I've read and heard studies on the growing popularity of ultra marathons and their enduro-ilk and they focused on the power of the mind to overcome evolutionary cues to cut our athletic outings short; concluding the sensation driving us home or to just stop running or biking is a baked-in safety feature to ensure our health and longevity. I notice a similar sensation in the outdoors when I start to see my shadow getting elongated by the gently setting sun if i'm not on a clear path back to the cozy comforts of modernity: tension creeps in, even when you’re prepared and have no reason to worry. During the evolution traverse last year, when Croft’s golden triangle was basking in the golden hour light, because we were still climbing on technical rock at such an hour even though we planned on bivying, I was still nervous.
Mr. McKee, getting the job done even when the wind is howling
More recently, Ian and I were on one of Yosemite’s walls, and it was a given we were sleeping on the shear face for two nights. Yet anxiety persisted with every piece of aid gear placed while Helios drove his chariot closer to the horizon, and the gloom stayed that way until we were cozily tucked in on the portaledge. It even happened while leisurely cruising Vermont’s Lake Champlain on a warm summer evening a couple weeks back, and it’s a tough nut to crack. I’ve come to call it long shadow anxiety [LSA]– and by shear determination it can be tamed, but it always seems to be lurking close by like the homework you’re procrastinating.
The office from above. That crane took 27 tractor trailers to mobilize...you can see 'em down there.
It can also be extended to the greater theme in life, that is how we mature: how 2013’s summer is already almost over, how you’re no longer the recent grad with the reunion invitation that just arrived in the PO box and how time in general only moves in one direction. We can only manipulate the perceived rate of its passing with our choices and directions…the shadow is going to grow whether we like it or not and it’s up to you whether or not you’re enjoying that growth.
"A little to the right."
Enough with the philosophy, what have I been doing since the last post three months ago? The first thing that comes to mind is the work-life balance [WLB]: By nature of my chosen living situation, the scales typically tip in the latter direction, but the last couple months bucked the trend. Two more two-week trips to America’s heartland to play with wind turbines meant long days in the field tinkering in our steel tubes and glass blades. When work is engaging, fun and rewarding, including progress and achieved objectives, I don’t mind exercising the WLB fulcrum and moving the pans around a bit.
Here comes mother nature
Like a cloud rip tide, scraping across the plains at a cool 40m/s
I would prefer our prototype locations to be in the Columbia River Gorge, or Maui, but Missouri served another crop of lemons with which to make delicious lemonade. As it turns out, Kansas City has a lot of charm – aside from its great people, it boasts almost as many fountains as Rome, is the charter release of Google’s fiber-to-home network, and has amazing barbecue. I experienced the meat sweats thanks to the irresistible and world-renowned BBQ, so yes, I can faithfully say I made a concerted effort to experience why
makes a short list for “places to eat before you die.”
I love food and I love eating and every once in a while, when the courses are that good, a little temporary discomfort is worth pleasing the palette.
"Ohhhh, the meat sweats...but it's so good."
Enjoying some of Missouri's smaller inhabitants
To quote Mr. Hebert, "Welcome to flavor country."
Since I was flying back into Salt Lake City and had an overwhelming urge to return to the Sierra, that meant a crossing of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Badwater is impressive for being salty and flat in the bottom of Death Valley, but Bonneville impresses with its shear size. Acres of flat, white salt…that is all.
Emerson is a gem
Boy those north facing chutes from the summit of Emerson look delicious
Back in the Sierra, I managed to scramble up a route that’s been on the list for a while: Emerson’s SE face did not disappoint, especially with so many options to gain the summit – I opted for a variation climbers right putting one on a ridge for a while instead of the face, and overall, rock quality was superb, setting gorgeous and route aesthetic: what more can you ask for?
Tahoe is magic...especially in the midst of a heat wave
Oh, and if you haven’t experienced swimming in Lake Tahoe in the middle of a Sierra heat wave, you should, as the water and views are magic. I enjoy paying extra for my vanity plate for Tahoe because it means a little extra funding goes towards keeping that water so pristine, and for making me smile and proud every time I lay my eyes on – or dip my entire body into it.
First step's a doozy
Then came time for something new: aid climbing. The selfless Ian gave a tutorial on the “beak, beak, cam move” along with how to haul something that weighs as much as you do and a few days later our backs were laden with heavy haul bags as we were bound for Washington Column’s
10 days after
. Going through a completely new experience like that leaves more to recount than I’m sure you care to read here, so I’ll summarize the most memorable parts:
“It’s blue collar” – This is something I was told after the fact, and it’s so fitting. There is a little finesse in the sport, but a lot of it is pure work: hauling, logistics, heavy rack, wag bags.
Trusting gear: You’re weighting pieces in some precarious places, and when in comes time to sleep, you’re putting a lot of faith in bolts – so much I was compelled to add the ASCA to my list of philanthropic outlets this year. I also took the largest whipper of my career, caught by a yellow master cam after gaining so much momentum that I broke the thing.
I can only think of one other time in my life where I’ve been as dehydrated as I was by the time we got back to the Merced River. I did what dogs do: jumped into the river with my mouth open and just drank immediately. I estimate I consumed in excess of 7L of fluid before I micturated again.
Unforgettable setting: you’re sleeping on a shear face of granite, waking up to no bears or tourists in the valley: you’re above it all
Buckle up, Ian, there is work to be done
The chosen route had incredible views of Half Dome, and also of Astroman – considered one of the finer multi-pitch routes in the Valley, and stout with its enduro corner and Harding Slot. It was with a whimper as we watched parties in the shade free climbing their way up the splitter cracks of the route shirtless and only laden with minimal cams while we grunted and hauled our way upward with all our gear. Bottom line: it was fun, and I’m indebted for the lessons learned and skills acquired. It has whetted my appetite for bigger walls and objectives, but I’m not in a rush to get back into the aiders anytime soon.
A happy birthday indeed, brought to you by the Sierra's immaculate granite
I got to celebrate another lap of the Sun with Mr. Conger as we attempted the sit-start to Lone Pine Peak’s north ridge. Yes, as I mentioned in a previous post, all it takes is an alpenglow glimpse at the ridges coming off that summit to make you long for an ascent, so we tried. We made it to the business end of the route, but since we decided to go ultra-light with no gear, a little run-in with exposure meant we were homeward bound earlier than expected. Oh well…next time. It was still wonderful to be back moving swiftly over immaculate rock with a good friend in one of my favorite places in this country. With cell reception throughout, I was peppered with birthday wishes from family and friends, and I’m brimming with appreciation for everyone’s thoughtfulness.
Did I say I love granite? Because I do. A lot.
Then came a quick trip to San Francisco to celebrate a visiting family member and the PhD’s of five individuals at Stanford. Yes, how often do you get to celebrate 7 doctorates at one party? Congratulations to all!
Boy that Nevahbe ridge is colorful
Back to the Sierra to complete a route that’s been on my list for a couple years: A lap of
. Link the Nevahbe Ridge with Mt. Morgan and Esha Peak and you have yourself a 4
class horseshoe of goodness with a dash of fifth class and enormous trundling. One block I kicked off the ridge created so large a dust cloud I thought someone would report it as a fire. Ooops. So much fun.
Will it go? Oh, it'll go, with a little trundling in for good fun
Then came the last work trip of the summer: Back to Missouri to finish what we started. Though the place isn’t known for its natural beauty, the storms that blew through the area provided some wonderful glimpses of how gorgeous weather can be. Now, the last thing you want to be near in an electrical storm is a tall conductor, so it’s a safety stand-down on site whenever lightning strikes within a radial threshold. In 11 days on location, 10 of them we were required to leave the turbine due to lightning. Not efficient for getting work done, but we managed and it sure made for some interesting pictures of the storm fronts as they came and went.
Boom! Non-sequitur ring flash selfy! Did you see that coming?
By the Hammer of Thor it got hot and humid in the plains before I left. Glad to be outta there til the fall...
What's a trip to the great plains without a little wheat and an encroaching storm cell?
So with this update getting wordy, I’ll part for now knowing that I’ll still be working on the LSA as the objectives pile up this year. I hope your summer has been fulfilling and if LSA strikes you, hopefully its because you’re doing something memorable…and have a story to tell later.
Gosh, sunsets are swell