Why Aren't You Going to Patagonia?

For the past seven years my life has been defined by its one constant: going to Patagonia, where my heart is, for one to four months to pour my energy out into the valleys until it reaches the brink of the mountain peaks.

The people I have met have changed my life.  They have accepted me despite my eccentric faces, horribly endless stream of jokes, and restlessness that leaves me hitting the hills come rain or shine.  Rainy days are trail days, sunny days are climbing days.

But I've noticed a trend every time I come home.  People expect me to leave.  My friends think I'm gone even when I'm home.  Most people, even in my family, refer to me as a mountain climber.  This is true.  But it makes me think of how I've completely forgotten the other things I used to be defined as, inwardly and socially.  Where has math gone?  Where has Chinese gone?  Where has filmmaking gone?  I miss memorizing digits, speaking new foreign languages and being creative.  I've been working whatever jobs I can that allow me 4-6 months off for years now, betraying my studies for the mountains.  While there is no single regret in there, I don't want my brain to be idle while my body gets all the fun.  This year, I've decided to stay in the northern hemisphere and turn my attention to more intellectual pursuits.

I'm no longer obsessed with the mountains, just in love with them.  They'll be there in a year when I'm ready to go back and show them how much I missed them.

I'm not being completely honest, either, if I don't mention another reason I'm not rushing down south this year.  I've been rushing the last seven years, always planning and looking ahead, hurrying to get to the next objective in the project.  I finished a lifetime goal and was nominated for the Piolet d'Or, which is ridiculous because I'm not a talented climber, just very stubborn, determined and passionate. I'm easily inspired.  In the photo below, there are maybe 10 people at the Trinidad Bivy Boulder, all inspiring individuals like Grant Simmons.

 Before then the same year it was just my dad and I there.

And before that, years prior, no one.

The landscape is still beckoning and it'll be there in a year.  What concerns me is the rush I felt.  I felt it in the Bugaboos this year, and I still feel it, but now I recognize it for what it is: going all chips in.  If the cards are in your favor, great.  But I've had too many close calls to go in blind.  I've lost too many great people in my life this last year.  Cory Hall, Nick Heyward, Kyle Mattingly, Brian Delaney.  I'd like to reflect a little more this winter, strap on some skates, and look at the ice that reflects and brings me back to childhood.  I remember when I was five closing my eyes on the hill at our house and consciously making a memory of the moment telling myself that I wouldn't forget how good that moment was.  I need to consciously remember more.  And keep friends like these close.

So why aren't I going to Patagonia?  It's not a project anymore.  It's not a life-long goal.  It's a dream. Every time I go to bed I go to Patagonia.  Next year I'll wake up there.  But for now, I have some things to attend to elsewhere.

Be safe out there, and if you do make it to Bariloche, AR or Cochamo, CH, give everyone there my love.

Your Landescaper,

Father Decides to Board Flight on His Birthday. What he Did Next Will Surprise You!

Dad's birthday, he decides to tick off another item on the checklist.  This item begins 14,000 feet up, where the air is colder, and there's much less oxygen in it.  Where planes' doors roll up and there are just benches in the plane.

At 9 grande feet up, goggles are adorned and the broccoli fields start turning into patchwork blankets.  You begin to realize you will have the fastest landing of your life, making you henceforth rethink being impatient to land a plane.

Next time you feel scared, are you yelling?  Because that's what you do when you are so scared you wonder if you won't make it out of this Houdini predicament you put yourself in.  Someone just hit you in the gut - Mother Nature.

Being disoriented in all three x-, y-, and z-axis is the full confusion tour.

Once you right yourself, it's easy to bring back memories of being a dog in a car, waving your hands out the window in an ocean-wave-formation.

If you can't see where your going are you really going there?  For a moment I thought I was still crouching on the freezer in a game of hide-and-seek 19 years ago in a pond side cottage in the woods.

Practicing dance moves is more interesting with your feet off the ground.  With your feet about 6,000 feet off the ground.  After mountains, this view is no longer quite so intimidating.  In truth, it becomes inviting.  Most candles I blow out from now on, I think I'll ask to be a bird.  Or maybe a pet dog of a mountaineering, skydiving human who can't bare to leave me behind.

Though dad beat me down the sky this time, I'm still holding out for best of 3!

On the ground, the psyche and rush are still going strong.  Who knew it'd be as easy as scaring yourself for 3 seconds and just committing?  It all begins with an idea - unless you are Bertrand Russell, in which case it's all only ideas.  In any case, having the the strength to hold on to the inspiration of the original idea long enough to see it through truly pays off!

Happy Birthday, Dad!  Many happy returns to the sky!

Bugaboos, Banff, Roger's Pass: Avoiding Grizzly Bears and Crevasses


Flight from Maine to Seattle: 11 hours
Drive from Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport to Brisco: 11 hours
Time crossing border: 45 seconds
Parking lot to hut: 2:00 (3pm departure; minus 15 chatting with friends headed down)
To Appleby campground: 30 (2:15 total hiking time with 75 lb. pack!)
Camp setup and registering: 30
Jog and scramble up east post spire: 15
Jog down: 10

Thoughts: I'm really happy to be here. The mountains are beautiful with their mangled moraines, desultory cols and icy lagunas. The distance beckons me forth and I'm happy to respond, with the days light fading softly away.  Hiking up, somehow my pack was huge and heavy. Based on my experience with packs from 0-90 pounds for long, arduous hikes, and my frequent lifting of 50 pound packs for work, I think I carried 75 pounds up.  Made me feel out of shape, which is better locuted as the same shape only with greater volume and or density.  People are friendly here. Sam and Ryan from Alabama lent me their guidebook. Pat from Massachusetts gave me lots of good tips, tricks and general beta as it's changed over the last two weeks with the col's snow melting and dissipating the bergschrund to the extent that the upper portion is a 60 degree ice wall and warmth loosens awaiting rocks. Accordingly I plan to circumnavigate snow patch via the Kain Hut snow fields, talus and then gear up for Vowell Glacier approach to Pidgeon Spire's West Ridge.  

As an afternoon delight after arriving, Sam suggested I take a scramble up Eastpost Spire.  What a great recommendation!  Sam thought my jaunt up and down Eastpost Spire was quick (25 min), which is reassuring since I'm just getting back into pushing myself. With Friday and Saturdays forecast being such extreme rain, the pressure to have a great day tomorrow and head out before it gets awful is heightened  There exists the possibility of checking out Banff and or Lake Louise; perhaps the weather there is better. And also, Logan Jamison said his Uncle Paul Bell in Brisco was throwing a party Saturday night. That sounds nice, too.

8:45 depart camp
8:55 Kain hut
9:25 base of lower snow patch after talus detour
9:30 transition to axes and crampons
10:00 level with snow patch
10:30 base of Pidgeon
10:53 end of snow
11:00 transition back to climb and snack and hydrate
11:10 start up climb! 
11:40 up
11:45 done with photos; heading down!
12:00 would be down but dropped camera; took me 45 minutes to try getting it out of a tight fit then I had to scramble down, get my ice ax, and come back to reach it!
12:44 putting on pants and harness to traverse and descend to Snowpatch for the Snowpatch-Pidgeon raps; went with shoes only, to glissade faster
1:12 at rappels
1:15 rapping! 
1:30 after third rappel join two teams of two (Aaron and Steve father-son duo from CO and Mexican and Spaniard), which slowed me down but was nice socially.  If you can make them out, there are three people descending the glacier on the snow ridge line, south of Pidgeon Spire in the photo below. 
2:45 back at camp (6 hrs camp to camp); rain starting now.
5:50 dehydrated after awaking from nap; rain stopped; hydrating
6:45 listening to music.
7:08 weighing options. I know I'd like to return to climb Beckey-Chouinard, etc.  I don't know how much I'll accomplish alone (Read: this trip). Perhaps the Kain Route. With the col unstable, everything takes longer; with no partner and bad weather, not much else can be climbed. Better perhaps to check out Banff. I do want to climb Kain. That's still possible Monday after climbing back up Sunday. 

10:30 done socializing and sharing/pawning off carrots so I won't have to carry them down! Looks like mass exodus tomorrow. Bunch are headed to Golden for wifi and river house pub. There is a hot spring near the town I forget the name of now [Editor's Note: Radium], but I believe it begins with an r and has two words. Banff should be cool. Maybe I can swing through there.

Two great tricks for mountain speed: Tic Tacs keep you going until you really are at a transition to access water in your pack or at a stream by tricking your salivating self into thinking you are hydrated.  Mini Speed Stick helps keep any chaffing at bay so you can run in those crampons and jog up scrambles!

P.S. Dude who helped me left car at 9am and was back at Kain Hut at 1 pm. He wanted to do Mt. Robinson. Need to look that up.

Rain since I've been back at camp; it's 4:40 now. Followed tracks today that looked like Wolverine had been dragging his knuckles.  The system was good; I could've a) left rope behind and b) hiked around instead - would've been quicker anyhow and lighter to boot.  Still went pretty quickly. Tent bound on vacation!  Required rest! Still really happy that I started 5 hours after everyone and got back first. I guess that's the experience toll.

P.S. The entire trip thus far I've had "girl let me love you! And I will love you, until you love yourself [repeat]" playing in my head over and over!

8/16 & 8/17

Plans were scrapped for both the La Hing or Ha Ling climb and the Sir Donald group enchantment, which I was - and remain - very excited about.

Yesterday Ruari woke up late. We had watermelon and granola for breakfast, quickly followed by fruit and toast - his necessities as a kiwi. We then strike out for a 5.10c crack in Banff called Tourist Attraction right above a creek and along a tourist path. It was pumpy and awesome; and Ruari styled it.

Today, contrary to tidings of the forecasts we received, after a massive pasta dinner with ice cream and meat pie we drove 3 hours to weathery Rogers Pass, pulled off the highway and set up tent across from the enshrouded, invisible Mt. MacDonald. We woke up early at 3am and decided to delay our start so we could see upon arriving after the approach if indeed we were on the right track.  You see, there is no trail up the couloir we are going to take, and thanks to it being summer, in the place of a snowy couloir there are gnarly creek beds with occasional snow bridges waiting to collapse, and steep scree walls if you prefer the densely forested rib/ridgeline.  Needless to say, we made our way up the maze of different couloirs, escaping the dangerous and otherwise non-preferred parts of the creek, hooting and hollering in the fog so that the grizzly bears may hear us, take heed, and turn heel!  My two hopes for the day were that we saw no grizzlies and it didn't rain.  The fog did not lift. We carried on, still yelling like madmen in the woods.  We came across some grizzly poo a few days old.  Then about half an hour later and maybe 1000 feet higher, we came across the digging marks of a grizzly - and this was very recent, maybe within half an hour; the upturned dirt was bone dry whereas every little bit of vegetation we'd been grabbing to help take steps higher and every inch of ground everywhere else was as wet as could be. We had the shoes and pants to prove it. So, we continued calling our way up after sharing a look of concern.  The higher we went, the thicker the fog. There was a breeze for a while but that too subsided, leaving the fog hanging. As we arrived at what we believed to be the base of the route, we voted to take a rest to see if the weather would improve. We didn't want to bail yet and we didn't want to risk climbing if it'd rain on us and then we'd be bailing and leaving gear. So we waited, but nothing really changed. After half an hour of discussing our options and whereabouts, we decided we might as well go on up seeing as how it'd be rather slow going back whence we came owing to the paths severity, and about 400m (1300 feet) of the way up the climb was an escape ledge to a ridge to a crest to a trail down 1 kilometer (5/8 mile) from our car. So we started up. No sooner had we rounded a corner and Ruori found fresh grizzly excrement. Oh Pooh Bear poo. We didn't hesitate a bit, but to shake hands and turn down. Rather happy to be heading down we were, too. The couloir we had gone up had very little left of it between two ribs of rock, which to us suggested that if it wasn't already, the bear would soon feel - and be - trapped by us.  Secondly, the visibility was still very poor so we couldn't see a bear if it blindsided us.  Three and a half hours later we were driving an hour back to Golden and then off to grab a drink and burger at Riverside Pub before parting ways.

I'm now in the Bugaboos parking lot with my attack bag packed for a big last day in the Bugaboos.

slept in! feeling rested after car sleep!
940 leave lot fast
1040 Kain hut don't stop
11:03 lace up crampons (Snowpatch) keep going; pass three montana folks from alaska now!  jogging with crampons is awesome!
1215 Pidgeon behind go
1245 base of bugaboo cram food bam
100 hydrated packed for ascent push legs
207 high point; crowd descending; don't want to climb past soloing. Nor do I want to rap behind. Turning back.
305 down at base of bugaboo water stream; crampons water and march!!! running on glacier
In the last picture, there should be three people descending the glacier roped up.

430 back at Kain hut; headed down to lot!!! Bye bugsie!!!! hooting and hollering!
504 down!!!!
510 on road - drive 50k of dirt: go!
618 off dirt road! Wowed!
715 have pizza from Radium and beginning drive to Seattle!  Rams think they're people in Radium and try to use to the crosswalk, much to the chagrin of citizens in cars.
5am pull into Seattle and sleep in car!
6am wake up, run for 6 miles in city!  legs feeling sunburnt but fresh!