Disneyland

"Look mom...!"

“Look mom…!”

“This place is climbing Disneyland.” In his first few minutes, Dustin had perfectly identified a very important fact. I can think of no other place with amazing granite trad multipitch lines, easy cragging, and outstanding bouldering just 10 minutes walk from your tent. Your tent, which is pitched under a perfect canopy of large conifers, perched on a spectacular bluff overlooking Howe Sound. You eat dinner with an international cast of generally friendly, well-behaved climbers of every skill level, as well as a few kayakers, cycle tourists, and wing-suit flyers to boot. The stoke is typically through the roof, and if by chance someone happens to be on your route when you get to the base of it in the morning, they are more than likely psyched to either let you pass, or direct you to a similar or better route in the immediate vicinity. I do not spend enough time here.

The weather for the first few days of my trip had been less than ideal in Squamish, hence climbing in Mazama, and a quick stop to do some work on the Moon family cabin.

On  my vacation from construction work... (photo by Dustin)

On my vacation from construction work… (photo by Dustin)

I had always talked up trad climbing, and the wonders of granite cracks, but my many past adventures hadn’t taken that particular form. Being willing, available, and proximate, crack climbing 101 was suddenly inevitable. His lovely lady Gaio, had never been climbing outside and was even still willing after watching the entire “Wide Boys Crack School“, so north we went on a clearing Wednesday morning.

Garibaldy and the Chief welcome us.

Garibaldy and the Chief welcome us.

We started on some easy cracks at the ever beautiful Burgers and Fries area in the Smoke Bluffs. It took Dustin about 3 hours to get itch to lead (the hard scary part of climbing). He is one of the most natural athletes I’ve ever met, so I gave the rack and a few tips, and he clipped the anchors in short order. We were off to the races.

"What is this 'jamming' thing you speak of...?"

“What is this ‘jamming’ thing you speak of…?”

Clipping the chains on his first lead.

Clipping the chains on his first lead (photo by Gaio)

We spent day 2 cragging away from the crowds on the incredible Malamute. 10 minutes walk from camp, the 400′ cliff boasts a wide variety of amazing cracks- with no road noise, few other people, and spectacular views of the sea. Ideal.

"High Mountain Woody" (5.9 45m) - I could see why you might get one...

“High Mountain Woody” (5.9 45m) – I could see why you might get one…

'Paul's Crack' on the Malamute. Unbelievable.

‘Paul’s Crack’ on the Malamute. Unbelievable.

Getting the feel for leading past the funny things that are not bolts.

Getting the feel for leading past the funny things that are not bolts.

Like kids in Disneyland...

Like kids in Disneyland…

Dustin and Gaio were headed home for more work on the roof on Friday night, and I knew they needed to experience a multipitch line before they left. We accounted for being a team of 3 and our relative skill levels, picking our way through the forest to “Cream of White Mice” (II, 5.9, 4 pitches). It was the perfect outing- some finger cracks, a dyke, a nice 5.8 slab traverse and a tricky ending, with 4 rappels back to camp for a perfect outing. Disneyland sure is fun.

4 pitches and still smiling!

4 pitches and still smiling!

I probably wouldn’t encourage most beginners to dive straight into a climbing trip to Squamish. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the last 10 years of climbing, and am thankful that very few of them have resulted in anything more than a couple hours of being cold and some lost gear. Dustin and Gaio were vocally grateful to have a dedicated guide to show them the literal ropes, and I realized that even as much as I enjoy climbing hard things and challenging myself, teaching climbing is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things that I know how to do. It is of course far easier with fit, willing, and smart students. The experience of sharing this passion of mine with one of my closest friends is a reward that is exceedingly rare. I hadn’t planned on having that experience this trip, but it would have been far less rich without it.

View from camp.

View from dinner.

Sisyphus

The gas station/tourist trap smelled like sugar and people wearing too many personal hygiene products. My head was pounding, but I was falling asleep at the wheel anyway. 45 minutes into a 9 hour drive, I was not feeling psyched on the trip.

Columbia River

Columbia River

I was stressed about work, frustrated with bad weather, and leaving town feeling underprepared. I was deeply afraid of not having a “good enough” time on my vacation. I woke up on Saturday morning at Dustin’s parents house in Stanwood, WA. Their spot on a bluff above Puget sound has been a regular refuge over the years.

Bob and Nancy, and Puget Sound. Doing together right for over 40 years.

Bob and Nancy, and Puget Sound. Doing together right for over 40 years.

Dustin was more than willing to be an impromptu climbing partner, but I spent the first day of my vacation resting. Sunday we headed for Washington Pass- fittingly, we got rained off after the first pitch on Concord Tower…

Strangely my first visit to this particular climbing icon...

Strangely my first visit to this particular climbing icon…

For his many wonderful qualities, Dustin has reynouds syndrome, and enduring cold and wet is not a good vacation activity. To be fair, I usually like an equally willing partner to suffer with if I’m going alpine climbing. We headed down valley for warmer temps and bolted multi-pitch outside of Mazama. Dustin had never been on a multi-pitch climb, so I figured we would start “easy.”

Heavy weather

Heavy weather

 

Sisyphus is a super fun, fully bolted 10 pitch climb with a 5.11a crux in the middle. The line isn’t particularly aesthetic, but the position is great, and the bolts are generous. If you don’t fire the grade, the first 5 pitches take you to a lovely ledge for lunch!

Getting a taste of the big air.

Getting a taste of the big air.

Stoke

Stoke

Many rappels down- pitch by pitch beta to follow shortly. More about this fun little tool later.

Many rappels down- pitch by pitch beta to follow shortly. More about this fun little tool later.

Tech Notes: 
Huge props to North Cascades Mountain Guides for establishing the route and making a topo readily available for free. We climbed with a 70m rope. You can link pitches 1&2, 7&8, and 9&10 (recommended), and simul climb from the top of P3 to the base of P5 if you are strong at the grade. You can also link the rappel from the base of Pitch 4 to the intermediate tree rap in the middle of pitch 3. Otherwise, 11 rappels is a lot of rappels…

Another Go

Small but vicious. A quick end to the day.

Small but vicious. A quick end to the day.

I’ve been climbing for nearly 10 years, and am very thankful to have never had a serious injury while rock climbing. A few weeks ago Tess and I were in Blodgett Canyon and I led off on the first pitch of “Cornlier Ridge.” The opening moves were much harder than I expected. I fell hard just off the deck, and through various circumstances burned and lacerated my right pinky. I recovered my gear and we headed back down. The experience rattled me badly, and suddenly this thing that I have loved so much didn’t really seem so great.

My hand has healed quickly. I’m not sure if it was the bill from ER, or wanting to clear my head before my upcoming trip to Squamish, but Sunday felt like the right time to give it another go. I didn’t sleep well Saturday night. I’ve never asked myself to go back to the site of an accident and try again. 

Climb the right facing dihedral in the center left of the face.

Climb the right facing dihedral in the center left of the face.

To progress, we have to be willing to look deeply at our mistakes. I’ve run away or given up on plenty of things, but it’s never felt comfortable. This didn’t have to be one of those things. Sarah and I hiked up to the route on Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen, but felt pretty sure it would go well if I just gave it another go.

Blodgett is one of those places that inspires growth.

Blodgett is one of those places that inspires growth.

The lower crux pitch took me a while to lead, and still scared me. I sent with good style, but could feel myself grunting and gripping harder than I have on most other, harder climbs lately. I pulled to the anchors in good style, and sent the upper crux without issue. We agreed that the climbing is probably only 5.10b. I’ll have to do it a few more times before it really feels comfortable. The accomplishment felt strangely empty. Perhaps because the climbing is well within my capacities, maybe more likely because fear is such an empty enemy. 

Summit notch. Unknown pitches beckon another trip.

Summit notch. Unknown pitches beckon another trip (photo: Sarah Zugar)

I owe this one to Sarah's excellent stoke, and faith in my send.

I owe this one to Sarah’s excellent stoke, and faith in my send.

While it reminds me of a Dr. Seuss drawing, Beargrass is a special plant in the Montana mountains. Deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness last weekend, it was in rare form.

Joe in rare fields of white.

Joe in rare fields of white.

Martin, Joe, and I burned out of Missoula promptly on Wednesday afternoon. Our travel plan was loose and our packs were light. The Bob Marshall/Scapegoat/Great Bear wilderness complex is one of the largest protected wilderness areas in the United States, and home to some spectacular treasures. It feels the most like Alaska of any place I’ve been here. We walked, and occasionally ran, a lot of miles. Details really aren’t necessary. We had an amazing, beautiful time.

Getting into the business.

Getting into the business.

With a little luck, clockwise was the correct direction for our loop.

With a little luck, clockwise was the correct direction for our loop.

24 miles back, the Chinese Wall is worth the walk.

24 miles back, the Chinese Wall is worth the walk.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

Big skies.

Big skies.

Quick work of the trip home.

Quick work of the trip home.

 

practice

(ed. note: this started a few weeks ago as a note to a friend. photos are of compiled adventures. capital letters are omitted intentionally)

learning to go up. the canon, 5.11c, rattler gulch, mt.

learning to go up. the canon, 5.11c, rattler gulch, mt. (photo: helena mast)

practice is a word i have to remember and think about a lot. growing up, it got drilled into me to practice my cello. practice. always, practice. with that came some cool acceptance that i would simply not get things right the first time. they would require regular failure and slow painful progress. the desired outcome required grit, or perhaps just simple stubbornness.

we practice being in the mountains-

we practice being in the mountains-

-perhaps to learn to be better when we are together.

-to learn to be better when we are together.

somewhere along the line, after leaving my music career, i think i might have lost some of that willingness to practice. our generation just wants things. we want money, or a relationship, or a status in things, and we forget that often those things take hours, and days, and years, of practice to get right.

we practice building homes-

we practice better building-

-to build better homes.

-to build better homes.

i’m asking questions about how to practice better these days. reviewing results more carefully, and taking a more curious approach to trying to do some of the same common things just a little bit better. it’s easy to let intensity slip in, but more fun to laugh at while we keep it at bay. i’m still looking for the right definition of success in many of the things i do or attempt. i see many people with the same uncertain gauge of success- i’m not sure why me and my peers have such a hard time with this concept. we’ve figured out that we can’t define it with dollars, or map it out cleanly. we know when we’ve found success (the feeling is obvious), but it’s hard to see when it’s only looming on the horizon.

we practice the things that show our weaknesses-

we practice the things that show our weaknesses-

-because it is the only way to real strength.

-because it is the only way to real strength. roadside off-widthing, lolo, mt. (photo: sarah zugar)

i have a fear of failure that sometimes prevents me from taking real risk, or even giving my best effort. like all old things, it is time to let that fear pass. thanks to many people and partners that help me practice letting a little bit go each day.

Catalyst

My brother sent me a note and mentioned that he had found a clothing company that fit his values after following a link from this site.

If you’ve followed stickthefeeling for a while, you know that this isn’t really just an adventure blog anymore. I’ve been in flux about what exactly I would like it to be, but his note gave me some definition.

I want this site to be a catalyst for a life of abundance.

To inspire us to realize that we have more than we need, but nothing to waste. Abundance of adventure, of activity, but also abundance of the quality of life that I enjoy. A catalyst for authentic connection between people. For real energy conservation, and delicious local food. For our lungs searing on clear air as we climb each of our respective philosophical and geophysical mountains. For fewer physical things, less worry, and quiet. For deeper self examination, greater freedom, and a baseline of confidence that somehow my generation came up short on. That I come up short on.

that spot, just a random one on the trail. is sacred.

that spot, just a random one on the trail. is sacred.

In engineering, a catalyst lowers the amount of energy required for a particular chemical reaction to occur successfully, thereby increasing the likelihood of successful interactions and products. I’d like to think that reading this space might make it easier to find a better climb, a more passionate wilderness, or more joyful laughter.  After 3+ years of writing, it serves as a regular reminder for me to pursue what I want most. And what can be let go of to get the good stuff.

it is such a privilege to welcome others into our lives, even when that seems scary. (Photo: Trevien Stanger)

it is such a privilege to welcome others into our lives. (Photo: Trevien Stanger)

There is a place and space, and a time and people, that warrant our deepest, most fierce attentions. That time is now, and the things we need most are the ones we already have. The most important people are the ones we are with, and whether we trust it or not- the space we are in at this very moment, is sacred.

and silliness. don't forget silliness. (Photo: Trevien)

and silliness. don’t forget silliness. (Photo: Trevien)

The photos are from a quick trip up St. Marys peak in the Bitterroot last Sunday with Nick Triolo and Trevien Stanger. Two amazing men that make it easy for me to be more of who I hope to be, all the time.

“The realization that we have more than enough is irresistibly powerful.”

(ed. note: many others have written on the topic of abundance. I stole mine a while back after reading this, here)

Endurance

“This feels good man, just real good.” I bounced past a mountain biker, and a few minutes later, past the spot where I had bonked on the trail last September. Nick and I were out for a run and the stoke was high. That morning he had suggested “let’s just get out and turn over the legs for 3 hours,” but earlier in our planning Nick had mentioned my favorite words – “I want to get out and suffer.”

Making good time.

Martin- making good time.

I was in 7th grade when I discovered I loved endurance sports. I ran every single day that year. I ran in hiking boots in the Chicago winter, and lived for summer runs along Lake Michigan. I loved that it made me lean and quick. Even then I knew, I wanted to move fast and light in the mountains.

Early morning light, starts all good adventures.

Early morning light, starts all good adventures.

After last weekend, I’m just not worried about my foot holding me back much any more. I started my 4th of July at 430am, rolling out of bed, throwing a carefully packed bag in the car, and meeting Martin by 5. I’ve wanted to get high in the Missions since I first saw them, and Martin had been itching to get on top of McDonald Peak. I left the car in running shoes with simple bivy gear, boots, and ice axe on my back.

Fast and light.

Fast and light.

First sight of the objective.

First sight of the objective.

We made good time on trail, and kept moving across excellent snow conditions- supportable, but not icy. The last few slopes were a slog but the final summit ridge took a little rock climbing savvy to tick the peak in 7hrs 20 from the car. We had dropped the bivy gear at the last basin, descended back to it and looked forward to a comfortable night in the range.

Mission vista.

Mission vista.

Summit. Windy.

Summit. Windy.

While stoked on the event, the summit, and the experience, I got back to Missoula knowing I had a little more in me. Nick texted, and Sunday morning we headed up to the Rattlesnake to try beating the heat that was sinking into the valley.

Descending into heat.

Descending into heat.

We didn’t really intend to summit Sheep Mountain, it just kinda happened, and it only took 2 hours of running. The only problem was I really wasn’t prepared for the return. A 4 hour run requires some planning, particularly around hydration and nutrition. I had packed 260 calories, and one hand bottle of water- barely enough for the 3 hour run Nick and I had originally planned, but not nearly enough for the 4 hour endeavor it became. I bonked the first time at 2hr 30, but was able to get up, get moving, and fire off quite a few more miles.

About 1 1/2 miles from the trailhead the bonk hit hard. The heat takes it out of you. Nick put my arm over his shoulder and we walked together, one step at a time towards the water in the car. We crested the last hill and I let go, coasting down to the car under my own power, but humbled by the harshness of finding my endurance limit. Nick, of course, was still going strong. Together we covered 22 miles and 3,500 feet of vertical gain (and 3,500ft of loss). It was the longest duration I’ve ever run (Chicago Marathon only took 3hrs 13min, but it was flat). I laughed at myself after a soak in the creek and a burrito.

After the hardest bonk ever, in any sport.

After the hardest bonk ever, in any sport.

Its been a long time since I tried something hard and really failed, but I think in finding a limit, there was a certain success. Nick is an ultra-marathoner that I deeply respect. Sharing my limit with him was a privilege, and I hope to return the favor some day. “Ultra” is a state of mind, and I think I’m just starting to understand what that looks like. To both Martin and Nick (and Madison, the dog) thanks for reminding me of some of the things I loved the longest. Life is a long game, it’s fun to practice playing.

Long effort requires long rest.

Long effort requires long rest.