Why?I've been bogged down with a broken collar bone for the last couple of weeks. Going without any climbing for even a week feels like not having water for several days. I kind of realize how obsessed I am with climbing. I have been looking back at past photo's really finding out why I choose to give it all up for a dream I have. I think i know a piece of that puzzle.
On my greatest trips it has involved one crazy journey with a great climbing partner on something that just seems out of the imagination to accomplish. Maybe that trip had a little risk. There is something about that that's so addicting. There is something about searching deep in your soul and finding out something about yourself, you never thought you had! Of course we can't forget about the views.
What if there was no Alpinist magazines? Or sponsorship? How about if there was no Facebook? Would climbing be completely different?
Sometimes I wonder if climbing has gotten to the point where part of why some people do it, is to prove themselves, to get a pat on there back. I say I just want to climb, that's it. Climbing should be a personal journey.
After all, life is short.
I Forgot My Belay Device
I had forgotten the rope before going to Eldorado Canyon but never have I forgot my ATC belay device on a alpine route. That's simply a dumb mistake, I should have known.
Chris Sheridan had contacted me a couple weeks ago with a simple question.
"You want to climb Hallett Chimney and the Slit Saturday?"
I had to read it a few times and make sure he was meaning to put the word "and" in there instead of "or." I thought it would be a brilliant link up!
Both these routes are located on Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Hallett Chimney has been raved as the best mixed lines in the Park. Many have to make several attempts to do it. Like all mixed lines, it is really condition dependent if you want ice which is almost never. It can range from AI5 to M5/6. I remember seeing a little presentation by Gary Neptune a few years back about the route in fat conditions and it looked amazing.
The Slit is located right from the chimney, between the Second and Third Buttress. The fact that it took Steve Su 7 or something tries to finally complete it, let's you know it ain't easy. He finally completed it with Jonny Copp a day or two after winter. It's quite a bit more sustained then Hallett Chimney at pretty solid M6. Stories of scary run out mixed offwidths were rumored.
I arrived at the meeting spot late. I felt bad but I made the mistake of not having enough gas in my car. We drove to Bear Lake and starting getting ready and we were off by 4 A.M.
We got to the bottom of Hallett Chimney at sunrise and geared up. We left our packs there and took smaller ones for the route. The deal was to lead in blocks. I would lead the way on all of Hallett Chimney. We would descend and then Chris would lead all of the Slit. We attached Yosemite speed tactics to our plan. Following a mixed pitch can take a great deal of time (hour per pitch sometimes) searching for snow covered holds. The second would simply jug the rope on the hard pitches and would be finished following in 10 minutes.
Hallett Chimney was in fun conditions. Right at the end of the soloing, I couldn't find my belay device. It was a hip belay for this route. We simul climbed all the way up to the crux pitch skipping many pitches on moderate mixed terrain. I then combined the next two crux pitches into one. The "crux" was pulling an interesting overhang into a very small cave sort of thing that forces you out that was M5ish. With a stein pull you could then lean back and pull out of the crux. I then approached what I thought would be a stopper overhanging mushroom of snow. I yelled down the problems but knew I just had to sack up and commit. This turned out to be the new crux.
The protection was not good for a few feet. I had to stem between the overhanging snow and rock until I forced in a couple small C3's that were flared. I then climbed up a very steep slab with down sloping holds until the splits had to be done to stem. The overhang was then surmounted with a little pump. I know the mixed ratings are honest in the Park but let's be honest, that was M6! I fixed the rope and Chris was up quickly. I stretched the rope to the top on fun easy ice. Soon Chris joined and we started descending after only a couple hours on route.
We drank some water and I grabbed my ATC out of my bigger pack, finally. After about 30 minutes, we were at the bottom of the Slit. I was feeling sleepy tired. I belayed as Chris went a long ways on a loose sustained M6 pitch. He soon belayed me up. At this point I was feeling more tired. I belayed as he lead another pitch and soon I followed to the bottom of the crux pitch. Chris told me to eat and drink. After doing that, I felt a lot better.
He put away the crux and fixed the rope for me. I jugged but was sort of jealous, I should have followed this! It looked perfect. Chris then lead a traverse to the left as massive overhangs prevent you from going straight up. One more pitch of 5.8 brought us to the top. I soon joined him and we were both really happy. Almost 2,000 ft. of mixed terrain! Another fast descent and we were out of there.
We got to the car 11 hours after we had left. I was surprised at how fast we did it.
Chasing False SatisfactionIt just seems weird. A goal in life such as mountains or routes means a lot. When you get there, it just seems to fade in a way. The high of satisfaction only lasts for a moment. You're sort of left empty in a way except for the memories and partnership. Your happy that you did it but you always think of something harder and bigger. It's never enough.
"I just want to do this and then I'll be really happy."
Will you now?
I don't know how many times I have said that. The truth is I'll never be that type of happy. I'm just happy to be able to live my passion and in the end that's what matters. Climbing is a pointless selfish risky activity. I guess that's why I love it so much.