guarded to take this all encompassing leap of emotion. This will be critical in regaining the emotional energy that anyone I’m with in the future will demand and deserve. That night I thought not only about my own emotional health, but also my mind opened up to deeper thoughts about the area I’d spent the last few days in.

Indian Creek, has a long history. The area exudes the feeling of lawlessness, the wild west, and of searching in one’s inner depths. The landscape is rugged, the climbs unforgiving, and the regulations minimal. There is no cell phone reception, and many of the roads are the same ranching roads that have been there for over 100 years. The same roads that were once paths used by the original inhabitants, the Anasazi’s. Their stories are carved into the stone, and have been dated to over 2,000 years ago. It is not hard to imagine the way this land must have looked that long ago, and easy to understand how this beautiful valley with a creek running through it would be such a nice place to live. Some of the petroglyphs are mysterious and even portray the six toed giant that has been drawn by many indigenous peoples all over the world.

Post the awful and unjust transplantation of the Anasazi, and until the 1970’s with the discovery of the area for rock climbing, and with Earl Wiggin’s ascent of Super Crack/ Luxery Liner, with hexes, the area was used for cattle ranching, and still is today. This collaboration between climbers and the cattle ranch and nature conservancy there is a great example of mutual respect, reciprocity, and good land use…I thought back to my original career ambitions of working in conservation advocacy, and to how my paradigm has shifted now to a much deeper and critical stance of my place in the world.

The next morning we decided to climb some wide cracks, which are my favorite. These climbs, called offwidths, are generally too wide for a fist jam, but to narrow to fit your whole body in. This weird size of climbing requires the most creativity, and outside of the box thinking of any kind of climbing, it also requires a high tolerance for pain. I got to climb with my good friend Earl, and believe that climbing with him is mutually beneficial for both of us. We both tend to sell ourselves short on what we can or can’t lead. I’d hopped on Sinestra the day before, so without hesitation he took the sharp end for the climb Big Guy. This gorgeous crack starts with hands, goes to fingers, and then for over 80 feet stays between 4-7 inches splitting an otherwise blank face of perfect rock.

Getting on lead for an onsight attempt of a climb is a feeling unlike much else. There is a beautiful relationship between risk, reward, and your own skill. Reinhold Messner once said, "Today's climber...carries his courage in his rucksack...Faith in equipment has replaced faith in oneself.” I believe the same is metaphorically true of many afraid to think beyond the system that they grew up in. We must think critically and have true confidence in ourselves, and not always wait for the hierarchal structure to go through the same processes that slow down social change.

You start up into the unknown. You have a skill set that you have developed from each experience before, but it is never enough and there is always unknown. This unknown is present in life, and is a great fear that plagues many people who are trying to do good work. We must step outside of our comfort zones, take the tools that we have gained through experience and research, and head into the unknown. Sometimes you get pretty far above your protection, and this is when the consequences of the unknown become much more severe, but this is also where one gets to truly test their own mental limits, and has the most potential for inner growth. As advocates of just sustainable democratic society we must push ourselves further out of our comfort zones, and away from the commonplace “well this is how we have to do it,” tactics that so many rely on. Fuck the chain of command or the fear of leading into the unknown, trust in yourself, your skill set, get on that lead, or start the revolution, NOW! Stand up for what is right, and push yourself both mentally and physically, humans are not meant to be complacent.

It is easy to get ingrained into an energy sucking system working and dealing with many elements every day to I walk away from feeling negative. Wild places like Indian Creek provide solace, and provoke a deep soul searching that I believe is the best way to heal from these metaphysical society inflicted wounds. Out there it is you, the rock, and your partners. You eat when you are hungry, and sleep when you are tired, and are accountable to nature’s harsh and romantic reality. It is entirely selfish and selfless at the same time. While the healing and solace is vital, this is the balance needed to go back to our calling as humans, more energized and enthused than before. We must seek this equilibrium if we are to ever last in the work of creating just and sustainable communities, but we must never become entirely selfish and just recreate.

Thanksgiving at the Creek Pastures campground was amazing, but also pushed me into some deep thoughts. Over 40 people from all over came together to celebrate a holiday that is actually based off of a colonial tragedy. There was lots of good food and energy, and also lots of lost souls. It seemed that myself and a few others were the ones out of place Of course everyone deserves the time to find themselves, and a place to heal from whatever sufferings they have occurred, there is a point where one must go back into the world and contribute. I’ve often struggled with this yearning to only climb and dirtbag, and the calling to give back to society. I wonder what it is inside of me that won’t allow me to just separate from all of the wrongs of society, instead of becoming emotionally fueled by the suffering of others. The dinner continued with blurs of campfire, stories, flame throwers, beers, whiskey, and finally my sleeping bag.

The next day was a slow morning and we’d decided to do the South Six Shooter. Billed as a 3 pitch 5.7 it seemed like it would be an easy outing. Little did we know the off roading road to the trailhead, and then the 1,000 foot scree field elevation gain on what could barley be called a trail. We ascended through a beautiful capstone layer and could see the full needles district of Canyonlands National Park. Our party of four moved faster than I thought, and my dog lead the way. The climb itself while easy, and ledgy, gave way to an incredible dinner table sized summit with 360 degree views. It is these times spent being truly human with others, sharing vulnerability, views, and experiences, that are some of the riches, most meaningful experiences of my life. This is why I climb. On top of the movement and the exposure, which are big parts also, it is the camaraderie and lifetime bonds of shared experience that inspire me to keep pushing myself further, but also my climbing partners. It is seeing someone else experience the same inner jubilation and renewal, that I find my own balance.

One thing is for certain, I left Moab refreshed, with new vision, motivation, and energy to continue trying to make social change. The big realization and take away for me is to savor the moments with good friends and situations where I leave with positive energy. It is what I gain from this that can give me the strength to deal with the situations where I leave with less. It is from the insight of good friends that I can make sense of the bad, and turn it into good. I’m excited for the next trip and excited to be back at work. Here’s a bunch of photos! Thanks for reading the long and wandering post of my somewhat scattered thoughts.

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