Earning Wedgies

 

“I think I’m headed to Wheeler Peak in New Mexico.  Not sure how far that is for you if you want to link up.  Going to climb it Saturday am.  State high point. Weather is 60 and sunny with little wind. Bam!  Safe avy conditions too.”

That was the message I got from my friend Twinkle a few weekends ago.  He’s all about the mountains and getting out as much as possible.  He’s way fun to hike with too.  I met him and his wife, Grace, last year to climb Lackawanna.  They’re one of those couples that gives ya hope, ya know?  They just seem like they are really supportive of each other.  Anyway……..

It was a Friday, and I drove down to Taos to meet up with Twinkle and his friend Sarah.  I got down there a few hours before they did, mostly because I wanted to beat the snow that was supposed to fall over Slum.  I stopped in at a very interesting clothing store, the owner was quite unique and talkative…I could probably write a whole story about her…but I am out of practice and it will have to wait for another day.

After my brief conversational imprisonment at the clothing store, I checked into the hostel that Twinkle and Sarah had reserved for us, and then I waited for them to arrive.  It was sometime around sunset when they showed up.  We went for a short walk through town, played some Dr. Seuss themed matching game, and then went to bed.

The next morning we loaded up our packs and gear and headed toward Wheeler.  When we arrived at the empty parking lot, we were immediately greeted by a chill in the air and then quickly joined by two other peak baggers.  They had loud techno type music blaring.  Twinkle, Sarah, and I couldn’t help but to bust a couple moves to the parking lot tunes before we got going.

Sarah and Twinkle are both good skiers and skinned the entire way below treeline.  I brought snow shoes, but I didn’t need them.  I decided to drop them at the same time that Twinkle and Sarah decided to strap their skis on their packs.

We made our way slowly up to the summit.  I felt bad because all I had to carry was my pack, while Twinkle and Sarah carried their skis.  But I knew their descent was going to be a lot more fun than mine, so, eventually it would all even out.  Meanwhile, the two fellas from the parking lot nipped at our heels and followed in our footsteps.  We shouted introductions and exchanged names somewhere along the way.

Step-by-step we inched ourselves to the summit of Wheeler, and then hung out up high in the sunny quiet stillness for a bit.  I found a giant blow pop in my pack and it turned my teeth and tongue blue.  Twinkle and Sarah thought it was funny, so we all took a picture with our tongues sticking out.  I’m a perpetual mess.

After a few laughs and some conversational exchange with our parking lot friends, we were downward bound.  I slid on my butt, used my ice axe as an oar, and paddled through the snow.  Twinkle and Sarah made pretty lines on their skis, down Wheeler and through the trees back to the car.

We were all hungry and thirsty and brain dead by the time we had everything loaded back into the car, so we decided to go get pizza, and our parking lot buddies joined.  After satiating our cravings we went and saw the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  From far away, just driving along the road, it didn’t look like much.  But when we all walked on it and looked over the edge, down to the river…we all grasped a certain appreciation for where we were standing.

Not long after our sight seeing detour, Sarah and Twinkle headed home and we split ways. I was glad they invited me and we had a fun weekend adventure.  Normally, I’m pretty much alone, so, it was a nice change of pace to have some friends to goof off with in the mountains.

I haven’t written much for quite a while.  I feel like I’m rusty and I may only have half a brain.  But ya gotta start somewhere right!?  Don’t know what any of this writing is really for anyway, except…maybe it’s just a way for me to remember some great days way up high in the mountains! 🙂

 

 

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I thought maybe they were played out….with all the tourists and the hustle and bustle of Aspen.  I thought maybe I didn’t even care about the Elks.  I was wrong.  They are perfection, they are magic, they are so much more than I deserved to experience.  I am grateful.  I am full of nothing but admiration and respect for those peaks and every other peak I have had the pleasure of hiking.  That’s something that needs to be clear…the mountains are the heroes in all of this, without a drop of doubt.

What I’ve been listening to:

“But if nothing dies tomorrow, why remember yesterday…

When an hour or more of sleep might do you good?

It’s the wish I can’t remember, it’s the thing you’ll never say.

And I’d do it all again, oh, if I could.”

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A hidden bee

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uhhhh, double up, uh uh

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during the slick descent of snowmass

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Never Hurry and Never Worry

“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.  I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Climbed Capitol…FINALLY!  It was a day for the books for sure!  I got a ride up to the trailhead.  I didn’t even think about asking for one, but someone just came by and said, “Hop in!”  It was a nice couple in a fancy SUV.  With that, the day started out Ace!  The approach flew by, it was easy terrain and it was straightforward.  Making the way up to K2 was just a matter of boulder hopping.  The ridge was scrambley and fun, albeit loose in a few spots.  The knife Edge was fun and got the old ticker beating just fast enough to convince me that I still have some life left in me!  I had the summit to myself, the weather was perfect…no grumpy clouds.  Headed back down after basking in the sun for a little bit.  Saw a big rascal of a bear right by the trail.  When I got to the upper trailhead, a voice in the dark said, “Hey!  You want a peach!?”  A nice peach farmer and his friends gave me some free juicy peaches.  They asked me how many people were in my hiking party and I told them that it was just me.  “Are you fucking shitting me!?  You just did this by yourself!?  And all in one day!?”  They asked me for my info for future hiking adventures and gave me a ride down to my car at the lower parking area.  They were a lively fun bunch!  It felt like they were characters from a book.  Sometimes it’s all very surreal and I feel like maybe I dreamed about this before it all happened, but I can’t quite remember…can’t quite tell if my mind is just playing tricks on me.  Whatever all this is…it’s a good trick or a good dream or a good book; full of highs and lows and laughs and magic.

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The Bells

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Below Capitol Peak

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The Ascent of Capitol

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More of Cap

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That one famous spot…Knife Edge

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Nothing but views

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Summit

 

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Giddyup

Oh man. Generally, I want to keep my writing as positive as possible…but sometimes I get so low that I don’t even know how to keep my eyes open.  Sometimes a wave of debilitating sadness crashes over me like a rogue wave.  I think it’s important to be honest about the lows.  Climbing Lindsey was a real struggle.  Some things were really bothering me & some drunk guy tried to get in my car with me, it all just threw me off.  I drove past places that triggered memories.  I don’t know…seemed like everything was good in Chicago Basin…and then I lost the positive energy.  It took me two tries to climb Lindsey.  It’s 22.25miles round trip.  The first day I got about 1mile from the summit, clouds were rolling in, and I had no drive to push through anything.  I wasn’t physically tired, my gas tank was full, but my head was spinning.  I turned around and walked all the way back to my car.  Accomplishment for the day: 20 miles to nowhere.  I was ready to just call it all quits that night, just be done with climbing peaks for a while, be done with everything for a while, maybe go to the cabin and just get off the grid for a bit, disappear.

I started to question myself, question my motives. Had I been travelling down a path of self-deception? Was this all about the mountains and love and magic and wonder…or was I just an asshole living out of my car, bagging summits, in some stupid egotistical attempt to do something beyond the limits of what was expected of me…like it would make my existence actually mean something?  But then I called my mom and talked…ya know, just talked through things.  I got my shit together and made the summit of Lindsey the next day.  I blasted tunes the whole way, put myself in the zone, zoned out, pushed through, and found myself happy again.  Happy that I still had the ability to do what I set out to do. And then, the sun began to set…the clouds turned pink, the sky was this crazy gradation of a million different tints of blue and purple, there was a lightness in the air, and the road I walked felt like home again.  Suddenly, I remembered exactly what this was all about.

After Lindsey, I thought I had recharged…thought I had this all dialed in.  But when I got to the Elks, I lost it again.  Cried like a big fat baby.  Cried so hard, I couldn’t even breathe.  It was just a culmination of everything.  I try to brush things off, try to keep my chin up.  I am FAR from perfect, but I try really hard…all the time…and it seems like somehow it always falls apart in the shittiest way possible.  That said, I do have to recognize that this is a theme in my life…and maybe it isn’t the whole world that is pitted against me…it’s just me against me.  Gotta stop screwing myself over. Maybe I just cling too tightly to things, maybe I need to let some shit go, expect nothing, get back to the root of it all: do things purely for the sake of doing them.  I’ve been so rigid and shy for so long…I feel like I don’t even know how to be real with people anymore.  I’m so sensitive to the littlest things.  I really gotta toughen up.  Really gotta lighten up!

Anyway, I didn’t climb anything in the Elks.  I just missed Lake City and the San Juans.  Those mountains feel like home, like the definition of happiness.  The weather was hit and miss while I was there, but I got a few good days in the mountains.  I played a pretty fair amount of basketball and I felt really good.  My shot is finally coming back, and may even be showing signs of getting stronger…it’s all a meditation, ya know?  I can just focus on my follow through, focus on each dribble, be in the moment, my mind is nowhere but right there.

At a certain point after being back in Lake City, it felt like I was just stalling…I felt like things were alright again…and so, I headed to Crestone Peak.  I’ve been fighting some pretty extreme fatigue and I keep getting really light headed…I don’t know what it is…probably some combo of depression/lack of sleep/poor diet?  Despite all that, I was motivated!  But then I slept in (dammit)!  Weather was supposed to roll in around 4pm.  This trip was gonna be 20 miles and 6,850 ft in elevation gain, without an early start I didn’t know if I could pull it off in one go.  I decided to throw my overnight pack together and just get up there, get as far as the weather would let me get for the day, and sleep by the lakes if I had to, then get an early start the next day! I cranked the tunes and got to walking.

When I got to the junction for the Peak, all I wanted to do was take a nap.  The sun felt so good.  I tossed my pack down and spread out, face down, like a dead person.  This older foreign guy thought I WAS dead, haha.  I had passed him earlier, when he saw me again he yelled “HEY!”  I sat up and waved, said “I’m ok.”  He came over to where I was and started talking to me.  I couldn’t tell exactly where was from, but English was clearly his second language.  He started telling me about the meaning of life, about how important it was to live a life in the mountains, to move freely in high places.  It seemed kinda magic and divine.  He also bragged that he had the blood pressure of a young boy!  He told me about how amazed his doctor was by his health.  He said he owed it all to the mountains!  “All my life, I been mountaineer!”

He asked me what my plans were, where I was headed.  I told him I was going up the Peak.  He decided he ought to let me know all about Class 3 hiking.  He told me that I would be climbing with my arms and legs and maybe even my teeth.  He told me how he had climbed 34 fourteeners.  He got out a map and showed me where I would be going.  I told him that I had been there before, that I had done Humboldt and the Needle last year.  He raised his eyebrows and asked me how many peaks I had climbed. “51” I said.  “Like 5 and 1, 51!?” he asked.  “Yeah.”  He didn’t go on about the daunting details of Class 3 hiking anymore.

Some other older guys came up and joined us.  They asked if they could crash the spot and use it as their campsite, and I said “Sure!” We made small talk…talked about mountains we had climbed, all while I eyeballed the clouds surrounding the area.  I checked my phone and the weather looked like it was going to hold.  It was definitely kinda late to start the climb over the pass, go down the pass, then go up the gully to Crestone’s summit, come back down, go back over the pass, and come back to the campsite……….but I just had this feeling that it was all gonna be okay.  And as much as all the guys were really nice, I kinda just wanted to be alone.

I ditched my heavy pack and put the essentials in my day pack.  Off I went.  The climb up the gully to the summit was pretty straightforward and fun.  I hung out with the handsome views, snuck some pictures, and headed back down.  The sun was setting just as I got back to the summit of Broken Hand Pass.  The timing worked out just right!  It took me a minute to find my pack in the dark…but once I did all the guys told me they were glad I was safe and they congratulated me on making the summit.  I thanked them and wished them luck on their adventures for the next day.

I hightailed it back to my car…or I tried at least.  My left leg was really bugging me and my back shot sharp pains so deep they felt like they penetrated my soul.  It’s like being stabbed with a knife sometimes.  But it goes away quicker if I don’t think about it too much.  You can think your way through a lot of physical pain, you’d be surprised…or maybe you already know that?  I need to get better at thinking through the mental pains though.  Maybe that’s why I hike?  Maybe to get through tough physical stuff you have to use your mind.  And to get through the mental stuff you have to use your body.  I don’t know.  But maybe?

Anyway, slowly but surely I made my way to my car.  When I got there I remembered that there was a meteor shower.  It was really something to see!  I tried to sleep, eventually…but no luck.  I drove back to Westcliff and pulled off the road somewhere…slept for a couple hours, and then drove up to the Elks.

And here I am again.  Back at the Elks.  And here is the thing…I am SO FORTUNATE to be able to do all this.  It isn’t always super easy, but I have to remind myself that this is AMAZING!  I get to see so much beauty, I get to be so free, I get to feel so strong, I get to triumph, I get to see my dreams through!  That’s not anything to be afraid of, or dread, or blow off just because things outside of hiking get hard sometimes.  Life is life…it’s both amazing and incredibly difficult…there are gains and losses…time ticks away regardless of circumstance…and so, I just have to keep positive…keep my chin up and make the most of it all.  Why cry? I have so much to smile about!!!!!!!!

Family: I LOVE YOU!!!!!  Thanks for being there for me, always!  ❤ 

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Lindsey

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View from Round Top in Lake City

 

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Sunshine Summit…from Mill Creek

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My Cellular Bananular Telephone.  Had a dream about grabbing a bull by the horns.  I felt it was a sign that I should get my act together…get to it!

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Broken Hand Pass

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Coming over the pass

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🙂 Looking out to Memories of Adventure: Kit and Challenger

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Kit Carson in the Background

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Summit

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Sangres

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Sangres

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Sunset, near the top of Broken Hand Pass

 

 

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All Good Things

Here’s what I can tell ya:

Life is generally VERY VERY VERY VERY GOOD!  There’s definitely tough stuff and there are awkward phases, but sometimes I can’t even believe how good life is.  I love the mountains!  The more time I spend in the mountains, the better I get at seeing that everything that happens in life has a purpose.  I don’t need to preach or pour my heart out.  I guess, I’m just really grateful for all these good things in life that I get to experience.  I have 8 fourteeners left to finish the 58.  Regardless of numbers and semi-egotistical pursuits…regardless of any attempt at quantifying the “achievements” in my life…regardless of all that…the mountains have taught me some of the greatest lessons in life and have given me some of my happiest days.  I hope to continue adventuring in high places, I hope to continue to meet great people, keep getting better as a human being, keep taking too many pictures, keep making magic memories.  I have faith in people and life and myself.  I am beyond grateful for all the good things that I have had the pleasure of experiencing on my own, and the magic I have been able to share with others.  I am grateful for support and kindness and silliness and goofiness and everything in between.  I’ve kinda been going it on my own for a long time, and I think I’ll probably always be a little aloof, but I’m not afraid to make memories with good people anymore.  Finding a purpose in life is essential to happiness, I think.  I don’t really care if I ever become a “real” writer or a “real” photographer or anything like that…I just like being out in the mountains on a good day.  That’s it!  Because being there is always the first page of a great chapter…from there everything else just falls into place the way it needs to.  I can’t write very well lately, but I hope that some sense of what I am trying to explain shines through the fogginess of my brain.

“Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.”

-Hunter S. Thompson-

What I’m Listening to these days:

 

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LC San Juans=MAGIC

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Stood on top of Redcloud 4 times during my LC visit

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The Last of my 14ers in the San Juans 

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Coming through the Chimney on Sunlight with my red pack like Santa!

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Totes Ma Goats

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Between Sunlight and Windom

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Summit Block on Sunlight

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Family

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The Catwalk, Eolus

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Camping Spot for Sunlight, Windom, Eolus, and N. Eolus

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2 Days of Saddle Blazing the LC San Juans. 2nd day was more epic thanks to Crazy Horse!

 

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Binky getting some lovin’ at the Bluegrass Festival

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Thad! 🙂

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How ’bout them Cowboys?

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Well, How about ’em?

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JT

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The Waterfall

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The Hot Spot

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Maybe one day I’ll get good at climbing…if I do…I hope it’s here!

 

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😉 The Sea Life at God’s Crag

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Mad Dog climbing barefoot

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Mad Dog

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Joey STILL hates me 😦

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Small

Small moments can be profound. Feeling small and feeling the power of the whole world around you is huge! It doesn’t take a million dollars to have that feeling and it doesn’t take a glorified journey over the seas and up high mountains to get there; sometimes all it takes is a little walk or maybe getting up before the sunrise or staying somewhere after everyone else has gone. I like being small, I like this big world, I like being alone but not feeling lonely, l like the feeling I get when I know wholeheartedly that I am in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. So often, we marvel at the flashy things or we get caught up in trying to “be somebody” or we want appear a certain way…but I like catching the details of a ladybug’s spots while I sit on the side of a peak, or spotting the freckle on someone’s pinky finger, or finding elaborate doodles on discarded napkins. Dare to be small, dare to find magic in unassuming moments, dare to see the beauty in a pebble in a boulder field on a mountain, dare to stop talking, dare to listen to the wind beneath the wings of the owl in the barn, dare to do things for the sake of doing them, dare to forget about your “big break”, dare to be alone for a moment in this great big world…and smile before the ride is over.

14ers climbed so far this year: Quandary, Pikes, Sherman, Belford, Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross, Huron, Elbert, La Plata,  Princeton, Longs, Castle, Conundrum, Yale, and Shavano.

And then there’s this http://foundmagazine.com/

Thanks for the link Dale!

 

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Sparky at sunrise on Longs Peak

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From Keyhole on Longs: it’s a true dance looking back and forth at the moon and the sun

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Sunrise on Longs

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Longs

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Sunrise before hiking up Sopris

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Sunlight through the ceiling Near Winfield

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Carbondale hike with Cousin Heather

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Elbert

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Elbert

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La Plata’s Summit View

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Flower on Sopris

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The Homestretch on Longs

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Butterfly on the descent of Castle and Conundrum

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Summit of Shavano before the Hail Storm

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Summit of Yale

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Sopris

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After the steep glissade between Castle and Conundrum

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Descent of Longs

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The Trough on Longs

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Outhouse at the Matchless Mine

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Mt.Hope with Twinkle and Guthrie (while Ali did Quail)

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Three riders in Leadville

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Leadville

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Leadville

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A visit to Heather’s

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Close-up!

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Heather and her best pals at sunset

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Kindness

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CUTENESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The puppy named Honey at the Laundromat

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