I am one hundred and sixty-nine days on the road now. Tomorrow will be one hundred and seventy days and I have yet to look back. I remember thinking to myself, one hundred and sixty-nine days ago, if less really is more, then that’s the life that I want. That is the life I am committing to.
I grew up in the suburbs, far away from “the great outdoors” and it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I discovered my first taste of wanderlust.
In my travels, I keep finding people whose life morals are parallel to my own. I meet more and more campaigners who believe in, promote, and live that lifestyle of “less”. The tiny house movement has been a monumental one. Sustainable, off-the-grid homes are being put up in rural areas all over the world. People live in mobile homes, vans, airstrip trailers, and old VW buses. I’m universes away from the NYC apartment living I was used to, that’s for sure.
The road to minimalism is paved with a certain freedom, for some people. It’s not just about decluttering our lives, but also about living authentically—being authentically you. And your weirdness is just one part; your weirdness makes you stronger.
I worry about being the weird one though. I worry about not having it all together, not having a game plan, and ultimately, not knowing what comes next. When I left New River in the spring, Connie said to me, “You’re just fine. Just own what is yours and don’t worry if some people have issues. We don’t have to be universally loved by all people. That’s our dog’s job.”
I sat underneath the approach pitches of the Naked Edge (5.11a/b) in Eldorado Canyon mulling over this. My partner for the day, Wyatt Paylon, racked up and flaked the rope, preparing for the run up of Touch ’N’ Go (5.8+).
Originally, Wyatt and I had talked about visiting the Black Canyon. He invited me to climb the Stoned Oven (5.11c) with him. He told me about the overall brutality of the climb: it’s a sustained route in Gunnison that is extremely hard to do this time of the year. It’s thirteen pitches, almost entirely in the sun, has loose rocks and complicated route finding.
Wyatt…he’s the real deal. A skilled climber on both rock and ice, he’s got balls like you wouldn’t believe. He’s what I like to describe to others as the kind of climber who walks the line between mere mortal and god. There was a part of me that knew that if there was something I physically could not pull off, he could.
I was feeling a little relieved because we decided to stick around and climb in Eldo, instead. Did Wyatt know that I’ve got like, half of his height and half of his balls? I didn’t think that I could measure up to his expectations and he would see me for what I really was: a phony.
Wyatt said he could lead all of the pitches, or I could lead all of them—however, I wanted to do it. I racked cams to my harness, one by one. Wyatt handed me the third pitch of 5.8, telling me that it wanders a little bit and can be hard to read. Route finding is still a weakness of mine. Cracks are easy; face climbs tend to get me in trouble. I didn’t have any trouble, and Wyatt soon joined me to the base of a right-leaning dihedral.
Wyatt cruised the next pitch and I followed, glancing at the old pin with a cautious eye. The pin can be backed up, but if it pulled, it would make for a spicy fall. The moves were full on, balls hard and I had Wyatt coaching me from his belay stance above.
With good crack climbing endurance, the fifth pitch flows beautifully as you hand and fist jam up the final crack. I took my time on this one, relishing every jam, the upward movement, and view below me. Intoxicated from a few hundred feet of air off the ground, I set up an anchor and yelled: “Belay on!”
Back at the car, Wyatt signed the back of my table. It includes a list of future climbs for us, and he wrote: “Let’s ride that wave all the way to the beach…”
Climbing the Edge with Wyatt was what I needed to sort of accept things, and it also gave me a chance to see that other people accept me, too. I’ve spent too much time worrying about being the weird one, the selfish one, the one who isn’t good enough. We sat by the rushing water after the long descent and had lunch, and I stopped mentally kicking myself for questioning myself so much and just quietly enjoyed the company.