Category Archives: People

Sunshine

Seattle is not as grey as some people might want you to believe. However- it is grey enough that when Drew and Lindzey invited me and Abigail to join them in Mexico, it was easy to think ahead and say “yes.”

Sayulita used to be “off the beaten path” but these days, it is distinctly a gringo heaven – vibrant, yet deliciously relaxed. Yoga, internet, and an easy surf break draws Americans and more than a few Mexicans. We had a choice of vacation rentals, most people spoke (enough) english, and the weather was perfect. Unlike our last “vacation”, Abigail was thrilled to get her workout swimming and surfing instead of lugging a pack through the rain.

Highlights included: sleeping in, eating, getting sand deep in between the toes, and a couple great surf sessions. We took a day long boat tour to the Marieta Islands, one of only two places to see Blue Footed Boobies, and swum ashore into a hidden beach:

Drew was one of my first ice climbing partners. We’ve enjoyed some wonderful adventures over the years. It is even more fun to realize that our friendship is equally adept at lounging on an beach with two amazing ladies as it is pushing our mental and physical limits. I suspect we’ll probably be back up to our usual shenanigans in no time, but this was more than a nice change of pace.

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Thank you for a great idea, and a great time.

 

The blog has been quieter than I would hope- I’ve missed writing. I’ve been crunching numbers instead- I have finally been approved to take my licensing exam this spring. It is the last step in becoming a Professional Engineer, and I even hit the books while I was on the beach. It’s a goal I’ve had my eye for most of the last 8 years, and studying up has helped me appreciate how much I have actually learned across the spectrum of my career.

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Pacific, Pacifico, partial vapor pressure?

There have been a few adventures in the background, but major plans are on hold until after April. Stay tuned.

 

 

No-Vember

(This post is about activism. First and foremost, please vote on Tuesday- it is the most important and functional form of activism. I really don’t care how you vote, just make sure you do it.)

The crisp air smelled of sage and yellow like the larches that rolled past the windshield of the work truck. I had spent the day working with a new employee, and the 3 hours in the car together left ample time for a deeply meaningful conversation that spanned religion, environmentalism, social justice, and fatherhood. One more sign that we are not your average construction company.

Something worth standing for.

Something worth standing for.

I joked about a stop at the local brewery on our way home, and Sam* politely offered to join me, but that he didn’t drink. We didn’t stop. After years of alcoholism, he’s been sober for a year and loving it. He pointed out that alcohol in America is a tragically powerful, chronically unrecognized drug that our culture is disturbingly casual about. I couldn’t agree more.

Thursday I posted a link on Facebook about Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly acknowledging his sexual orientation- a move that I applaud and that supports our cultural evolution away from institutionalized bigotry. One line in his statement stood out in particular though – “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifices of others.” In the age of the “self-made millionaire” it’s unfortunately rare to hear one of the titans of business acknowledge the unknowable and invaluable contributions of others to their success. We all, even the titans, need each other. Secondly, he recognizes that we have a cultural aversion to activism.

The greatest blow our culture has suffered from the conservative movement is that activism has become a dirty word. That Mr. Cook’s statement has been heralded (even as I herald it) as admirable belies an assumption about speaking out. That making our most authentic and passionate desires known is an act of boldness, rather than an act of normalcy, is sad to me. We all have things that mean something to us. Our actions will always stand for something. In the pursuit of living fully, the greatest tragedy might be that we might let our lives slip away without being honest about what we stand for.

Sam’s commitment to sobriety reminded me of a commitment I made last year. No-booze No-vember. Some people prefer to celebrate “Movember” by growing mustaches, but I’ll re-up my commitment this year to stand for something a little bigger. I’m all for moderation. I also regularly enjoy good craft beer or locally produced wine. Alcohol warrants serious respect and taking a month off of drinking seems like a fitting way to check the casual cultural attitude that tends to prevail.

Join me. Or not, but think about what you stand for, and don’t be quiet about it. Our lives are too amazing not to stand for something.

*name changed out of respect for privacy.

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.

Want What You Have

I believe in sucking the marrow out of the bones of life. I believe dreams are meant to be chased with reckless abandon, and that one of the few true sins is settling for less than what we want. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about a quote from my mirror last summer:

"Before you can have more, accept what you have."

“Before you can have more, accept what you have.”

I was doing a lot of introspection, and am again now. Acceptance can be difficult for me because it feels passive. Lately the quote has become more about wanting what I have. I have some amazing things, even if they are not what I expected.

Marshall Mountain, safe skiing, dawn patrol.

Safe conditions were… fleeting. Taking the slow way to the office a few weeks ago.

We don’t have awesome skiing weather right now. Professionally, I’m taking hard knocks and waiting to see the labor pay off. A small romantic failure and a left foot that seems not to heal furrow my brow a little deeper. I could go on, but I won’t.

Skiing Mt Sentinel, Missoula, Montana

Ticking the list. Skiing over “the M” at sunset.

I’m prone to feeling unsatisfied with my life. The problem is common to people that like to maximize their day. For some reason it’s become socially acceptable to overlook the amazing bits of each day.

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Quiet nights honing the craft.

While I haven’t been outside so much, life is rich. Thanks to Paul, Mel, Tess, and Simon for being awesome training partners. For the New Leaders Council connecting me with my community in ever broader ways. For a landscape that offers unceasing beauty, for passionate friends, and authentic co-workers. For good food, meaningful work, and soulful music.

Untied Way, Susan Hay Patrick, New Leaders Council-Montana

The one and only Susan Hay Patrick with the 2014 New Leaders Council fellows.

For good friends that like to cook.

Montana, spring, friends

Thanksgiving dinner on the first day of spring weather.

I haven’t set many goals for the coming year. I’m wary of asking for too much more. I’ve got a lot of work to do on simply really wanting the amazing life I’ve already got.

“Love it, ’cause this is what we’re doing, so love it.” (Ryan Van Luit)

 

Red Rocks

Going someplace good.

Going someplace good.

Simon and I slid together down our ropes into the blackness. Light from my headlamp faltered as the batteries strained and drained, our eyes squinting for the glint of bolts. We had already voiced our shared our fears of rappeling in full dark, but it didn’t change the necessity of doing it. There was a peace in the abyss though. The night air was still. We were looking for bolted anchors on a clean and obvious route. My companions were the kind of friends that make any “extra” adventure seem like legitimately more fun, rather than something scary or annoying. We had topped out the Ginger Cracks route on Rainbow Mountain in Red Rocks, and despite the fading light, our stoke was bright.

Simon gets us off the deck.

Simon gets us off the deck.

Ginger Cracks is an old school Red Rocks classic 5.9 that took us just a little longer than expected. It was a perfect day that started with looking at the line of people waiting for their turn on “Crimson Chrysalis” and making a fast decision to do something else.

Simon is all smiles on top of the crux pitch.

All smiles on top of the crux pitch.

I would rate Ginger Cracks as one of my favorite 5.9s anywhere- long pitches of varied climbing with occasional runouts and awesome position. I still haven’t climbed the more popular classic next door, but I didn’t need to for a perfect day out.

Simon runs out the gear on pitch 6.

Simon runs out the gear on pitch 6.

Summit?

Summit?

Summit!

Summit!

I’ve never been one to shirk the season and head for the sun, but when Ky floated the idea over Thanksgiving, there was no way I was going to miss out. The union of old and new friends in the winter desert was a perfect idea, and I dare say- perfectly executed. Ky and Joe flew in from Bellingham and Boulder respectively and got a few pitches on Thursday afternoon.

A long journey, in a very short time.

A long journey, in a very short time.

Bacon and coffee. I must be on vacation.

Bacon and coffee. This is living.

Simon and I took off after work Thursday night in the Jetta and swapped shifts to keep the car moving- an all nighter under full moon in the desert didn’t feel like much effort. We made it in time for a full but slightly groggy day of climbing “Birdland,” a perfect warmup.

Splitter headwall pitch on Birdland. Thin.

Splitter headwall pitch on Birdland. Thin.

I would travel most anywhere to climb with Ky and Simon, and didn’t think much of it when Ky started pushing Red Rocks. I’ve been there before but with mixed success– despite it’s beauty the place hadn’t held my heart. This time was different. Meeting Ky and Joe, with Simon felt like a reunion of brothers. Perfect weather, a gorgeous landscape, and boisterous climbing set the backdrop for an unbelievably fun weekend. To some, driving so far for such a short time might not make sense- but it was a perfect chance to reconnect with the spirit of adventure that is commensurate with living fully.

The only limits are the ones in your own mind. Climbing with a steady head on Sheep Trail. John Bachar 5.10a.

The only limits are the ones in your own mind. Sparse gear and a steady head on Sheep Trail. John Bachar 5.10a. (Photo by Joe Stephenson)

My best friends have always been the people that inspire me to do the things I’m afraid of. To be more honest with myself and the world. They are people that I love and admire so much that giving my best doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, it’s simply the most obvious and essential course of action. They remind me how to serve others better, to dial my own needs in so I’ve got more left in the tank for others. It was a weekend with some of those people, and I never doubted it would be.

Summit stoke.

Summit stoke. (Photo: Joe S.)

Disproportionately, I find these friends through silent sports done in nature. Indeed it might be why I do them at all. This time, we got Red Rocks right and I look forward to the permanence of the memories.

Mine

After nearly two weeks of amazing sunshine in January, the weather gods dumped 18 beautiful inches of powder on western Montana this week. Somehow, it even managed to come in wet and heavy, and end dry and light (the preferred configuration to avoid avalanches). After a challenging week of work, I was eager to shred hard.

We go up....

We go up….

Saturday was busy at the G-Spot off Lolo Pass. We were one of the first in, and the last out. Despite our big group, we made 5 laps under bluebird skies. The powder was every bit as good as hoped. Maybe even better. It was the first time I should have legitimately considered a snorkel as part of my kit. Anna, Molly, Larry, and Paul- thank you, ’cause that was a damn good time.

Larry gets the hang of his new Legend XXLs...

Larry gets the hang of his new Legend XXLs… note the powder contrail.

I know I’ve got the right friends when Super Bowl Sunday makes us all think that the ski resort will probably be empty. The snow report pushed us to Lost Trail (4/4 on excellent days there this year), and after Simon missed out on Saturday, he was determined to get it all. With 7 people, our mixed abilities spread us across the mountain. Simon, Trevien and I enjoyed some of the best steep powder I’ve ever had the privilege of skiing. These men make me ski better, and I’m thankful for it. We all re-grouped after lunch for a full afternoon of playing in the trees and coasting packed powder groomers. All smiles, all day.

Despite the great ski turns, I was still turning work stuff over in my head. I don’t like taking work home with me, and don’t like some of what’s looming on my professional horizon (while some other things are very exciting). Interestingly enough, the things that have nothing to do with work have been the most calming. It’s fun to realize that my skiing as important to me as anything else that I do- not because I bask in the glory of being a great skier, but simply because it fills me with pure, authentic joy. Dreading my week, I look back on the things that have stood out over the years. The places I’ve been and people I’ve shared them with seem far stronger than the immediate concerns about sales numbers or workflow planning.

Skiing.

Working with Dustin at the Commons.

The Muldrow Glacier.

Castleton Tower.

Running on the Chicago lakefront.

Playing great music.

I don’t mean to slam work, but when things aren’t going well I usually end up feeling like the world is going to end. It won’t. These experiences remind me why my life outside of work is just as important as my life at my desk. They are mine, and reflect a life that I am proud of. They remind me how capable I am. Of how rich my life is. I’m not sure why that’s so hard for me to keep in perspective, but it’s a perspective I’m determined to keep fighting for.

Saturday's perspective was bright.

Saturday’s perspective was bright.