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Winter Break

Tomorrow, we are getting on a big jet plane to Patagonia. Stayed tuned for photos and details. Me being me though, if I’m taking 5 weeks off in the winter, it’s best to start this party with a little *powder*:

School

I admit- I smile when people ask me where I went to college. Northwestern University. The pedigree, the reputation, my ego swells. Ask me though, how I really felt about it and I’ll get smug and tell you I hated it. My professors came in two groups- conservative, arrogant, and unconcerned for the world, or perhaps liberal, arrogant, and willing to see me for the washed out music major wannabe that I was rather than who I would eventually become. I needed more hand holding than they were willing to offer, and I was too proud to get help or cheat like other struggling classmates.  I wasn’t smart enough to cut it there, and I still might not be. The raw math and fundamental concepts never came that easily to me. Instead of stepping up to the challenge, I cursed and complained. I graduated half out of spite, with bold aspirations to earn my living in the mountains, or some other way. To forget my pedigree, to forsake my intellectual inheritance.

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Showing Abigail and Michael around campus today though, I have a deep connection to this place. I’m proud of my time here, and the deep marks on my hide that remain from the struggle. Ask me now and I have an unbridled passion for engineering. The more technical, the better. Northwestern may have put the chip on my shoulder, but now I’m willing to consider that was exactly what it was supposed to do. I’m a better engineer because the experience was so damn harsh. This place has evolved too, and I see more of what I hoped it had evolved into. The friendships I built because of this place still stand- the wedding I’m in town for is proof. The projects I did then still feel cool, the lessons I learned still serve.

 

Maybe it’s time to bury the hatchet.

DP

“They found Alex. We should dawn patrol.”

Alex Lowe was a titan of climbing, and he was humble enough to insist that “the best climber in the world is the one having the most fun.” He has left a mark on literally every place I’ve ever climbed, and I’ve been lucky enough to learn a few things from people that knew and climbed with him. Any further association with me would be an ugly lie. Two amazing European climbers found his body with another partner last week after 16 years in Himalayan ice. Respect.

I’ve had a few recent adventures though with a new friend who also spent a lot of time in Bozeman- and in who I see the passion I imagine Mr. Lowe was talking about.

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Doing the work.

Devon and I headed to ski “The Fly” couloir on Lane Peak in Mt. Rainier National Park the first week of April.It didn’t freeze overnight, we watched an adjacent peak avalanche, and the next morning, called off our ski from half-way up due to funky snow and warm temps. I think we made the right call. A lightweight bivy, fun ski tour, and good conversation were more than a consolation prize.

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See you again soon.

This week, Devon mentioned getting one last ski tour before things (quickly) dry up. Mr. Lowe pioneered a style of “dawn patrolling” to meet his family and professional commitments while also satiating his thirst for adventure. Wake up obscenely early, combine a couple adventure sports, and be back at your desk at a reasonable hour. We picked a Thursday to ski and climb “The Tooth,” a short summit behind the Alpental Ski Resort.

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Some people will say that our style was less pure because we slept at the trailhead the night before. Whatever.

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Simul-climbing at first light.

What matters is that we got the goods and got to our desks by 10am.  The DP with Mr. DP was a real pleasure, and the first of what I hope will be many.

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Not bad for 715am on a Thursday morning.

 

 

To Share

A few days before Thanksgiving, I was walking to an appointment feeling stressed. Despite nearly doubling my salary from my last job to this one, I’ve still felt tight for money since I’ve been in Seattle. Walking past a group of homeless folks, I realized something interesting about my life:

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No matter where I have lived, how much I have made, or what I have done for work, I have always had enough to meet all of my really essential needs, and had enough to share with others.

My relationship to money has varied over time. Despite usually being better off than most of my friends, money has stressed me out for my entire adult life. Like many, I am quick to peg my self worth on my material worth. I awake easily in the night convinced that only a redoubled focus on thrift will afford me the means to address future uncertainty.

My observation though points to the fact that life, like a mountain lake, fills the container you put it in. When I made less, I lived differently, but life was no less full.

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I am extremely privileged in many ways. I am deeply thankful to have many friends who unquestioningly share their abundance with me. I am equally thankful for friends who show me how to live fully on far less than I have (and with whom I can share what I am able). There is much to be thankful for.

Fear less, do more, take responsibility for the choices you make along the way.

“All fear comes from trying to see the future.” (Wally Lamb)

Sage

I got out of the car, and the familiar smell of sage in the crisp Autumn night hit my nose. It’s the thing I remember most about climbing at one of my favorite places. As the rain settles into Seattle, it’s nice to have this last blast of sunlight and dry to brace against the winter.

Smith Rock, Oregon, central Oregon, climbing, Crooked River

No place like this place.

On Halloween weekend, Abigail and I tore out of work on Friday and made fast time to Smith Rock State Park. It’s been almost four years since my last trip to Smith. I’ve climbed a lot since then, and more experience makes me appreciate Smith even more. Even better, my good friend Pat (of many, many past Smith adventures), his girlfriend Caitlyn, my old roommate Paul and his girlfriend Genevieve joined us. It was a very good time in amazing weather.

belaying, dogs of climbing, Smith Rock

When it’s rainy in Seattle…

We warmed up on some regular favorites in the Shipwreck Gully, and Abigail got the full experience leading a properly run out, nubby Smith 5.9.

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Feeling the sharpness

Sunday was warm in the sun, but freezing in the wind. We headed to the Marsupials to avoid crowds and found some excellent lines in the sun. Easily, my climbing highlight was an on-site of Ryan’s Arete. After not really doing any challenging sport climbing all summer, this felt proud. As always, time with old friends was grounding and I’m excited to see Abigail discover this crazy sport for herself.

Koala Rock, Smith Rock, Central Oregon, Ryan's Arete

Ryan’s Arete, just after dispatching the first crux. Steep.

After a typically stellar dinner at the Terrebonne Depot, Pat and Caitlyn headed for Portland. Monday dawned crisp and clear – we climbed the ultra-classics at Morning Glory Wall and snuck in a run over Misery Ridge and around the Southern Tip before headed back to Seattle.

Smith delivers. It will not be another four years.

Weekending

(wrote this a few weeks ago and didn’t get to post it)

backcountry ski gear, trad climbing, climbing gear, shovel beacon probe,

The full kit. Going to Utah in 2015.

I was tired on Thursday night {two weeks ago}, but came home from a run and put dinner together. I didn’t want to do the dishes, but they were necessary before the next step. My brain hit autopilot- I dried the knives from dinner, and starting pulling food out of the cabinet. Packing is a special meditation on simplicity, adventure, and putting yourself in the position to have some silly fun outside.

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Packing food is the least fun and most effort. Montana backpacking with Dustin in 2012.

I spent the next hour, there, in the state when you are thinking, but not really thinking. Moving gear, food, clothing, remembering your headlamp, your toothbrush. Combing my brain for the thing I might forget.

From my bike tour in Colombia. I am thinking I have too much gear.

Headed to Colombia in 2011. I am thinking I have too much gear.

I still almost always forget something- the coffee filter in Squamish, my favorite spoon in Utah. I don’t even really mind, sometimes it’s more fun to do without. I realize that most of my co-workers don’t think about weekends the same way. I was out of town for 2 of 4 weekends in August, 3 of 4 weekends in September, and 3 of 4 weekends in October. I still don’t think I get out as much as a I would like. On Thursday nights though, packing, I’m already on the adventure.

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Organize by bins. Going to Las Vegas in 2014.

I’m in my happiest place, getting ready to go someplace. My ideal weekend doesn’t involve football, or recliners, or mowing the grass. It is about living out of my car, climbing, running, and skiing. Eating at dive bars and staring at campfires. Simpler, wilder, better.

dirtbag van, messy climbing gear

Having a van isn’t always a good thing. In the North Cascades with Andy in 2009

I don’t really care that I’m a driven 31 year old professional that aspires to live out of his car. That my passion for career and world-changing may never truly allow a full transition to vagabond also doesn’t matter. A tireless schedule of travel is about having more experiences with the things I already have. About good food, warm clothes, beautiful places. Friday nights are meant to be spent driving someplace cool with a partner and a car-full of gear. I hope I never loose track of that priority.

Laps

The best birthday present? Perfect weather in Squamish with this lady.

The best birthday present? Perfect weather in Squamish with this lady.

Thinking strictly back through this year-

The last day of year 30 (age 29), I spent with three good friends working on a new rock climbing route in a remote Montana canyon. After the party, I woke up to to spend a 13 hour shift cleaning furnaces and ventilation units.

I spent last fall in a cloud of stress and professional work that obscured my real gifts, and my real goals.

Just before Thanksgiving, I got earned my Certified Passive House Consultants certificate. The cloud lifted enough to glimpse the next evolution of my passion for buildings.

Ky, setting off for new things.

Ky, setting off for new things.

Over Christmas, I relished some time with my family, welcomed this rad lady into my life, and had the clarity to reach out to old friends about new opportunities.

Moving to Washington felt abrupt despite the nearly 3 months it took to execute. The desert was the place to begin again. My heart still hurts for the deep friends I could not spend enough time with before I left.

Sometimes the straight-forward things are still confusing.

Sometimes the straight-forward things are still confusing.

I started work, started running, and stopped worrying about the decisions I had made. I drank in sunny spring days in Seattle to fill myself with an old love for the Cascades.

It feels good to step up (photo by Ky Nayfield).

It feels good to step up (photo by Ky Nayfield).

I saw old friends, made new ones, and made another trip to the sacred Brooks Range. I thought I might push a little farther in my first ultra-marathon, only to find it was much, much more than I thought.

That seems like plenty of living in a year for me. While this transition may have been even bigger than the one I made in 2011, it feels more natural. On my birthday I woke up in Leavenworth, Washington to climb with Ky before heading back to an amazing dinner and dessert. Ky asked me: “so- what will make this coming year just as big as the past?”  It is a question that is worth the year it will take to answer it.

Tired boy, dirty car. Let's go for another lap around the sun?

Tired boy, dirty car. Let’s go for another lap around the sun?