There was a flurry of excitement shuffling from the airport to last minute packing before an impromptu Creek trip. I was reunited with my old roommate, Sean Feiertag, who made it in from the east coast. We’d chatted on the phone a few nights prior, when Sean had said how excited he was to come out west and experience his first climbing trip—and I was excited for him, too.
Sean has worked in film, mostly sport, for as long as I’ve known him. We lived together for two years in Brooklyn and even when we moved away, we remained close friends. He told me that there was a reason we stayed in touch all of these years. He admired the life I’d created for myself, and he asked me if I’d like to collaborate on a special project with him.
“If you put certain things out into the world, they come back to you. You are constantly surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do all of the time.”
Maybe it’s something I’ve taken for granted, but when he said that, I realized it was true. The more you that you follow your passions, the more that you find yourself surrounded by those who are equally as passionate.
Meeting Gašper Pintar was proof enough for me. Ryan Day Thomas and I had a good laugh on the phone yesterday when I told him about going to the Creek with this Slovenian kid who sent everything on my tick list.
Not only have I never met anybody his age with so much integrity and determination, I’ve never met a climber who learned so quickly. I remember when I began climbing and was at the gym. I would scrape my way up some boulder problem for a half an hour and then I’d plop myself on the mat and watch people climb as I waited for the feeling to return to my fingers. You can learn so much from merely observing, but you really start making progress when you watch with the intention to learn.
And so I furiously studied Gašper’s hand and footwork as he thrutched his way up Belly Full of Bad Berries (5.13a) at Critic’s Choice last weekend. Gašper sent Belly on his second attempt beautifully and perfectly, having corrected his mistakes from his previous onsight attempt. He said: “Fuck, is that only a 13a? It feels so much harder than 13a!”
Chalu Kim said the climb was like a prison sentence. Due to my height, I had trouble using the side wall to kick off of and had a really hard time getting to the ledge. It makes a difference for men with bigger hands who can fist through the first half. The entire 4 section was bad butterflies for me. It’s also much harder for smaller handed people because you wind up having to invert a lot sooner.
Saying that it was a struggle would be an understatement. It was a war, bloody and barbaric, and every couple of moves I could inch my feet was so painful that it made me want to scream. I eventually floundered to the top, finally listening to Gašper’s beta and committing my legs as far back into the crack as I could.
Two climbers walked past the wall and I heard one of them say: “Just looking at it makes me want to vomit.”
Well, there was no vomiting and only minimal blood.
Chalu told me that he thinks that the Creek is so magical because of the people. It was apropos that it was Thanksgiving and we were surrounded by like-minded folk. They all got it. They understood that the key to staying happy is to keep defining life by your own standards and being grateful for all of the people you share it with. Just being in a state of appreciation somehow opens the door for more people to walk through.
I think we often catch a spark of something in others that we see in ourselves or wish to see. It’s not always obvious, but the older I get, the easier I can recognize that spark. And sometimes, it ignites my own. The great Springsteen said it best: you cannot start a fire without a spark.