I was content to sleep in the parking lot of a tire shop in New Paltz until morning when my car had broken down last spring. Then, a friend in the Gunks playfully yelled at me: “Grown-ups don’t sleep in their cars!” and convinced me to come have a glass of wine and sleep in a bed, instead.
The wine and company were both perfect, but what I took great notice of was the beautiful house I had walked into, nestled away in the quiet woods, a short jaunt to the Gunks cliffs. I had never seen a house quite so beautiful, equipped with extra bedrooms for dirtbags like me and even an outdoor shower. I immediately assumed that my friend must be rather successful in life. I rubbed his dog, Gustav’s belly, as I mused on this for a while.
What I came up with is that we will always measure our success differently, that’s for sure. The interesting part is that we measure it by our own standard.
There are lots of people who get their lives on track right away, and I’ve always been envious. Sometimes it’s hard for me because living in NY, I am constantly meeting professionals my age and all I can think about is how I feel like I have so much further to go. I wonder that it’s even possible some days. Unfortunately, I can’t live in parallel dimensions for too long without going too crazy. There are those who get to high places fast, but for others, well, it’s more of an experiential thing. If at any point in my life I had known what I wanted to get out of it, I don’t know that I would have ever found climbing.
Contrast is what defines us, that and experience. Need the dark and light. Sweet and bitter. And may your life be all the richer for it.
Spending a few weeks down south is………better than the in-between crunchy chocolate bits in an ice cream cake, waffles for breakfast, and Christmas combined. I’m pretty blissed out from following good weather and going to where the climbing is great, but the company is better. And I don’t even have to sleep in my car in Tennessee—Zack Slade so graciously has offered me a crash pad bed on his floor each visit.
(Also, it was Zack’s birthday this past trip. Can you believe he’s never had a birthday cake in his twenty-five years of life?! Be sure to give that man a big birthday high five if you see him.)
So what made this trip so ultra special? Casey Hyde arrived from Brooklyn and took me to Stone Fort. Despite summer temps, I was excited. I had heard that Tennessee bouldering is very “girl” friendly, and even though I typically don’t do much outdoor bouldering, I couldn’t wait to try. I’m not necessarily opposed to bouldering—I think climbing without a rope just scares me is all. (And you know how it really goes: the trad climber looks down on the sport climber, and the bolt clipper looks down on the boulderer, meanwhile, somewhere, the old school alpinist hard men are laughing at everybody from their shiver bivvy.)
Let me just mention that I am by no means a climbing snob—personally, I just really love the part where you go up! I have come to the conclusion that there is no single correct discipline of climbing. Having discovered sport climbing only a year or so ago, cranking on bolted routes has helped me develop strength and endurance I could never have done otherwise. I’ve found that the mental challenges of sport climbing are just as real as mental cruxes on gear. Both sport and trad climbing require good athleticism as well as technical climbing skills.
As for bouldering, I have always been terrified of falling with no rope and no gear (you mean only a spot and a pad below me?!) Bouldering can help build power, though, which (for me) translates to more success on long routes. Ultimately, `there is no “one or the other” or one better than the other because they all work in a system that supports each other in different ways. It’s all climbing and it’s all good.
Friends from Lynchburg, VA came through town after Stone Fort. We spent some time at both the Obed and Foster Falls. It’s only a short walk up to Lilly Bluff and the climbing was all in the shade. I’d been told that the hard part about climbing there is that if it gets even a little bit of rain, the rock holds all of the moisture in and everything will seep and seep and seep. The weather gods kept the sun shining on us all weekend and we saw no rain.
We played at the Left Bunker, which is basically a huge cave with big overhanging routes. Left Bunker has a consistent roof arch with several lines running up it. Elliot Gaunt, Lyndsey Kytle and I rotated turns on Eclipse (5.12d) which, towards the end of the route, trends the roof in a perfect crescent shape—it was just lovely.
Foster Falls was the gem of the entire trip. The Dirtbag Climbers made the drive from Atlanta, and if you weren’t climbing something, it’s because you were too busy laughing so hard.
I am always finding more reasons to fall in love with the south. This trip was exceptionally fun—I climbed a few things and made some new frends. Now back in NY, I’m trying to resettle back into every day city life, but I’m still daydreaming of that sandstone.
Things I thought while walking Shooter this morning: Keep speaking your mind and being honest with others and yourself. It keeps you on a good path. Keep taking life as it comes and let your desires bring you closer to the unknown—because it’s bound to be full of all of the things you love. Don’t be so afraid of missing out on what could have been and what you don’t have, and don’t be afraid of holding tighter what you do.
And Shooter walks faster than me because she has four legs.
Life is never going to stop being scary, but lately, I’m finding that I don’t really need much beyond whimsy and peace, laughter and love, friends and family. I’m not in a rush to grow up and hurry past all of my mistakes anymore, and instead, embracing the lessons if I can find them.
My successes in life are being measured by campfire dinners, summer swims in rivers, and in pitches climbed, miles driven, and cars slept in…in takes and falls and sends. I am successful because I am happy doing all of these things.
Photograph by Nick Lanphier
Maybe I am growing up.
But please don’t tell anybody.