“I could actually die or get seriously injured out here”, plunged into my brain stem at 12,500 ft, six hours into my climb of Temple Crag on Moon Goddess Arete. I had just lifted my foot off a refrigerator sized block that had shifted and nearly tumbled 1000 ft down the mountain. I also didn’t love the single cam in a short horizontal crack laid 30 ft diagonally to my left as the last piece of protection I had placed. This was what the last hour was like as I searched on lead to find a long ‘4th class ledges’ traverse using conflicting information among deteriorating rock quality. Things had changed drastically since my emboldened attitude that we could probably link neighboring Celestial Arete Venusian Blind with a scramble or traverse up Mt. Galey.
The California Needles can be described as alpine cragging. A mix of Lover’s Leap style multi-pitch and Toulumne Meadows dome extrusions with decent approaches. Most climbs are on splitter cracks 5.9 or above. The cracks vary more than Indian Creek or Yosemite, sometimes widening out into slab sections. Fist or wider is not uncommon on a ‘splitter hand crack’ and we used our #4 more often than not. Over the course of three days I was thoroughly tired after climbing a total of 3000+ ft of 5.9+ classic routes. Definitely a place for any 5.9 and especially 5.10 climber to check out.
Shuteye Ridge is a place I love sharing with people. It has crazy interesting granite unlike I’ve seen anywhere else with its dark runnels and plates of knobs. It is also the place I lead sport for the first time, went on my first multi-pitch and placed my first trad gear (all in one trip!). On a Memorial Day weekend when you cannot seem to get away from traffic and people, even one of the most popular areas of Shuteye (Big Sleep) was a respite. Yes, there was a ten car group of 4×4’ers and a few other groups out on the big sleep slab camp area. However, we never waited in line and most of the time were completely on our own or only ‘near’ one other party.
This last year I’ve been trying to break into 5.10- trad. Being the stronger climbing partner of my team, that often meant pushing myself on lead. However, decking from blown gear last August lost a lot of my lead head and confidence to climb, even at the levels I was previously confident. However, I’ve had a resurgence over the last month of not only getting my confidence back but pushing into 5.10 trad. I’m really proud of myself and feel empowered by what I’ve learned.
Leaving Las Vegas after four full days climbing on abnormally bomber red, black and tan sandstone, I found myself contemplating how special the climbing community really is. This trip centered around a meetup hosted by Mountain Project for Admins of their climbing areas. Here, I met climbers from the Gunks, Devil’s Lake, SoCal, Oregon and Quebec, route bolters out of Idaho, traditional first ascentionists from Red Rock, boulderers from Grand Junction, gym owners in Missouri and the people who started Mountain Project and Mountain Bike Project. I also climbed one day with a person sporting a Senior’s National Park pass and another with an existing friend I originally met online, trying to climb near Mt. Rushmore.
Interactive map of my last 270 days of travel.
Going full time traveling to visit all the national parks, live simply, seek wilderness and travel the world has been sold as the ideal dream and fully living life in many a social media account. I too was allured towards these ideas and ten months ago decided to try it out. I had a clear idea of all the amazing things I would do and see but in retrospect less of an idea about the true costs. Both financial and personal. Let me give you all the details…
Image: On camel safari in Jaisalmer
Tired, frustrated and probably confused are how you will feel many times in India. Either from interacting with the complex culture formed uniquely and richly over thousands of years or from some modernity struggling to integrate within that context. Of course you will feel happy, delighted, surprised, welcomed, curious and a plethora of other positive emotions too which is why India is sooooo worth traveling.
I spent six weeks in India over winter in late 2018 and early 2018. Over which I visited Rajasthan, the Kashmir Valley, hill stations such as Amritsar and Dharmashala, Agra and the two big cities of Mumbai and Delhi. This is like 5% of the main attractions of an area so large and rich as India so this information might not work everywhere but most of it will. In an effort to ease frustrations and set expectations I want to share several of these essential learnings.
(To get a more cultural insight into my experience read this)
Image: Old Delhi contained by the paid entrance to the Fatehpuri Masjid Mosque
Until India, I have never been so encaptured by a culture that I didn’t want to leave it. The food is probably the best in world with so much variety and flavor on both sweet and savory spectrums.
Image: Raj Kachori at Haldirams is beautiful, sweet and savory. Every bit an example of fantastic North Indian chat food.
The people typically kind, prideful, eager to engage and helpful (if it’s not their job to be so). The colors make the rest of the world seem bland. Saris always shouting brightly with shimmering patterns. Intricate, unique artwork can be found everywhere in monuments, crafts and even ordinary street art windows.
Image: Foldable bamboo ink elephant composed from hundreds of figures.
Even the transportation trucks, lowered to basic standardization in the West, sport custom paint jobs and ornamentation! Yet, India is a complex county and sometimes hard to understand. I want to share several themes I’ve come to love from this magical place.
Image: Military stationed at an intersection
Taking a bus into Kashmir you pass several military convoys, men with machine guns on the road side every few minutes and numerous parked armored vehicles with men manning guns in the turrets. It is clear the Kashmir and Jammu (J&K) region of India is still a conflict region when I heard an IED killed four police officers in Sopore, 25 miles NW of the main city of Srinagar the day we arrived.
So this one time I was late to the airport and they threatened to compound all my climbing gear at security 30 seconds after they gave a last call for my gate… I almost re-missed my next connection because an airport doctor examination on a barley conscious companion completed 30 minutes before that flight outside security… Followed by almost being kicked off the plane since my medical wavered friend looked feverish and had just left plague-ridden Madagascar…
I guess this story is worth sharing.