The Pass

I was climbing in the gym with a friend visiting from Colorado yesterday and I was telling him about my trip to Ouray and how beautiful Western Colorado is. I drove South through Lakewood and then West on 285 toward Fairplay and as I was driving at night by myself listening to The Firn Line, I remembered that I had been on this road before.

In 2001 I flew out from D.C. to race the Leadville 100 (mountain bike). Before ending up in Leadville, my girlfriend (at the time) and I stopped to ride the Colorado Trail from Kenosha Pass. It was a sunny August morning and I remember I was just wearing a cycling jersey and had some arm warmers and a shell stuffed in the pocket of my jersey. We rode for about 5 miles and were caught in the (2nd most) scariest summer Colorado storm I’ve been in*. It started to hail and freezing rain fell. I gave my girlfriend the shell and put on the arm warmers and we rode as fast as we could on singletrack back to the car at the pass.

By the time we got back my lips were blue and I was shivering with hypothermia. We cranked the heat in the car and just sat there trying to warm up. That’s when it happened.

A flat bed semi truck came up over the pass, slid across into oncoming traffic and took the top off a passenger car going West down the pass. I remember getting out of the car and running over to the car. Other cars started to pull off and traffic slowed to a stop. I walked over to the car not really thinking or knowing what to expect. There was a little girl curled up in the fetal position in the back seat – the driver and front passenger were both deceased. In what was probably only 15 seconds later more drivers came up to the scene and a man identified himself as a paramedic. That’s when I turned and walked away, realizing there wasn’t anything I could do. I got into the warm car and shortly afterwards continued the drive through Buena Vista and on to Leadville.

I recognized the landscape last week as I started driving up Kenosha Pass. A flood of history came back to me and I gripped the steering wheel tighter, just wanting to be over the pass and down the other side – on my way West.

*The scariest Colorado summer storm I’ve ever been in was trying to climb Handies Peak from American Basin. It’s the only time I’ve experienced Flash/Boom lightening. It’s terrifying.

Oh yeah. This episode of The Firn Line was excellent.

Serenade

She plays, I sing. We had an epic karaoke session at home on Christmas. My daughter wanted me to sing this one, but I couldn’t remember the tune. She just learned how to play Havana is now learning this song, Girls Like You by Maroon 5.

“Spent 24 hours I need more hours with you…”
Havana, ooh na-na (ay)

Gravity

Alpinism has a gravity to it. If left unchecked it will pull you all the way in. Sometimes it’s for sharing, sometimes not. Climbing ice demands balance. Two sticks, check your feet. Commit. Find the edge, hold a single crampon point on a dime edge, press. Commit.

I thought a lot about partners this trip. Specifically about how to be a good partner. Good partners pull their weight. If you’re setting an anchor, moving to another spot and your partner offers to re-rig, you move all the packs. A good partner is on time. A good partner does what they say they’re going to do. A good partner offers to belay even if it’s not their turn in the cycle. A good partner knows when to tell a story and when to stay quiet.

When I climb ice everything fades to the background and I’m in a complete flow state. I love the creativity of ice pitches, more than rock it offers limitless options for upward movement. There’s a style to it. It’s where I’m most comfortable.

I love the different textures of ice: frozen neve, wet ice, still forming chandeliers, feeling the bonds between rock and ice through my tools. A delicate placement here or the solid thunk of a well placed pick.

I flew into Denver from Portland on Saturday afternoon, picked up the rental and started the drive to Ouray. I got to Montrose around 10:30pm and the thought of sleeping in the car and suiting up to climb in the dark and cold lost all its appeal and I checked into a motel. I was able to get a good nights sleep, repack my climbing gear, make lunch and boil water for tea for the day.

I texted my partner for the day, a climber I met on Mountain Project to let him know I was about 45 minutes out and en route to the warming hut in the park. Thumbs up, the plan is in motion. When I walked outside I paused slightly when I saw the car was covered in snow and heavy snow was falling I had no idea if the road to Ouray was going to be plowed or not at 6am.

We climbed from 8am until the park closed at 3:30, and then repeated the same the next day for 2 full days. I lost track of how many pitches we climbed. We TR’s some excellent mixed pitches – there’s nothing like the feeling of torquing a pick into a crack or stepping up on a single crampon point on an edge. The last pitch of the last day I climbed up and out with my pack on. I had forgotten what it’s like to climb steep ice with a pack. It takes a bit more effort.

A good trip this week. I’m leaving Ouray tired and satisfied. 2 full work days in Boulder and then back to Portland and my girls.

Get in the Van!

I’m going to post some of the talks and articles that I ID with. This one is great and follows the premise to ‘fall in love with the problem’. So often in product development people fall in love with their solution – and it’s such a quick trip to completely forgetting about the problem you were trying to solve. Always always always fall in love with the problem.

The Pain Cave

This is the closest I’ve gotten to completing the Andy Speer Full Body Dumbbell workout. I think I’m taking too long between sets – maybe if I tried to speed it up and take less rest between sets I might be able to do it in an hour. Or I could drop the weights down.

I just get completely bored being in the gym longer than an hour. Toward the end I’m so worked the thought of doing split switches holding a dumbbell is not super appealing and I just want to go home.

Here’s the full workout:

The pain cave.