Sunday, March 23, 2014


Lewis, Haggle & The Boys on The Desert Rat's maiden voyage to Ibex
I awake from a dream, unsure of the time. It is still dark outside; cold, I am hesitant to relieve myself from the embrace of the blankets trapping the body heat from Messner, Haggle, and myself. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember that we are in IBEX, Utah, camped in a ‘new’ (1983) conversion van we purchased that we have dubbed ‘The Desert Rat’. The slight wind rocks the Rat back and forth in timed undulations. I feel drugged.

Ibex on an eery night
Drudging up the courage, I slip out the covers, let the dogs out, and step outside. Bathed in a sheet of stars I stand there, taking in the fa├žade of an alien world comprised of other-worldly rock formations & spires. We are in the middle of nowhere, with no signs of human life.

We are alone this night. As I stand here, tranced & chilled, my dream begins to slither back into my psyche, making all that I’m taking in seem even more unreal. For a second I cannot be sure if I am awake or still asleep – in this moment, there seems to be no difference between the two.

Lewis leading an unknown route in Ibex
In the dream I am wearing a harness on which quick draws are clipped and dangling. I am in a sterile desert: a white, spotless stage that stretches beyond the capability of my vision. I remember being hot – sweating with desire. There is nothing to see. White space with a white horizon – it is bright so I shade my eyes and look forward and backward. Desperately, I want to climb. Climb anything and I say so in a muted fashion: I want to climb.

I finger the draws and they clatter in a deafening sing-song-sing, as, from somewhere, a stale, whispering wind answers: you are climbing…

…The report of Messner’s bark, one of our dogs, shocks me out of a daze. I call to him, hearing my voice reverberate off the massive cliff walls and return to me; it feels as if I just yelled during a church service and I immediately feel embarrassed and guilty, despite being the only one around. As quietly as I can, I slide the side door of the Rat open and the dogs jump in. I follow, closing the door. Slipping back into bed next to haggle, my head now against a pillow, I begin to doze off; I do not fall asleep, but fall somewhere between the obscure – that line between waking and sleeping…

…I look down and I am no longer wearing a harness. My clothes are changing - disappearing and reappearing every few seconds. A suit and tie now. A work shirt, no shirt, shorts, pants, sandals, shoes – they do not flicker on and off but rather, bleed in and out slowly. I have a beard now. And now, I am as smooth as an infant. My comprehension cannot keep up with the pace of change and I become wildly frantic. Wildly discombobulated and anxious. All my possessions come & go. & so it seems, with them, my passions and desires as well.

I take a deep breath, calm myself down, and allow it to happen. In a second, I become a thousand different version of me yet they are all the same in one way or another.

In my slumbered stupor something occurs to me: everything we have in this world is on loan to us. We own nothing. Our loved ones, our possessions, our health, strengths, dreams, will eventually go away; it is all a fleeting cup of coffee. This does not mean I should not enjoy and/or cherish what I have. I should & I do. I live a fortunate life – one filled with great love and great passion. But with this comes a responsibility to learn to let go. To form a non-attachment to those things which I love.

Ewe Betch Ewe, 5.12a - Route follows the shallow crack/seam on the right
In that moment, I let go of the reason for this trip (at least the reason that has formed in my mind).
Almost a year ago to the day, we had come to this exact spot, and I tried EWE BETCH EWE, 5.12a. I had failed miserably. A year later, stronger and more driven than ever, I was going to send the line.  As I lay here thinking about all this, I give up and into the idea that it doesn’t matter whether I send or not. We are here, in this beautiful dreamscape with the ones I love the most. It was time to have fun once and for all and to experience what come what may.

With the decision made, a heaviness lifted off my breast, and I slid into a dreamless sleep…because I AM climbing…

(Author’s note & Description):

Lewis nearing the chains for his successful send of Ewe Betch Ewe 5.12a
EWE BETCH you, more than any other route I have been on, has 3 or 4 boulder problems in a row separated by an immensely secure no-hands rest. If begun from the direct start, it certainly has one 12a move to a short section of juggy 5.9, where if you don’t feel secure you can place a #2 cam between the 1st and 2nd bolt, but it is hardly necessary. From there you move through a boulder problem of v2/3 involving a  core-tightening Gaston, get a quick shake and enter another strengthy insecure v3 move to gain a slopey top out involving a mantel to where you find yourself run out, gunning for the no hands rest. It is here that I attempted to compose myself, trying to control my breathing for 3 or 4 minutes. I wanted to send. No way in hell I was going to do the bottom section again, it was either this, or I pack up and go home. Send send send, was all that I was thinking as I craned my neck to see the last section of the route, and from my memory, realized it was probably the hardest section on the entire line. Ready, calmed, breathing steadily, yet still thinking of the send, I launched into it: a undercling match, a cross over with the left to a sharp little edge and right hand up to what appeared to be a good side pull. It wasn’t. Panic set it. I tried to pull off the side pull, but could feel myself slipping. ‘Fuck!’ I desperately grunted. I was slipping. In my mind, I had already come off, now I was just waiting for time to catch up to the inevitable. But, I managed to reverse my movements, my feet getting placed exactly in the order in which they had come up, but this time, down. I re-reached the good rest ledge.

My breathing was frantic like a horse’s. My skin was hot and sticky with sweat, my feet ached. ‘Dammit!’ I said under my breath. I could vaguely hear my brother, who was belaying, saying something like, ‘calm down, you got this. You can do it.’ But I had just done the moves. No, I couldn’t do it. Shit, just take and lower, let someone else climb. It sounded like a good idea, and I was about to succumb to the desire. Then the previous night’s cognition dawned on me. Let it go. Who cares? If I was going to fail, well, hell, why not fail having fun? Do the moves for the moves’ sake. Fluid. Somewhere along the line, I gave up on the send, Forgot about the desire to finish the climb; I just wanted to climb, and that was what I was doing. With a clear mind bereft of insight of success, I launched back into the final crux: undercling match, cross over left to sharp, small edge, right hand up to terrible side-pull, and this time, scare-the-pants-off-you high feet, off and to the right. I was slipping, but still feeling strong. Sure I was going to peel off, I resigned myself to the fall, so went for it anyway. What I went to was nothing. I slapped left then right then middle, still nothing except slopey mind-fuck-you goodness. With no other options, I shifted my weight down low, and made a series of traverse movements out left……. I was clipping the chains. Smiling. Clipping the chains… with the newly formed non-attachment to the climb, I ended up sending it on my first attempt… Somehow, in some way, those routes you send that you have learned to let go of come in a sweet euphoric dream. They are the best sends of all: The least expected ones.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

IN THE BEGINNING (are you smiling?)

It is seemingly universal across the board that once someone starts climbing, the psyche sets in immediately, & with all the media coverage of all the ‘young guns’ sending harder and harder rigs almost every month, being witness to a 12 year old warming up on your project in the gym, the desire to climb at/and up  your personal best wells up violently. We all want to climb hard, whatever that means; The definition of that various from individual to individual. From 5.10 to 5.14 and beyond, when broken down (regardless of what you hear via the interweb chatter and personalities) doesn’t matter one bit.
Lewis still having fun on lowly 'Mr. Slopey Washcloth' 5.8, Ophir Canyon
Simply stated, what is hard for one person is easy for another and visa versa. What matters is what YOU think. What matters is how you feel after clipping the chains on a route(s). When you are being lowered, are you smiling? Are you at peace? This, and only this, is what you should strive for.

Over the course of the next few months, as a matter of practicing & habitualizing my writing, I will be posting writings that are specific to my daily thinking. Training ideas, thoughts, mental practice on how to become a better person and climber; how to find the zenetopia that, in my belief, is inherently present in all of us.

Lewis after sending one of his projects at Choss Cave, 'Not the Warm Up', 5.12b
I am not a training guru; I have no background in physiology, or sports medicine, and my approach to training is hardly scientific. In-fact, my approach borders more on the spiritual side of mind, body, and soul. All I have are my experiences, & perhaps to some, I hold a great deal of naivety because of this. But it seems to work for me. I will never be sponsored. I will never be on the cover of some climbing rag, and perhaps, all my accomplishments can be read as ‘easy’ to others. Who cares? I can say one thing for sure:  that since my release from a rather strict and serious rehab (subsequent to 12 years of heavy heavy drug and alcohol use) I have progressed leaps and bounds, both physically and mentally. And because of my approach (I, like everyone else, slip. More than I would like to admit I will find myself frustrated, disgusted, at odds with the way I am internally over my inability to send a route), I am always smiling after clipping the chains to a route I climbed well and in accordance to my own personal ethics & style.

Get out there and climb! But never forget to smile after clipping the chains… even on a 5.7.