Morning stroll around Convict Lake. It was a nice 3-mile walk, w/ some uneven terrain. Even now, when I look up at the mountains, I look for lines to ski down the couloirs, or climbing up to a peak. I wonder if that will always be in me.
I just learned about the death of Mason Robison, a Montana climber, on the Muir Wall on El Cap last week. I didn't know him but his death affected me greatly for some reason. Robison was an experienced aid-climber who just had shitty luck. He had placed a cam behind a loose flake/block which dislodged under his body weight. As he fell, the block cut his lead line, and Robison fell 230 ft to the end of his (static) haul line. As I read more about Mason and learned more about him as a vibrant life and not just a fatality, I felt incredibly selfish about my feelings. I'm alive and still have the ability to experience joy and beautiful things; Mason is not.
I listened to a lot of James Taylor after reading this thread. That song, "Shower the People" is stuck in my head.
There were many poignant posts on SuperTopo following this accident. Here are a few passages that stood out to me:
“It's hard to explain why we put ourselves at risk. It's
just.. what makes us happy and if we don't follow our dreams then we don't feel
fully alive. Perspective on life slaps you right in the face when contemplating
a hard or dangerous move. The love for my family and friends and the love I
have for them becomes crystal clear. It becomes the only thing that matters.” –
ElCapPirate via SuperTopo
“Being able to persue (sic) ones dreams is the gift we all
have, but those with real courage are the ones that follow that dream.” - Delhi Dog
"This week's accidents hit closer to our climber' cores as they can not
be chalked up to inexperience or a mistake. The thin veil of confidence
between us and oblivion is dissolved and we get a view of true reality.
We feel bonded to each as climbers but also to our fallen brothers
because our fallen brothers are us. If you are a climber you have no
choice but to answer the call and if not for luck and grace there go
everyone of us a thousand times over. I have often thought if I should
get the chop while riding the wind and granite on the sharp end that my
only wish is that it be quick and absolute.
I take comfort in knowing my fellow brothers had quick deaths and did not suffer.
I do not feel waste in these deaths the way I do so many others.
Sometimes during the course of living our wonderful lives accidents just
RIP brothers and to the families please find peace in the happiness your
loved ones found up on those glorious walls. It is an experience in
ridiculousness, in magic and in the absurd and it is a spiritual
epiphany and celebration of being alive greater than most people can
imagine." - Riley Wyna
"Mason's death is a terrible and sad reminder that our skill and
experience is not always enough to control nature's vagaries. I agree
that risk is an intrinsic part of the appeal of adventure climbing, but
the appeal comes from our ability to neutralize risks with skill,
cunning, and self-control. The trouble is that we don't always succeed,
and even when we do we may be mistaking good luck for evidence of our
ability to control our environment."- rgold
Met Kent Richards, a fellow from Supertopo who had offered
to climb with me. This would be my first time touching rock since my accident.
I wish I could say my returning to climbing was a triumphant one, but in
reality, it fucking sucked.I struggled up
climbs I used to fly up on lead. Huffing and puffing, carrying my extra weight,
didn’t help matters. I followed Kent on jamcrack 5.9, one of my first leads
(and an easy one at that), and while I did not hang, it still felt shitty to clumsily
make my way up, especially while there were a bunch of people below watching
I looked enviously at the toned, muscled shoulders and backs
for the female climbers, a physique I used to have.
I actually backed off a climb one of very few times in my life.
About 1/3 of the way up Black is Brown at Church Bowl, I asked Kent to lower
me. I was gutted. I hung my head in shame, despair…but at the same time, tried
to remind myself that this was just like learning how to walk all over
again…baby-steps. Yeah right.
Sunday May 26, 2013
Driving from Valley to Mammoth Lakes, via Tioga Pass,
Tuolumne and the Mobil Station.
So many mixed emotions, some expected, many not.
Boggy Tuolumne Meadows – made me recall so many bug-filled
approaches and climbs. Looking up on Lembert Dome, I recalled NorthbyNorthwest,
my first 10c lead, and my subsequent lead fall on the second pitch that
resulted in a broken collar-bone. Still had a hard time looking up at the
monoliths and being reminded of all the climbs I did on them, remembering
approaches that are either impossible or prohibitively difficult for me to do
anymore. I miss carrying my weight in climbing gear.
Driving to the Mobil Station, stopping there, overlooking
Mono Lake…what made me sad was thinking about all the times I went there with Justin,
eating fish tacos, camping just outside the east entrance to the park.
Driving down 395 reminded me of my relationship with Scott,
when we would go to Mammoth Lakes to ski, or on the way to climbing Mt Whitney.
It was hard imagining summiting the highest point in the contiguous United
States, remembering what a lean machine I was.
What has made this trip hard is remembering the
relationships I was in when I was visiting these places. Makes me feel very
lonely, worried about finding love again, kicking myself for past mistakes,
I never thought I would say this, but I might actually be
okay with not climbing ever again.
I am in Mammoth Lakes, CA right now, after arriving in the Bay Area and spending a couple of days in Palo Alto and Yosemite. I will take advantage of my connectivity while I can.
I had a bit of time between the end of Finals and the beginning of summer orgo, and so decided to head out to CA for a bit. I had my climbing gear, camping gear, a rental car, a return flight home and no other plans. I knew it was going to be an interesting trip, emotionally. This was going to mark my first time entering a climbing gym, touching rock outdoors, being in Yosemite since my accident. Here are passages transcribed from my journal documenting some of my thoughts/feelings.
Wed May 22, 2013
Went to Planet Granite-Sunnyvale with Blase, Serene, Wei and Sam. First time to a climbing gym since my accident and still haven't fully processed emotions. Felt good to move body like that but also felt extremely frustrating and sad because: I couldn't use my left foot holds, I struggled on climbs that wouldn't have even been warmups for me, being super-pumped from doing so many pullups and not having any hand/fore-arm/finger strength anymore.
Felt like a big, fat, lard-ass, as evidenced by the photos.
Here I am, getting worked on a 10a. I am not wearing a climbing shoe on my left foot.
Next, I gave crack-climbing a go. I was confident that if I could get solid hand-jams, I could use just one foot to move up the crack. I made it up clean, but my right ankle was super-sore from doing all the cranking.
It was weird to see the same faces at the climbing-gym 2.5 years on. I wonder if they recognized me in my post-accident body, or knew of my story.
A first step at least. I'm beginning to think it is okay for me not to be able to climb at a high-level, or even at all again; that it is okay not to have a perfectly lean, skinny machine for a body...
I want to be able to devote myself to a career and new life - am I still grasping on to the past? What can I not let go? Getting to a satisfactory climbing level will take so much physical and mental effort - shouldn't I devote those resources to becoming a doctor?
Had dinner at Google with Eu-jin and Serene. I miss the relative cushiness of that job, but also wonder how I would be fulfilled by working there again.
Thur. May 23, 2013
Terrible traffic out of the Bay Area, but once I was in the foothills, I realised how beautiful parts of the drive to Yosemite are. It was always something I thought of as a chore, a necessary inconvenience to get to climbing. I wasn't prepared for my first glimpse of Half-Dome as I drove into the park. Note to self: don't listen to Sigur Ros when you are feeling melancholy.
The moon was full and low as I entered the park. I could not bring myself to look up at El Cap, Leaning Tower, Yosemite Falls etc. Looking at them made me feel too sad and whistful, about how I could get up these formations before rather than be stuck on the ground looking up.
I had procured a campsite in Upper Pines. Hearing some climbers in the adjacent site talk about their climbs - 5.9's, 5.10's that were walks in the park for me before...was this a mistake???
Really looking forward to meeting Kent tomorrow and then Gregg in Mammoth next week. I think company will make me feel better.
Half-Dome loomed over me as I got to the Valley floor. I couldn't take it in. Not yet.
As I cathed myself in the campground restroom, I felt a strange mixture of sadness and slight indifference - this is my reality. What choice do I have but to deal with it?
Setting up my tent alone, driving alone...I thought a lot about love, past loves, finding it and experiencing it again. The shared experiences climbing, camping etc with Justin contributed so much to our love - what if there is no activity I can share with a future partner? What if my preoccupation with medical school ruins my prospects of love, marriage, perhaps children?
I don't want to be sitting here at the picnic table, writing in the dark. I want to be cooking a shared meal with a partner, enjoying the tasty calories after a day of exertion.
Thinking about cutting this trip short - too painful.