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These days, well-lived

Part I: Airplane Mode

[listen: Morning, Tom Rosenthal]

In the trickling down of glacial rivers you can hear secrets of a life well-lived:
an afternoon spent eavesdropping on hummingbirds, leaning against the trunk of a whitebark pine.

Last night we watched the sun go down for hours — stood in silence to watch a coming tide of sun-seared clouds roll, tuck under, twist, and scatter as they hurled themselves upon the stonewall of our volcano fortress for the night; slept under the shadow of a boulder cracked in two that falls closer to earth inch by inch, year by year.

[Photos from an overnight on the Timberline Trail, with an epic campsite in Paradise Park]

jenandcalamityrunningupmtnsmtnbeyondmtnsbrianmthoodjeramiezoenayahoodalpenglowsunsetgroupcoffeeandsunrisehildenbrandcrossingteamhikeoutPart II: Weird, Wild, Why Not

WyEast
Lonely lights on the slopes of Mt. Hood before dawn

“Well, now that we’re not going to summit, and it’s 5am, and we’re awake, do you want to go climb something?” he asks after my boots have turned my feet excruciatingly numb and left us to bail on Hood. “Let’s find something really dumb,” he says, pulling out the guide book. “Like, chossy and just stupid.

I take another sip of coffee, contemplating my level of tiredness after only an hour of sleep. “I’m in.” We settle on a chimney system leading to a top out on a curious sounding pillar: The Alpenjæger, 5.4 R

Alex decides my stoke factor may be in jeopardy of waning due to lack of rest; he puts on Beyonce’s Sorry, and I am instantly buoyed into jubilance again. We get breakfast burritos, pick up some gear from his house, and head for the Gorge.
alex chossbelayledge1chockstoneHalf the holds are grass hummocks and loose blocks that wiggle in our hands, but once we enter the chimney we realize it’s as deep as a slot canyon. Everything is dirty and we’re breathing in moss, and half the pitons are rusted but they’re there — and it’s the most ridiculous and fun adventure climbing maybe either of us have ever done.

As I follow the final pitch straight up through the runout shoulder off-width to a grassy “slab” of basalt fractures waiting to be pulled like loose teeth, I am singing and giggling to myself while I stem across the gap. Rocks and grass fall between my legs into the chasm, I clean gear, and laugh when I look up to see Alex belaying me off a tall shrub.slotcanyonchimney stemI have to traverse left around a bulge of grass-clod basalt bombs to make it to our improvised shrubbery belay. It appears we may be one of the few parties to climb this route in decades, given the lichen-covered tat hanging forlornly at a few pitons along the way, and primarily signaled by the sheer lack of anchoring gear, features to sling, and other mentioned descent routes at the top of the Alpenjæger pillar. Hence, our shrub station.

How the hell are we going to get down now? Maybe we will just stay up here. At least the grass is soft.

Before arranging a rappel off a cordalette anchor that we donate to the cause of anyone else crazy enough to go up there, we lie down in the wildflowers and grass atop the pillar. Alex pulls out our snack rewards: “I’ve got crushed Oreos, a packet of almond butter, and three shotblocs.” We pass them back and forth, a fitting picnic for an adventure mountaineering epic.

snacks
Snacks and sweet sideburns.

After counting snake holes and cutting away more old slings, we rapped the south side and bushwhacked down a ravine strewn with the decaying remains of old cars and shopping carts, muddy runoff, and groves of stinging nettles.

Upon finally reaching the train tracks below, we ate handfuls of the first wild blackberries of summer, our rack of gear tinkling and clanging as we walked out. What could have been a bummer of a day was instead one of fantastic, mutually fueled stoke, and for me, pure happiness. Thanks Alex!

Obligatory team selfie after one of the most insane, fun, and dirty chossfest epics I’ve ever enjoyed.
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Spring cleaning

I have one toe smeared on nothing and the other, where my shoe is starting to wear through, is mashed down on a paper-clip-thin nubbin–a hope and a prayer, really, are all they are while I contemplate my options: Traverse diagonally right, up the sloping ledge upon which my hands are struggling for a better grip, and sink my fingers into the vertical crack until I figure out what to do next, or fall. Fall far, on a red X4, a piece that I really only placed as a mental security blanket because (1) I’m still too new at this to run it out that far, but (2) the seam its cammed into walks the fine line between being a vaguely protectable crack and a joke.

Normally, I’d sit there and sabotage my own composure, running my fingers over the same dissatisfying options, getting too pumped, and ultimately try to downclimb to avoid the chance of a fall. And that’s on a bolted line! On the stuff that my brain knows will actually catch me.

But here I am. I’m still holding on. I don’t want to go back. I can do this.

Things shift. My inner voice is not screaming go down! anymore. It is replaced by a simple, rhythmic mantra. Everything else slips away. I am reduced to the sensation of my hands weighted on the grooves and divots of granite, my lungs taking in air, the strain in the arch of my feet.

Breathe. Move. Trust.

I lower my body weight, send electric waves of confidence from my brain into my desperate fingers, and ease out right toward the vertical fissure that will be my salvation and further from my last pitiful piece of pro.

I sink the finger jam. Things shift.

–little moments make big days // Leavenworth, WA

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Field Notes: Colombia

An adventure in reconnection, renewal, & the Unknown.

I. We find our steps, again, in a lacunae ten thousand miles deep by seven years wide, but the same portal sun beckons there to the children of wolves. In the stillness now is not heaviness but a coarse patoi of courage, stumbling on tongue tips of burnt honey. Not an aimless idle, but an inner knowing that an invisible River never ceases, even in yearning, in restless drought, even where a sandbar erased the map.

Listen: Danza del Agua – Miki Gonzalez

Tayrona National Park, Magdalena // Caribbean coast
lagoon tatosunsetiguana

monkeyTNP TNP beach TNPsunsetII. We have learned how to look inside the hollow, rather than without, to find that it is not hollow at all but a prism bending this way and that, waiting to refract shivers of cerulean lemondrop dusk in late August if only these tendrils would shake the dirt and reach, just further. We fear the mirrorage and the apostrophe but we are learning to trust the rain.

Listen: Antenna – Bonobo

Minca, Magdalena // Sierra NevadasWATERFALL1 swimminghole mincastream

bamboo

hammockIII. Behind traded verse, Quetzalcoatl drums a memory of the future into resounding silence–that voice-echoing-open-armed emptiness waiting to be found and filled with breath amidst a fray of nation-sized wounds, festering traumas, the perfume of homeless sorrows mingling with diesel exhaust, swollen bellies, transcontinental bloodlines seeking a womb, self-sabotage, exile.

Listen: Montañita – Lulacruza

Minca y Nemocón, Cundinamarcamincasunbursyt

solitude

mincasunsetsaltminepurplesaltoftheearthminegreenIV. Hip to hip through jungles of monkey vine and slave-shaped stone, sabanna brush and virgen blessings, we walk and I burn blood from my cheeks. I see, now. My ghosts are not gone; they are dancing in the palm fronds but oh how I sway with them now, twirl my fingers through their hair, build miniature altars to honor the softened skin I wear from their bright bones.

Listen: Pools – Glass Animals

Suesca, Cundinamarca // Sábana de Bogotásuescatracks

suescacrag macksuesca2 tatosuesca macksuesca tatoclimbingnemeconV. Underground, underwater, under canopy, under flame four feet crisscross fallow fields with the mother tongue of coded dreams. Whether the planting is of peonies or cloud forest is not written; for now, the task is to lick salt from old wounds and trace their patterns with a firm hand. But in the scratch of bare shoulders to a thatched floor, in the red embers drawn to the breath of ocean in coastal darkness, there is a planet reflecting back the sunlight.

Listen: Burning Stars – Mimicking Birds

Bogotá y beyond
bogotamuralbogotasunsetplaneview