I took a trip to the Towers and met Matthew Gauzy a week ago, and I insisted that we fit all of his possessions into my car, rig his bike to the backside, and drive west together to Ten Sleep. Matt is a swashbuckler in all of the right ways. He flew to Montreal from France with plans to ride a recumbent through the U.S. and South America—for TWO YEARS. In an utterly adorable French accent, Matt spoke of his mountain town, close to Chamonix. (Matt said many things in his adorable accent; most of our conversations went like this:
“What I am doing?”
To which, I responded, “Rock climbing!”
“Then I don’t like!”)
We drove into the canyon, eyes wide open in absolute reverence at the beautiful cliffs. They seemed never-ending. We made our campsite by the river and spent most of our days at the French Cattle Range. If I didn’t have a Vedauwoo date to keep, I could have stayed many weeks to climb the perfect crimps and endless mono pockets.
The rock in Ten Sleep was incredibly similar to that of Shelf Road. A few times I tried squeezing a second finger into a pocket and was delightfully surprised—others, quite the opposite before a big fall as Matt jumped up for a softer catch.
I stick by my original theory: you can’t climb 5.13 without trying 5.13. Even if you are going bolt to freaking bolt, you’re still making the moves and getting better by doing so. (Plus, if I keep hang dogging my way through 13s, then my chances of climbing 12s clean keep getting better and better!)
At Grasshopper Wall, we found Blue Light Special (5.13a/b) and Dances With Cows (5.13a). Matt was kind enough to not only do the dishes and make the morning coffee, but he also hung the draws on most of our climbs—a total gentleman! The start of Dances felt much like a dance, very finicky and sequence-y, with tiny holds and minimal feet. But when the feet appeared, you could just motor through sections. It was a real beauty.
Seth Webster found our campsite, having met and climbed with Matt previously at Mount Rushmore. A day or so later at World Domination wall, he told me I’m like the devil who sits on one shoulder and goads you into a bad idea as I goaded him into tying into the sharp end.
That’s how Seth led his first 10, Thor (5.10a), at World Domination. With Matt on belay, I ran over and grabbed Seth’s camera to snap some shots of him working through the diagonal crack. As I stared through the lens, I thought about some of my first outdoor leads. They now seem like a lifetime ago. A few years go by and it’s a suddenly a completely different lens you’re looking through.
At some point, for all climbers, you start to let how “hard” you climb define you. The accolades of climbing success can be great, but when I’m sixty and crushing 5.7, I’ll know my reasons for continuing to climb. Rock climbing should be about being alive, open, and attuned to what you’re feeling and experiencing, and the people you’re feeling and experiencing it with.
So, I continuously look at myself through a different lens. The people in my life are constantly being viewed through a different lens, too. It changes because of experience and time.
As for maintaining those relationships, knowing that everyone else is stretching their horizons as well kind of keeps us on sort of the same life path. I think about the people I love and leave all of the time. We’re likely to always have different latitudes and longitudes. Amanda and Brian and their four little Benoits are moving to Germany for three years. Dave Scaringe and his beautiful new baby girl, Mila, are holding it down in Brooklyn. Kendra is doing the east to west coast shuffle for work. Zack and Kenz are in the southeast are planning their first Squamish trip in a month. Ashley and Brett Affrunti just bought their first home in PA. Everybody is everywhere and following their own joys, and yet the threadlike connection remains weaved. The real beauty of friendship is allowing people to grow in all the ways they were meant to, even if it’s from a distance.
The hard part for me is always saying goodbye, and as Matt pedaled his recumbent down the old highway, I felt deeply content with our parting. Things at Devils Tower had not gone according to plan, but then happenstance stepped in and let me see the world through his lens for a little bit.
I ask that people sign the back of the table Zack built me. Matt wrote: “Grimpe chaques jours comme si c’etait le dernier and ne change rien…enjoy every day.” (Climb every day as if it were the last and change nothing.”)