There was this one time at the boulders, somewhere in the Southeast (LRC, methinks), when the legendary Herm told me he has never written down any of his ascents. The singular experience of sending and the processes of figuring a climb are more important than any name, date, or grade, he said. I thought he was old, and probably crazy.
Nearly four years later I can grasp the old man’s wisdom. Bouldering is short lived success and endless failure, but more importantly it is remembering a specific body position; the subtle turn of an ankle, the minute maneuvers of a hip. Remembering and refining beta with the intention of execution is the real challenge, and it is a challenge that fluctuates constantly. Grades are irrelevant in that sense, a feeble attempt to quantify an experience that is intrinsically different for each person. However, I do find it important to remember certain ascents that, for whatever reason, signify an important moment in your development as a climber.
Currently the moment playing over in my head is a 2013 ascent of the Black Gate, somewhere in the backcountry of my favorite place on this earth, Rocky Mountain National Park. To set the scene, a friend (henceforth referred to as ‘Nathan’) had found the boulder on what he called a trail run (read: marathon of death). The photo he took was enough motivation to convince us (myself and another friend, henceforth referred to as ‘Ben’) to commit to checking it out.
The hike is no joke, long enough to make a single day trip a ludicrous proposition. Thus, we were compelled to haul an inordinate amount of equipment to both camp and climb on undeveloped boulders far from any named trail. We went there once and figured out beta, but a send remained elusive. Hiking in camping and climbing gear is hard work, and I experienced the third worst night of sleep of my lifetime, fetal-ed up under a flimsy rain fly attached to a boulder with one trekking pole, a cam and some shoe laces.
A second trip, approximately once month later, yielded better results. Fueled by delicious biscuits and a late start, we power hiked to the boulder to discover prime conditions. Ben and I warmed up on the project and, with the support of spotter/videographer Nathan, were able to send within a couple of tries. It was a special moment, to be sure. Ben sent first and I was able to pull off the second right after. The view from the topout was an immaculate alpine meadow framed by a narrow, craggy canyon. There was not another soul in sight.
Over a year later I can recall the bite of the right hand undercling, how critical it was to pinch the crux foothold with both of my feet. I can vaguely remember the taste of the Scotch we drank from a flask that night, the endless silence of a place that cares not of human accomplishments.
That moment is gone, though I can still think about how psyched we were and what a special experience the whole process was and be content with a smile, however fleeting it may be.
"I beg to differ, sir. We started a game we never got to finish. Play for blood, remember?" #tombstone #routesettingposse (at Rock’n&Jam’n)
Ben “Carl” Edwards spoolin’ the turbo and catching mad air in the big rig. #dothemountain #gobigorgohome #wewenthome (at Grays and Torreys Peak)