Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Maple Sings

Haggle & Lewis - Camp 5, Maple Canyon
Exhaustion steals thru my body like a criminal blatantly criss-crossing store to store in broad day light. As the small fire grows, the light of the day diminishes. This is the exact definition of dusk, I think to myself. Maple Canyon has a distinct echo. It plays tricks on you; each echo seems to be right next to wherever you are. The lengthening shadows of the night makes this trickery more tangible, more authentic. I light a cigarette & listen to the other campers & climbers settling in for the night. Either preparing dinner, readying themselves for a small party, or simply chatting, laughing. 
Right Fork - Maple Canyon
The one constant, regardless of the different on-goings of all the different individuals sharing this canyon tonight, we are glad for one thing: we are out, allocating time in Maple. Tonight is our fourth night, Haggle’s & mine. The lassitude of my body has made me sharp. My senses are tense & listening. Haggle walks about the camp in what seems a happy stupor: a zombie gorged on the flesh of exercise, nature, & climbing to one’s limit & beyond. We had traveled down here for a specific reason: to complete 24 pitches for Haggle’s 24th birthday, in a day. It is Monday, June 11th, 2012. Only about ½ hour ago we staggered back into camp, after 10 hours of straight climbing, w/ that specific reason now a realization. We did it. Haggle leading & onsighting all but 6 of the 24 routes. We are tired. Extremely content at accomplishing such a hard (for us) task. Niether of us hithertofore had ever done such a thing. Now we had. Yet that wasn’t the only summit point of gratification of the trip. Sitting around the fire, too tired for much conversation, it is hard not to ruminate, ponder. There is something about being fatigued that I believe brings out the philosopher in us all, & being a ponderer by nature anyway, it becomes doubly so for me. In my chair, I begin to doze off, yet I am so far away from anything resembling sleep…

FRIDAY 6/8/12

Maple Canyon, seen from the top of The Great Chasm, 5.7
We transitioned from the asphalt to the dirt road that winds up & thru the canyon. Two months of planning & waiting; we had arrived. Haggle reached over, patted my leg & then shot her hand over to the radio knob, turning it off & rolling down the window. ‘We’re home,’ she said w/ a giggle. Indeed, I was thinking the same thing. Pulling into a canyon, any canyon, has a sense of home, excitement. But Pulling into Maple, for whatever reason, for me, has always had a redoubled sense of ‘coming’ home. I have no reason for this feeling. Certainly I have spent far more time in others, but Maple Canyon… well, it’s home.

We quickly found our campsite, parked & exited the vehicle. The weather was warm, tepid really. Perfection seemed to be rearing its head at us in an exalted salutation. As we finished unpacking, our campsite fitting our ‘this is our home MO’ as of late, satisfyingly, we racked & packed our packs, intent on getting a few climbs in before the sun went down. Niether of us had climbed in the Pipeline. We warmed up on Poop Chute, an easy 5.10d & then, leaving the draws on the anchors, scooted left to Waterworks, an even easier 5.11a before our stomachs began to rumble & protest. Walking back to camp in the coming dusk, wondering who (for we had made plans w/ friends to meet up w/ us & share our site) would be the first to show up…

Lewis - Rappelling the 3rd pitch of The Great Chasm
…The stare & glare of the fire has me in a trance. Holds me fixed, if not fixated, on the last few hours & beyond; the entire trip seems to play before & in me in a crisp & clear footage. The sound track of the documentary audibly accosts me in snippets & arcs: Mark yelling up to me while reaching the end of the rope during rappel, while I stand there during our multi pitch, summit climb (first ever successful attempt together), 60 meters up tied into anchors, how the rope isn’t long enough, & he’s not sure what to do. Me, waiting for Haggle to finish the fourth to last rap of the day on The Red Dog Wall, saying we need to change plans & crags, lest we be eaten alive by the awakening mosquitoes. Lyle constantly prophesying how drunk &/or tipsy he is. All this is alive cleanly & clearly, pounding between my tired ears. A smile creeps on my face, one of which I am barely aware of. ‘What are you smiling at, Stinky?’ Haggle asks me. I sigh, flick my cigarette into the fire & say, nothing. Everything. What a great trip…


We awoke fresh. Brimming w/ excitement w/ caged-like energy, we quickly brewed coffee & waited for the others to wake up (The night previous, friends Lyle, Tami, &  strong climbers, Matt Garvin & Katie showed up – we were still waiting for my brother, Mark, & good friend, Pia to show).We slung our packs over our shoulders & made off, intending to warm up on the Engagement Alcove…

Lewis updating the 'pitch book'
As Haggle tiredly prepares dinner (too fatigued to prepare anything fancy tonight – a hearty steak & potatoes) I am writing, updating the ‘pitch book’. Memory serves me well & as I list which climbs we completed (giving no care to Onsights or Redpoints – altho I make a note of which ones, & who, redpoints & onsights what – the list is simply for Haggle & me, to record how many pitches completed in any style in the 2012 season). This trip has turned out to be a productive one. 38 routes in all. Saturday was filled w/ a relaxed nature. 
Pia - providing the comedy & music
No goals, no expectations, nothing but the fluid style of having fun, connecting w/ the canyon, friends, & ourselves.  We worked mostly the Pipeline, all 11’s & up. Fourth route of the day was Honey Bucket, 5.12a. After Matt Garvin led it beautifully (I graciously thank him for hanging the draws), his wife, Katie, gave it a strong go, using her own beta to complete the fun, intensive line; it was my turn to attempt a lead. W/ no thought of Project 31 in mind, as far off into my mind’s horizon as it had been in a long time, I tied in, saying, let’s see if I can struggle up this thing. Matt turned to me & said w/ a crooked smile, ‘you’ll flash it, man.’ I laughed. Never before have I been able to flash a .12. The climbing was fluid; move after short move (Katie’s beta seemed to make more sense to me. I tried w/out thinking, to mimic her style), higher & higher, & before I knew it, I was clipping the anchors. It didn’t really occur to me that I had just Flashed a 5.12 until Haggle lowered me to the deck, & was thus, one climb closer to accomplishing my 31 goal. No euphoric feeling flooded my existence, as it did when I Redpointed The Blight. I contribute this to the fact that my entire being was already steeped like strong tea in euphoria. Being w/ Haggle on her birthday, being in Maple, & doing what a whole lot of us forget all too often: climbing to climb. Too often do we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the End, usually blanketed in trite ethical rules, (which in my mind usually has nothing to do w/ the actual meaning & word, ‘Ethical’), forgetting & pushing aside the Means.

Mark - 2nd belay station, The Great Chasm
As I put down my book & throw one of our last remaining logs onto the fire, I realize that myself, & all those that I climb w/, share something: Altho goals are important – they create drive, strengthen Wills – they are not The Purpose. We are not ‘Summiteers’, but rather, ‘Mountaineers’ (Flashing Honey Bucket, to be sure, was great, but pales in comparison to what Mark, my brother, said to me after an ordeal we had on Sunday during the descent of a 5.8 multi-pitch route. ‘Thanks for keeping me safe’.). The Experience itself shines in our lives as a great, & soulful beacon. & I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Haggle is slipping into the tent for a good night’s rest. She has earned it. She deserves it. I stand up & scrape at the fire w/ a small shovel. I am excited to lay down next to her; joining her in the Elysian fields of dreams. As I cover the last of the smoldering ashes, I catch myself thinking of tomorrow. The packing up, the returning to ‘normal’ life, but I arrest my introspective ruminations of the inevitable. For what good is NOW if you worry only about tomorrow? & it hits me: I can only practice & live in the Zenetopia if I am connected to it every single moment. Address it for what it is, now, not later, & keep myself liberated from the chains that are linked together by ‘human intellectuality’. I let it go & walk slowly to the tent. Taking in all the smells, all the noises, that seem to be much sharper then they were just an hour ago.

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