climbing Tag

It’s funny, how people are wired differently.

I walked into my local coffee shop, and the barista greeted me with “So, where are you going to next? It’s about that time for you to be off again, isn’t it?”

…I think you know you’re wired for a life of adventure when even the guy who makes your coffee sees it.

Which, in a really roundabout way, reminded me that I never got around to writing about the Mt Blanc adventure… and while I will get around to a proper recap one of these days, this will have to tie you over. :)

I will say there’s nothing quite like it – especially the final day: waking up at an un-Godly hour, still half-asleep, eating the most expensive bread for breakfast, walking out into the pitch dark, freezing morning, and seeing the zig-zagging trail of headlamps that resembled ants on an ant-hill, leading the way to the summit. So quiet. So beautiful.

While I think we all struggled with mental battles of our own, we trudged on. It was a repetitious one foot in front of the other. Steady breathing.

It’s interesting, before I left, a friend told me a quote by Sir Edmund Hillary (of Everest fame) – “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” And as cheesy as it sounds, I suppose it’s actually quite befitting.

We weren’t setting out to break a record or be the fastest (I actually have no idea what our final time was) or climb it to achieve some level-up in adventure status. It was always about our personal desire to achieve something, and by reaching the summit, we conquered our goal, saw the months of early-morning runs and hours spent training pay off. We proved to ourselves it was possible and had an amazing adventure along the way.

And that’s exactly what I love about adventure. We aren’t pros or Alpine legends – we’re real people embracing the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and do something kind of epic.

  

Yosemite is one of those places that somehow gets more beautiful every time you turn a corner. It’s like the light hits the rock at the perfect angle to make it seem as if it’s actually glowing, and then I turn around and there’s a giant waterfall with a rainbow forming in the mist. And when I think it can’t get anymore unreal, I drive on these windy roads through trees with the most perfect sun rays beaming through them until we get to an open snow-covered field with some bizarre cloud just floating there, 30 meters off the ground. And I look up and see El Capitan towering so high above us in all her glory. It’s actually breathtaking.

We ended up in Yosemite kind of as the result of a passing comment after watching one of those timelapse videos of Yosemite on youtube. It was one of those “We should totally go to Yosemite when you come!” kind of moments, turned into “Wait, why don’t we go to Yosemite when you come?”.

Eleven hour drive? Totally doable…so we made it happen.

We, in this case, references myself and my Northern Irish friend, Annie. Annie and I initially bonded in Belfast over our mutual love for huskies and affinity for climbing. I think it’s fair to say we pretty much bring out the kid in each other (in a ‘let’s eat s’mores for breakfast because we can‘ kind of way). So, having her spend a few weeks exploring Arizona – on her first trip to America – was pretty exciting, to say the least. After hitting up some local stuff, naturally, we embarked on a bit of a Southwest roadtrip… hence our kicking it off in Yosemite. Because Yosemite is beautiful.

As a bonus, Yosemite is pretty much a climbing mecca.

Just, maybe not in the winter.

The thing we discovered about climbing in the winter – aside from frozen fingers – is that ‘distinct climbers trails’ are actually more like ‘obscure paths further obscured by inches of snow’. Nonetheless, we had decided we wanted to climb some sport routes on the base of El Capitan, weren’t so deterred by the invisible trails, and just started heading up to the base via our own route. We had a few scary run ins with slippery boulders and falling trees (!), but managed to find the routes eventually…although we couldn’t climb due to ice and snow melt soaking the rock. Major bummer!

The view was totally worth it, though!

We ended up climbing a crack at Swan Slab near our campsite (the legendary Camp 4!) and felt a little less saddened after our hand/knee/foot/face jams got us to the top. (Note-to-self: work on crack climbing.)

There was also a nice surprise halfway through my rappel back down. The conversation went something like this:

Annie: “*Gasp* HURRY UP!”
Me: “…what?!”
Annie: “Eeeee! Go faster! Hurry up!”
Me: “WHAT? What did you -”
Annie: “There’s a DEER behind you!!!”

Clearly, our enthusiasm and priorities were in the right place!

Anyway, one thing I can say for sure: we are coming back for you, Yosemite!

Enjoy the following few photos from a recent adventure, accompanied by a few random semi-cohesive thoughts from the road!

1. Fear of failure is the darkest of captivities. I think that failure is only failure when you let it win. Sometimes not achieving your goal on the first try is actually a really great thing – it teaches you to look at the problem differently, to persevere and try harder, and gives you something to work towards. Zion defeated us with its epic climbs, to say the least, but I don’t feel like I failed – I just feel like now I have a really epic goal to work towards. Take a risk, put yourself in situations you think you’ll ‘fail’ – you’ll learn a ton in process!

2. “An integral part of adventure is planning to change plans.” Wise words from Mr. Carmichael here. Don’t be afraid of spontaneity, but embrace the moment and adapt as you go! Figure out what it is you’re excited about, and do it. Don’t feel guilty for changing plans to accommodate that – be bold enough to follow your passions, even on a small-scale.

3.Patience is a pretty great thing. Kind of a random thought, I suppose. We spent the night camping in Oak Creek Canyon, just outside of Sedona, where we saw some of the most gorgeous stars ever. I’d always wanted to take star trail photos, but never had the patience. Always bailed before I got the full effect or got bored and tried something new. This time, I decided to be patient. I set up the shot and waited – I journalled by the fire, read in the hammock, made some tea… For 24 minutes. And it worked. Patience allowed me to see achieve something I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

  

3. Rest is important. Adventure is awesome, but sometimes it’s important to stop and reflect and think and just take in the beauty of what’s around you. Float down a twisty red-walled canyon in kayak and do nothing but stare up at the bright blue sky. Take a nap on the side of a cliff. Chill in a hammock in a beautiful tree and write something. Don’t miss the now, but don’t be afraid to take some time to dream and be excited about what is and is to come!

4. Food tastes better in epic locations. Pasta + chili looking at this view in Zion? Amazing. (Also, any time is a good time for tea!)

5. Adventure wins.
A bit of a mini-story for this one: After kicking off the trip with a couple of siesta and taco-filled days on the beach in Mexico, we decided to head back home early to get a head start on our Northwardly adventure plan. Desert roads tend to not be the smoothest at all times, so I didn’t think anything of the bumpyness during our nighttime trek, until out of nowhere the car drops and sparks are flying. Steven awakens just in time to see the wheel, atop the bank, racing us down the highway.

So there we were, on the side of the road before the tiny desert town of Ajo, standing beneath the brightest full moon you’ve ever seen, where our wheel became inexplicably unattached to the car, and this local Sheriff stops to help us. And somehow we end up watching climbing and adventure videos on the Sheriff’s iPhone while the tow-truck guy struggled to load our now three-wheeled vehicle onto the truck.

So bizarre.

Adventure wins because of moments like these. Because it comes in so many different and unexpected forms. It wins because it leads us to encounter the bizarre and unimaginable scenarios that make the greatest of stories. It wins because it puts us in the most beautiful of places to prove that the world is most definitely not lacking in beauty or diversity. It wins because it forces us to push ourselves to jump into the unknown and accomplish what we’d only previously imagined.

Adventure wins because it is a life inspired by seeking after experiences bigger and better than the norm. Who wouldn’t want that?

I’ve always loved the Scottish highlands. The hills are an incredible shade of green and the sky usually dons an impressive display, almost as if it is in a constant battle with itself over whether to shine brightly with sun or poor with rain, resulting in continuously dramatic cloudscapes.

So I was pretty excited to head off with a group of friends and fellow adventurers to climb the Isle of Skye’s notorious ‘In Pinn’ earlier this month.

The trek to reach the pinnacle was incredible, and the view seemed to get more spectacular with every turn, almost as if we were in the deep reaches of the Peruvian mountains or some otherworldly place. When we finally reached the peak, looking over the ridge revealed an incredible mountain-scape, where we could literally see clouds rolling over the peaks and into the valley below – easily one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen!

And of course, the climb to the top of the pinnacle itself was pretty epic, and revealed the best view of all. Here are a few photos of some of the climbing action that went down!