Rock Climbing: What’s the Point?

Hey everyone! I just wanted to share the news that a personal experience article I wrote for Summit Adventure just went live on their site today, and I wanted to share the link with those of you who follow this blog (also with those who happen to stumble in here randomly now and then).

In “Rock Climbing: What’s the Point?”, I reflect on how the highs and lows of learning to rock-climb have helped me to better understand some of my own life experiences. Here’s a snippet preview:

…I live an hour away from Yosemite–home to some of the best climbing in the world. And, with the aid and friendship of an experienced coworker, I’m taking advantage of that convenience. I exercise throughout the week to prepare for day-long climbing trips on the weekend, or the half-day excursions that sometimes occur during the work week. My body is often tired, sore, and dotted with bruises, scrapes, and scabs. I started realizing that I fork out a lot of time and energy to yank myself up rocks.

And what’s the point?

Sure, I can value the sense of accomplishment in building up my strength to achieve a goal, specifically that glory-feeling in completion of a difficult route. The community factor of spending time with friends by sharing an adventurous activity is also a positive, less narcissistic value. But the more engaged and skilled one becomes in rock-climbing, the more easily it becomes consuming with the need for more gear, technique, commitment, energy. I could just as easily set my physical goals in something simpler and less consuming like running. And I could just as easily invite friends over for dinner to spend time with them.

So, again: what’s the point? Why go rock-climbing?

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here. I hope you are able to spend some time reading it…maybe even leave a comment? ;) Check it out!

To Venture; Sow Seeds

This might be an uphill battle.
Have you ever tried to build a fire in the wild, wild winter?
But if I don’t venture, I may lose myself.
More importantly —
If they don’t venture, they may never find themselves.

Can’t avoid the chilly hands of winter forever–shall we meet her then?
I’m nervous about the cold–never have slept on the ground before, nope.
Come, let us walk the road that goes ever on and on–so weary already?
I’m afraid of bears, she says.
But your eyes don’t seem to fear anything. What’s the real bear, then?

Fluctuating contours introduce her Are-we-there-yet’s and How-much-farther’s.
And he sure doesn’t give a spit about the type of Jerusalem we’re passing through.
Walking slow to prove it.
Maybe all of it really is just so many boring, boring, burned-out trees.
But I smudge my face with ash and carry on.

Hey, how hard could it be to establish a campsite?
Let me show you.
Traverse down a hill, discover a disappointing and slanted situation, then bear-crawl back up carrying the weight of your world in the pack strapped to your shoulders.
I wanna go back home now, he says.
My bad. I swear it looked decent from up top.
Story of my life, to be honest. (Wonder about yours)
Oh well, she cuts in like a cymbal’s laugh —
The same one who glanced shy at the ground when she told me her name means “beautiful girl.”

Moving slower than a mile an hour
Oh well
Forgot the menu of meal recipes
Oh well
Spilled the store of purified creek water with freezing hands
Oh well
The guys got their own tent toppled just in time for bedtime
Oh well

As for me, laid awake hearing coyotes in the blank night.
Silence too loud to sleep.
Sunrise met with a weak cup of coffee.
Oh well

Time to edge in a couple more miles.
From what I understand, the most nomadic he gets is walking to the 7 Eleven between his house and school.
But now two step with walking sticks to attend to the journey.
Destination: Footbridge.

Sun-warmed granite rocks, level ground above the banks of a rushing creek.
The view looking out towards the Valley.
Can we stay here?
The sunset glows pink and purple. I notice how he sinks into it.
You ever saw a spark ignite?

Speaking of which–
How about a fire tonight?
The smoke and crackle of gathered kindling now warming its crown of hearts.
And the same way a pinecone’s resin cracks open under the melting heat to release its seeds, their hands open.
See what we can do when Together, when Each Other.
You ever watch something grow before your eyes?

And now he’s smudged his face with ash like mine.
Topographic maps spread out with green.
Pointing to the path to El Capitan.
How far?
Nearly 6 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?

Has it been an hour yet?
Keeping a store of potential energy, granola bars unwrapped.
Summit, 5 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
Tell me your favorite places to go to in San Fran.
My turn to be the leader, she says.
Summit, 4 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
Retelling difficult stories to make this seem less difficult.
Summit, 3 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
5,000 feet of elevation gain.
Can I borrow some antibacterial for my tattoo?
Of course.
Hey, we need to find water.
Summit, 3 miles away.

What happens if we don’t make it?
The sun started sinking long ago. Cursing the winter solstice.
What happens if we really shouldn’t hike downhill in the dark? Did anyone bring a headlamp?
What happens if we don’t make it?
What happens if —

Back down 5,000 feet of elevation. Maybe next time, kids.

Maybe next time.
Will there be a next time?
Well, will there? And why not?
He shrugs.
But I see him eyeing the cliffs the next day in the gaze of We’ll meet again.

Perhaps nothing quite so inspiring as the road towards home.
A rise at dawn to set out in the sweet air.
Quick enough to the trail to leave a stove pan behind.
But I hear him say, I’m gonna miss the views, though.

Perhaps nothing quite so inspiring as the road towards home.
Not thirst or even the fear of heights can deter.
Climbing over fallen trees and Talus fields.
But I hear him say, I like climbing down these rocks, though, as we race each other down the hill of boulders.

And when I glance back, I see a faint glimmer of Jerusalem in his eyes.


I drive up the mountain smelling like suitcases and sandalwood
And lay my blankets on the bottom bunk in the middle bedroom.

He hands me a compass to map out the trail to Taft Point,
Unaware that I wish it could just point me to where I lost myself.

Feeling like myself, feeling like myself

In 30-degree weather.
Let’s tread the miles that surround us. 
The snow shimmering like diamonds under a triple-A battery beam.
The privilege to be wrapped in down feathers and cranberry fleece.
Dried strawberries with walnut halves,
A feast at the top of Dewey Point,
Where I saw something so massive

I began to remember my existence.

Photography: In the mountains, there you feel free

“In the mountains, there you feel free. I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.” –T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Last fall/winter semester, I went on some awesome backpacking and hiking adventures in Yosemite and the Ansel Adams Wilderness. I took a lot of pictures of trees and big rocks and stuff…but seriously, it’s so amazing that trees and big rocks and stuff can be so magical and full of life. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures I edited up–you can click on them for bigger sizes. :)