Index Provides


Coming over the North Fork Skykomish the arms of the bridge form a gate and between those lintel posts, granite walls come tumbling out of the hillside and a glow blooms forth in my chest, not unlike that from a swig of gin. We pull over beside the quarried blocks that form a curb between 5th Street and Doolittle Park and get out to stretch our legs in the morning sun, fill our water jugs from a spigot signed “City of Index Water – Not Potable,” and use a bathroom with neither mirror nor soap. On the walls we can see this year’s projects still scrubbed and shining and behind us Index and Persis rise like a painted backdrop to the glory of the day; et en arcadia, there are cities hanging in the air.

So after weeks of TR soloing the line and sitting around the wagonwheel drinking beer and talking about the temps, Brian is finally leading his summer project, this viciously hard stem box with really difficult pro and Per, who is on about four different drugs at this point, two of which are powerful hallucinogens, is belaying him. Brian gets to the crux and places a piece, and then another about six inches up in another crack. He then goes to get another about a foot above there but the nuts won’t slot right so when he yanks on the biner to test them they just rocket out and he gets thrown all off balance and he finally tosses the whole set over his shoulder in disgust and blasts on up the dihedral. He’s making these small sort of dead-points with his feet and bracing off his palms as he gets higher and higher above his pro, and then there’s a jug, like honestly a little in-cut hold about two hands wide and deep as your second knuckle, and just as he goes for it his feet get overextended and he falls, ripping one of the pieces and letting loose a tremendous cheer from the crowd, mostly drunk, who came over here from the campground to see just such a thing.

Brian admits freely that the climb is beyond him, as it is beyond most of us, the mythic .11b, but the quality of the thing, that’s what strikes him. He’s a peerless aesthete, the rare climber that can begin to see the stone before the grade and appreciate them separately. I don’t think he was looking for a techy 5.11 tick; it really seemed like he was falling off the thing for the fun of it.

Way up past the part of the Inner Walls that people actually frequent, Ryan was whipping all over this 5.10a offwidth. Ryan’s strong but for all our road-tripping we’re North Cascades climbers at heart and offwidths are a bit of a mystery to us. We know the theory, we’ve seen all the WideBoyz and Pamela Pack videos, and we have the gear, there’s just not a lot of width here to work with. We’re using Chandler’s old-ass rope that’s all oval shaped and nearly coreshot in half a dozen places and this ledge we’re on, we got to it by hauling ourselves, hand over hand, up these mystery-ropes that were attached to the anchor at the base of the route. After he finally makes it over this roof and up the mossy goodness above he anchors off a tree and lowers and we take turns top-roping it.

With my limited knowledge of offwidth technique and even more limited fitness, I can’t get more than about 12 feet up the thing but Chandler does and when he finally makes it he’s more than a little pissed because Ryan apparently just clipped some preexistent mank around this tree and so we’ve been top-roping all this time on these scraps of god knows how old cord and webbing. I suspect it was a “devil you know” kind of situation.

It’s a sunny spring morning and we’re all hanging out at the mid wall, upwards of a dozen of us, but the rock is still quite damp so there’s not a lot we can productively climb. Kuba carried a case of beer all the way up the upper town wall trail so we’re drinking that, and Van has at least a six pack of Rolling Rock and someone, maybe Hannah, brought a fifth of whiskey. All we carried down were empties. I start up this awesome looking 5.10- finger crack and it’s just barely dry enough for me to climb the thing, I’m sewing it up and thrashing and just generally getting scared and then I finally reach the hand crack and it’s running with water, like there’s no joke a small stream inside it, but that’s the wonder of hand jams, I bore down and made it to an intermediate anchor after which the climb got completely choked with pine needles. Ryan ended up finished it up and rigged it to top rope a different neighboring climb.

About four months after I got lowered off the end of a rope and fractured a couple vertebrae I’m up kind of by the Cheeks with Danny to do my first lead since the Big Accident. I don’t own a piton hammer yet so we can’t do Golden Arch and he says we should just do the Incision instead because its only one pitch. This was apparently his first nail-up so why shouldn’t it be mine. The start of the thing is this nasty little scramble that apparently goes free at about 5.9, but part way up you can get gear in an expanding flake. When he does it he free climbs up about 15 feet and then steps straight onto a cam hook, which I, who have dislocated an ankle doing less sketchy nonsense than that, think is just quite simply a poor idea. When I get there I pound a lost arrow, my first ever, and then nervous about standing on it pound another above while still standing on a ledge. I step up onto the higher of the two and about halfway into pounding a third the one I’m on rotates downward 45 degrees. My voice goes up an octave or two and I clip my aider through the one I’ve just pounded quick like. By the time I get to the top of the route I can barely swing the hammer; I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier to clip a set of chains.

Tulin says she has to pee. Had she been a dude she could have just peed standing there. Had she been a dude I would have told her to hold it for another hour while I finished the pitch. My inner chauvinist really shines through at times like these. The real problem is that I’m not sure I can finish the pitch. I’m hanging on this kind of ok green alien and the crack ahead is just nothing but shallow, flaring, awfulness. I’m pretty sure this is also her first lead belay. She’s got a grigri, but still, I don’t want to whip onto my daisy on this cam. It’s not far back to another good piece but the ground isn’t that far away either. I’m a good 15 pieces up but the damn thing traverses farther than it ascends. She’s getting impatient. If she’s going to suffer like this she wants to at least see some movement, some sign of hope, and I’ve been standing there for probably 20 minutes, fiddling with one cam after another. Most of them rip with a determined tug, the others with a couple stomps in the aider. “This, my dear, is why we bounce test,” I tell her. I get weird on aid leads sometimes. I sung a Steeleye Span song to myself most of the way up Green Drag-on, all in Scots English, likely getting one out of every three words correct. I sung that Walk The Moon song from the radio most of the way up Golden Arch: “She said shut up and dance with me!” It was kind of appropriate come to think of it. When Danny was trying to talk me into leading the Incision he had his phone playing spotify and in succession it produced The Decemberists, The Mountain Goats, and then Vesuvius by Sufjan Stevens. It was a sign, I was just sure of it.

The day I met the Index pot fairy I was sitting in my van, wasting away the afternoon heat, getting weirded out by David Foster Wallace, and this bro in a silver chevy pickup pulls up and jumps out, leaving his motor running, and asks me if I have a lighter. I do, as it turns out, but as he informs me, he would gladly have used my two-burner Coleman stove. He proceeds to light the most loaded pipe I have ever seen, toking deeply and then offering it to me. We pass it back and forth a couple times until I turn it down, afraid that I’m getting uncomfortably stoned for how early in the day it is. He then jumps back in his truck, drives another 30 feet down the parking lot, and repeats the entire procedure, this time concluding the transaction by trading a sizable quantity of pot for a lighter. Another time this dude from Boeing that hangs out sometimes plops down at the wagon wheel table and gets out this little black bag that looks not unlike Vincent Vega’s heroin kit from Pulp Fiction, except that what he’s into is this unscheduled Canadian research drug that he bought off the internet. He offers some to any who will take it and couple of us decide to try it out. I’ve just had lunch so it takes awhile to set in, meanwhile Derek, who hasn’t eaten since breakfast, is tripping balls. He’s staggering around the parking lot, crying, laughing, blabbering on about all the shit he’s seeing, eventually it hit the rest of us too but not like it hit him. That was one of the drugs Per was on when he caught Brian’s whipper.

So Per climbed this route and called it Dyke Fight. There might have been a dike feature on the thing. Apparently there was a lesbian couple having very public relationship drama in the parking lot when they got back. There was a facebook group where we all posted our granite porn and climbing partner requests and did the lost and found gear dance, he wrote something about it on there.

Someone took offense and someone took offense at the offense and the whole thing spiraled into this snowball of hatred and condescension and willful ignorance. There’s a tradition in climbing, you climb a route and you get to name it whatever you want. Brad Driscoll Outnumbered His Guests But A Good Time Was Had By All. A Strange Boar, A Mysteries of Frenchwomen, A Ship Called Blackrock, And A Catch. Brad Driscoll Outnumbered His Guests But A Good Time Was Had By All (II). There’s this other tradition where there’s only guys are around so you call it something bro-y and crass. Cunning Stunt. Who Put The Purr In My Pussy. Dr. Sniff And The Tuna Boaters. We were all taught as kids to express our true selves and not worry about what other people thought of us. The rhetoric was formulated for puritanical old conservatives. It was supposed to make us all sex-positive and socially progressive. People taking offense used to be upset about interracial marriage and public nudity and non-closeted homosexuality, but now those people have grown skins as thick as crocodiles or moved to compounds in Idaho and the whole thing has turned on its head. It’s like maybe wild, fuck-you, liberalism took the revolution as far as it could but now what we need again is some respect, some rules and some reverence.

There was a comment about how we were all rushing to the defense of everything good and right and bromative in the world. It was a great line but it pissed me off more than anything else said. This was right when I was coming to grips with the fact that I’m not the straightest dude around and I was like, fuck you, you don’t know us, just because we don’t agree with you right now doesn’t mean that we’re the pillars of hetero-normativity.

Toward the end of it all Laurel said something like, it’s kind of a bummer to have seen you guys out there so many times and now to know what you think of us, and it kind of drew me up short because here was someone that I did know, by face and name at least, and that I had been looking up to since I first started rock climbing, and she probably thought I was a piece of shit, but I told myself then, I see her all over the place, I’ll have a chance to explain and apologize, to make it right.

A long time before most of these little anecdotes I’m embellishing we were just finishing up our day in The Country, climbing some sport routes and all, and it was getting dark, and down the trail came Per and Rich and some kid Rich picked up at the gym. He was probably in his late teens and Ryan and I both, separately, thought he bore a weird resemblance to Loras Tyrell. So Per decided he wanted to run a lap on Spooner, on which we still had a top rope set up. So he ran his lap and it was fully dark by this time and he was quite drunk and he decided he wants to lead it. Being that it’s bolted this wasn’t really a problem. This was the first time I met Per and I’m not happy to admit it but he kind of bugged the shit out of me. I’ve since amended my opinion, since while I’m still largely an ill-tempered, judgmental, asshole, I have chilled out a little in the intervening years.

So Per fell on the opening campus moves maybe five or six times before he pulled through, and we all had our flashlights pointed at the route, and Michal was yelling some truly exacting beta, taking him step by step through this climb but he still fell somewhere around the third or fourth bolt. I was all set to leave then, and quite cold in my ridiculous vintage lycra tights, but he just lowered and pulled the rope and tried again, I can’t remember how many times, until like nine or ten at night when he got the send.

Fucking townies, man, even their dogs look clean. They’re got this weight, this pillowy, fleshy, sagginess, you can tell the second they step out of their cars that they couldn’t climb a rock to escape the second flood.

One of the first times I spent a couple days at what would become the wagon wheel I wandered by one of the larger sites and saw two chubby teenagers fighting each other with nunchuks. This was bizarre enough but somewhat more harmless than, say, the creepers with the sheet-ringed encampments or the car trunks full of saws and rope. At Lookout Point they sometimes wander past trying to find the trail to the flag pole. One dude in an oversized Slayer tank top wanted us, and probably more importantly his girlfriend, to know that he was only lost because some asshole had given him the wrong directions.

It’s somewhere in there, the dark underbelly that becomes the whole. We come to define ourselves through opposition, intoxicated on our own viciousness. If there is an answer, somewhere in our joy, I often cannot find it. Places like this function as a magnifier, whatever our gifts or sins here they are amplified into unreal proportions: the sublime and the terrible in equal and opposing measure.

When I saw that the sky was lightening and realized that I wasn’t going to sleep that night I half sat up and traced my fingertip over the tattoo on her forearm. At her sleeping face on my pillow I could only softly laugh: the quiet wonderment, Vonnegut’s inverted mirth. I laughed because the only other choice was to cry.

I had built this bed rather emphatically for one person, I now realized, and these blankets I brought, also only enough for one. If I had believed this night to be within the realm of possibility, as I had claimed that I did (shouted it as my own aure entuluva with a smoking axe), wouldn’t I have constructed my home differently? The strength of the despair with which I am occasionally visited astounds me. A small wall-rack’s worth of pitons laid out and ready and I once stayed in bed all day, afraid and hating my fear and ashamed of the impotence of my hatred. My hope is a quiet thing, I built my van for one but I never sold those pins.

And then a day came upon me like a wave rising high above the valley and I trembled as I stood at its crest, all my fears met not quite with bravery, but with some Nietzschean overcoming, as of the child to the lion. I laughed and said yes and she asked me why I was laughing. Kneeling in the sand on the floor of her tent I couldn’t answer except to say that I was laughing at my life.

Shaking knees and gobied hands and barely driven beaks, beer in the river and bare limbs in the gun club – this is it, people, the living bread, the word made flesh. This is all we need. Index provides, yo!


This will probably be my last update on this blog for awhile. Over the last few months I’ve ran through almost a year of accumulated projects, most of which I had some vague ambitions of getting published somewhere real but either got turned down or decided against it. On the off chance that any publishers are reading this and liking it, take note – the spirit is willing but the body is weak. I am a coward but not a disinterested one.


The Edge of Stupid

Photo by Ryan Hoover

Photo by Ryan Hoover

Often I do not understand the fineness of the distinction that we claim exists between courage and stupidity. I sit on a boulder in the moraine and look up at the couloir that we came here to climb and I don’t know if it is cowardice or some sounder judgment but my mind is set on retreat. The tension makes me humorless but if it didn’t I would be laughing at myself, tortured over the small unknown of what lies beyond that col when in earlier years, before illness and injury, I would have risked so much more.

I have considered the thoughtlessness of what we did by remaining roped together on the slopes above the second serac band. I did not consider it then and I doubt Ryan did either. I danced my crampons around that line for a thousand feet and looking down between my boots I could see it winding across the sculpted neve and arcing down over sun cups and ice runnels. It was thoughtless but we were quick and did not halt until we reached a high shoulder and the sun and we knew the summit was only a short hike away. We did not talk about it then, nor later, when I did slip and slide some distance and puncture a lung, but that was after we were off the glacier and the rope was in my pack. It was some time after that that he said something about trust: he said that if I had fallen then, high on the mountain, I would have killed him, but he knew I wouldn’t fall. This is both true and not. We did trust each other. Our faith was not blind but built on many days on many mountains, but the rationalization was a later development. I did not consider, as the slope steepened and turned icy, that he could fall and take me with him nor that I believed he would not, I did not think at all.

Soloing an easy pitch or high above my gear, I didn’t use to think. I used to wear socks with my climbing shoes and single layer tape gloves and climb sandstone patina with an interior texture of granulated sugar. I could have spun into that horrible weightlessness with a slip, a tear, a break. All the trust, all the faith, it couldn’t have been in my own weak and fallible body. I just didn’t think about it.

I have remembered Bonatti, alone on the Petit Dru, prusiking a rope thrown up to jam between blocks beyond his sight, and thought of what insane desperation he must have had to trust such a measure, although I read this long before I had any idea what such actions meant. Even earlier I read about Twight and Radcliffe on Reality Bath and I have considered at length how one would go about committing to such a thing. They had to have thought about this. Bonatti and Twight at first turned back, Bonatti twice. This would indicate cognition, some sort of arithmetic of risk and fate, to retreat yesterday but go today. Maybe they could see through the confusing jumble of anxious calculation and make decisions in full awareness of what stood to be gained and lost and if so it seems probable that this was a part, if not the entire, of what made them look like God’s elect. This is possible but I also wonder if they were like me only stronger and bolder and smarter. I wonder if, while the seracs crumbled and the rope grew taut, all they were doing was trying not to think, trying to stand there, right at the edge, and feel their way through their lives, face first.

I have remarked before that it has a post hoc character to it, this line of our judgment, but I am now closer to believing that our decisions are impulsive and our reasons absurd. I might risk my life out of a desire that a three hour hike not be wasted, or because a song I liked came on the radio, or because if I stopped moving I would get cold. As we talk on the moraine the summit clouds over and then clears again. A trickle of debris rumbles down a nearby buttress. My doubt fatigues me. I am tired of this fight before the fight, this pre-battle that leaves me nauseous and shaking, but I worry that there is something tragic in the denial of thought, some deep Cartesian loss such as that suffered in opiate addiction and alcoholism. I am scared to stop thinking, to lose myself, to hover overhead as Twight described, lost in the climb.

The Problem With Spray Queens

In her article “Confessions of a Spray Queen” Georgie Abel took apart a number of the criticisms aimed at sponsored female climbers whose sponsorships are, or are perceived to be, earned by their social media presence rather than by their climbing accomplishments. Much of what she said was true, but in her haste to fight what she identified as male establishment elitism (the existence of which I am in no way disputing), she neglected some deeper problems, namely, what exactly it means to deserve sponsorship and how this deservingness is gendered by the climbing industry.

Sponsorship is support elite climbers need, historically from national and regional governments but now largely from gear manufacturers, to sustain themselves. At the upper levels it amounts to limitless free gear and a traveling stipend, and at the lower levels it can mean as little as heavy discounts on a given company’s merchandise. There are two ways to look at this exchange. The first is the way that Abel does, that companies pay climbers with gear (and at the higher levels cash) for what would otherwise be free advertising, meaning that the climbers agree to post photos of themselves wearing/using the gear on social media, something they would likely do anyway, in exchange for their climbing costs being subsidized. This view hinges on whether one thinks that climbing is meaningful and important, and if it is, then some climbers are pushing it forward and others are not and those that are are worthy of support and those who are not aren’t and the idea that any of this would correlate with social media presence seems somewhere between, to quote a friend, “vulgar and grotesque.” This is the second view of the sponsor-sponsored exchange and with it one can begin to say things like “Alex Puccio is an important climber and Sierra Blair Coyle isn’t and it’s an absolute travesty that the former has trouble finding the funds to attend international competitions while the latter makes a living being pretty and blond and occasionally getting photographed on/near a rock.” Somewhere also rooted in this view is the conviction that the way climbing (the practice, the pastime, the passion) is starting to circle around the climbing industry (the making of stuff to sell to climbers) is a very, very bad thing.

Abel claims that the sponsorship of “spray queens” does not affect anyone but those receiving the sponsorship. This is patently illogical. If a given company has X dollars to spend on marketing via sponsorship and they choose to spend it on a spray queen then they, by definition, won’t be spending that same money on someone else. In my personal experience, it’s the opposite of the spray queens, the quiet crushers, who tend to put up the quality routes, send the lines, and win the comps, i.e. all the things that improve climbing and make it a fun thing to be a part of.

Following this line of reasoning, Abel’s last point is weirdly true. She writes that “This is about elitism. This is the idea that some climbers are more valid than others. This is an attempt at keeping the hierarchy of cool people in place. This is the notion that some people don’t deserve to have their stories told, listened to, or celebrated.” While not having much to do with “coolness” per se, some people are, in fact, more deserving than others. Some climbers are doing innovative, courageous, futuristic ascents and those climbers deserve to be celebrated, others aren’t and don’t. There is nothing wrong with being excited about a personal best, but there is something wrong with thinking that that achievement, however personally meaningful, is worthy of monetary compensation by virtue of how well it helps a corporate entity make a profit.

As a final caveat, I’d like to acknowledge that while the Spray Queen phenomenon is gendered, men are not actually less likely to be unworthy of the attention they are receiving, they are just more likely to have tricked the public into thinking that they are an important climber. While any thinking person can tell that someone like Sierra Blair Coyle is not an important climber and that her social media following is due entirely to her persona and conventional attractiveness, there are plenty of male climbers who, upon reflection, are no less egregious spray queens. The only distinction is that they tend to vigorously talk up their achievements instead of wearing booty shorts. I distinctly remember the moment when I looked up and realized that I couldn’t think of a single truly important climb that Cedar Wright had done, and yet he is one of the most prominent and recognizable climbers in the country.

The same can be said for the half-dozen male American sport climbers currently pushing the 14d/15a barrier (which, we should remember, is almost a full number grade beneath the actual cutting edge of the sport). I now kind-of cringe when I see a news bulletin that so-and-so has pulled off the 4th or 6th or 20th repeat of such-and-such famous sport climb. These achievements are cool for the people doing them, but that isn’t why they are being so widely reported. The climbing industry has learned that how you sell gear is by giving it to pretty women and strong men and then taking good photos of the women and spraying about how strong the men are. What this suggests is that the problem with spray queens is not spray queens per se, but rather the market forces that create them and merchants who exploit them.

Wire Brush Ethics and Sexual Paraphernalia


Although it produced one of the best moderate bouldering areas in Washington, the creation of the Lucid Boulders was attended by great debauchery, vulgarity, and sloth. You see these young bros at the crag, all shiny and unbent as their ultralight mastercams and trucker hats, this was not us. Or rather, it was not them, as I took only casual and occasional part in what I am about to relate. Now, the first of these boulders lies directly along the trail to Spring Mountain, so I gather Ryan took notice of it years ago, and it had this left-angling seam with a distinctive cleaned-sometime-in-the-last-decade look about it. This means that it wasn’t covered by a curtain of moss three inches thick that would peal off like the world’s soggiest, most arthropod-ridden, shag carpet. When the moss doesn’t peal off like that, by the way, scraping only cuts it into a small forest of muddy stems and all the brushing in the world only spreads the muck into a thin coat over the normally pale stone. So this crack, I think they later determined that it had been cleaned and sent by Danny Coltrane, ended up being something like V2. Beyond the Coltrane Crack, though the woods, a small garden of boulders emerged. Highball w/ The Devil, Kuba Slab, Lumberjizz, 5.9 A2, Even Zachias Found His Glory; after they ran though the usual gamut of blues-rock songs, weed references, and truly awful puns, the route names began to get personal: Van’s Tiny Penis, Michal’s Wizard Sleeve, Chandler’s Girlfriend Loves Bukkake, Ryan’s Anal Beads. When I complained that some of these names were getting a little misogynistic and named a problem Chemical Castration, they dubbed the one next to it, Jacob Smith’s Feminist Buttplug.

These were the days, clogging wire brushes with mud, sliding off crash pads into damp duff, the roar of Michal’s leaf-blower and the misguided ratcheting of their winch (trying to dislodge a small boulder mucking up a landing, I believe that they bent a bolt hanger before giving up). The nights were another matter entirely. Half these guys have some manner of drinking problem and without the looming specter of an alpine start, they indulged themselves. They would start with beer around midmorning and then by noon whiskey or some similarly proofed liquor would have emerged. By the end of the evening, too inebriated to set up tents, they would lay out their half-dozen, variously muddied, crash pads and sleep at odd, unbro-ish angles to each other. One dude, whose name I don’t believe I ever caught, tried to drive away after one of these nights but soon returned to collapse a few feet short of this communal mattress, in, and unlike most of what is being written here, the unexaggerated truth, a puddle of his own vomit.


Most evening also featured some sort of impromptu boulder sesh, where those who had been favoring alcohol stood back and pointed headlamps haphazardly at whatever problem those who had been favoring weed opted to try. The beta spray was usually just short of incoherent and the rocks were slick with dew and slug slime and the LED beams caught great clouds of chalk and pollen and cocaine. We were overgrown children in an underground boxing club, beating our knuckles bloody because we were bored with perfection. We were all employed, in some form or another, and each of us had a safety net we couldn’t have slipped through if we tried. We were sick, some more virulently than others, with the neuroses of privilege. I wonder though, at the damage boys like us can do. No one was ever hurt badly but ankles were twisted and shoulders tweaked and we became lost wandering drunk through the woods to pass out on the forest floor and wake with little idea of which way the road ran.

Of the boulders themselves I am more reticent to speak. It was not a slip of the pen that I wrote of Lucid being created rather than found. Routes are not uncovered, preexistent or determined, they are manufactured. The Lucid Boulders were made, formed from the raw materials of the world, or some such enacted myth. Those rocks as they were, as they had fallen from the cliffs and been absorbed into the forest, were not fit for our use until we cleaned them. This “cleaning,” this floral cleansing, meant the killing of everything that would prevent our ascent without worry or concern. I love those routes and the process of creating them but I also love the boulders as they were left by the forest. I feel their ancient worth and my hand flinches as I uproot a sword fern or peal back a moss curtain thick as sod. I wonder if in my own way I am no different from the quarryman or the logger who look at a patch of wilderness and say, “what use can I put this to?” If I wonder at our motivations I have little doubt as to the final effect. The forest is already taking back the swaths we cut. Our footprints fill in behind us, slow as the river cutting its bed.

I have not been back to Lucid in years and I don’t know if it has seen more than two or three visits since those weekends in 2014. Whatever colonial urges brought us there now lead us to farther corners of our conquered land. At these other cliffs I see teenagers armed with crag packs and the MP app, students of engineering and nursing and biochemistry, the next generation in fact, although to say it still feels unbelievably odd. I wonder if they suffer from the same emotional destitution as we do or if that age has passed and to them the world seems to contain just the correct amount of struggle. They come to the same crags and mountains but it looks like recreation, like something to pass the time on their way to their full and vibrant lives. Doubtlessly they see us, muddy and drunk and restless, and wonder, not without reason, what exactly our problem is.

Dave Pegg, the Life of Width, and the Salvation of Climbing


It’s a clever turn of phrase, saying that a man lived a wide life instead of a long life. It has a kind of punning simplicity to it. It’s a little trite, but then so is everything else we say when climbers die. It’s a hell of a lot better than “they died doing what they loved,” or “it’s the way they would have wanted to have gone.” Yet Dave Pegg’s death is different because it doesn’t really have anything to do with climbing and so to memorialize him in this way has begun to seem perverse, especially when the line got picked up by BDTV and turned into a marketing slogan. I would not be in the least bit surprised to read an ad in six months that goes “Live a wide life, buy the new Ultra-light Camelots!” I would be infuriated, but not surprised.

As I am 25 and have never lived outside Washington, I didn’t know Dave Pegg. I’d heard the name, and probably could have told you that he was a Colorado climber, but that’s where my knowledge of him ended. This means that I have no real insight into the personal struggles that led to his death. I imagine friends of his have more insight, and his wife most of all, but they have, for the most part, been silent. Bisharat described a man brought low by depression and insomnia, which is a story anyone well versed in suicidal ideation will recognize. I can’t speak to how accurate this picture is for him, but I can speak about suicide more generally.

I have been of a suicidal frame of mind, off and on, since I was sixteen. It was quite intense for my junior and senior years of high school, and then faded a bit through college, and then emerged again strongly over the last year and a half. People have told me I have depression, others that Satan is trying to get destroy me. Frankly, I’m more inclined to believe that my true father sits high on Thangorodrim, defying Morgoth and watching my doom unfold as his punishment.

With this in mind, I don’t quite know what to think when I see Dave Pegg memorialized as a fallen climber, as if he had died the way climbers often do, in some tragic accident. He did not live a wide life instead of a long life. He did not prioritize experience over longevity. This is how one could describe many climbers, Alex Lowe, Jean-Christophe LaFaille, Dean Potter, Jerzy Kukuzcka, but not Dave Pegg. If Alex Honnold or Marc-Andre LeClerc or Colin Haley died tomorrow that’s what I would say, some sort of “bright stars burn shorter” or “price of the risk-filled life” nonsense, but Dave Pegg developed sport routes; baring some incredibly stupid rope management accident, he could have been sending hard into his 70s. What Bisharat is offering, and what the climbing community is picking up, is a platitude. It makes us feel better as long as we don’t think too much about it. We accept it so that we don’t have to deal with much harsher truths, like the fact that climbing can’t save us from the inherent problems of the modern condition that have led to the epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide in our society.

Industrial life is killing us and we run to the hills for salvation, following John Muir’s voice crying out from the wilderness to go to the mountains and receive their glad tidings, but for many of us it isn’t enough. Climbing distracts us from the meaninglessness and triviality of our lives but too often leaves us with no less meaningless death and injury. I don’t know where Dave Pegg’s story fits into all of this any more than I know where my own does, but I do know that smothering ourselves in self-congratulatory market-ready hype will only hasten our demise.

Vanlife vs. Homelessness


Under the fourth street overpass in Seattle there are half a dozen tents, older two-pole dome tents pitched on the sidewalk just off the main walkway. Occasionally someone has spread out a bed role as well, a pile of blankets in a dimly human shape. I see these as I run by on the way to my therapy appointment. The people who live in them, and I can’t really tell who lives in them and who just hangs around, look uniformly haggard. They wear baggy clothes, jeans, cotton sweatshirts, all of it dun colored. Their faces are lined but not gently like those of your grandparents, they look like those photos you see of peasants from Central Asia, like the kind of people character actors play. A black man in an enormous translucent yellow poncho asked me for a cigarette as I was leaving a bar, I had turned onto the sidewalk and he was behind me, maybe 40 feet, I looked over my shoulder but didn’t stop walking, said nothing. A native woman asked me for a dollar to get a cup of coffee, I had no cash and told her so.

When I applied for food stamps the interviewer asked where I lived and I told him that I was technically homeless. I felt I had to qualify it. I lived in a van, houseless, I had a mailing address but I didn’t live there. I felt odd even applying, like I didn’t really need their help, and to claim the same status as the people who lived in those tents, it felt dishonest. I have a car and they don’t. I have a full time job and several bins of climbing gear at a friend’s house and a laptop computer and seven pairs of shoes. I have a gym membership and three or four couches I can crash on if I need to. I don’t know what they have, much less I suppose. I have a college degree and thirteen thousand dollars in student debt, the payments of which I have gotten deferred by demonstrating financial hardship, this was before I got my current job, the same time, actually, that I was applying for food stamps. I can’t tell whether I’m slipping through the cracks of our society or floating on the margins. Whether I am living in some weird loophole or helping to forge a new path entirely.

I have until the tenth of this month to report the change in my projected income to the food stamp people. The wage I make will soon be Seattle minimum wage and with it and forty hours a week and no dependents and no bills I don’t qualify for a thing. When I was in the waiting room at the CSO place it was worse than the DMV. There was a little Latino kid, maybe four years old, who was rolling around on the floor crying for going on two hours and every now and again he would get up and try to sprint out the door and his mom had to chase him down. The whole thing was like a building-sized, beige-colored, birth control ad with uncomfortable seating. If they had been distributing condoms on the way out I would have taken a hand-full and put one on right away, just to be sure.

If someone offers you a bag of groceries or a place to sleep or a college education or a job, you take it. You don’t ask them why they are offering it to you, whether you deserve it, how it’s going to be paid for, in what sort of injustices you are making yourself complicit, you just say thank you and try to make the most of it. I am not sure about the ethics of this. My therapist said that we needed to begin by getting on the same page philosophically, and then explained how I had rights and I could not be blamed for pursuing my rights before worrying about other people’s. He meant that I shouldn’t feel bad about taking care of myself and going after what I want and I spent the hour arguing with him about social justice. I said that there is no such thing as an innocent other, that we are all interconnected, that whatever is mine is so my virtue of not being someone else’s. I have what I have because outdoor retailers pay enormous sums of money for high quality large format printed graphics; they do this because their production costs are low and their income is directly proportional to the effectiveness of their marketing, which implies that no one, in actuality, needs their products. That is the difference between me and those people who live in tents. I have done nothing but take what was offered, and what was offered to me and what was offered to them was wildly different. If I choose to live in a van on the side of the street a few blocks from where they camp each night, I do this because of frugality and other neuroses, not because I have no where else to go. Voluntary poverty is much more about the voluntary than the poverty.

One of my climbing partners grew up in Arlington and got a job at Boeing right out of high school. He has worked there ever since. His dad works there too. We did a trip a couple years ago with some high school friends of his who had also started working at Boeing right out of high school. Around the campfire at night I jokingly asked them if that was what you did when you were from Arlington, you got out of high school and then worked at Boeing. They said pretty much, that or the army; or heroin, one of them added after a pause. We all laughed but it was the kind of humor that isn’t really untrue. My friend, he has a house and I keep my climbing gear in his garage and I sleep on his couch often. It seems, sometimes, as if I’m regressing in class. My dad is white collar, a salesman, formerly a photographer, his dad owned an ad agency. I have a four year degree, which my dad doesn’t but my grandfather does, but I’ve worked nothing but blue collar jobs and there’s not much sign of that changing. All my friends work manual labor: construction, manufacturing, grocery store produce; not one of us is incapable of something different, what our parents would call something better. We seem ambivalent on the question of wealth. We’d all like it, but none of us have any real faith in our ability to grasp it. We all dream of some mythic someday when we’ll be comfortable. For one guy it’s rental properties, for another it’s an exotic pet breeding company, or glass blowing, or the music recording industry; for me it’s a book deal, royalties, advances, film rights.

For years I’ve been telling my parents that the normal life was never the plan. I didn’t want a job and a church and a hobby. The banal life, I was sure I could find something better. Now I wonder about giving up. I think about an apartment, a roommate, budgeted expendable income. I’ve spent the last ten years waiting for greatness to strike, to wake up one morning and be ushered into glory. I had this belief, all through my childhood and youth, that I was being prepared for something great, that I was going to change the world, that I could not help but be extraordinary. I am sure there are many older people who would laugh and tell me that the fading of this conviction, the resignation to where I find myself, is called growing up; I’m not so sure. When I was eighteen there was a very real chance that I was going to end up as one of those people living in tents under the freeway. I’m not entirely proud of the distance from that fate that I’ve achieved and I wonder if it’s been a process more of loss, of dropping little bits of myself as I go, than of growth; like I’m trying to live on locusts and honey and I keep being offered Burger King and more and more this industrially processed murder meat looks tasty; but I don’t know, I’m no voice in the wilderness.



This piece was written in December of 2015. In March of 2016 I moved out of my van.

I Want To Be Well, Continued

Obligatory Final Post

Leaving work last Friday I had a thought, ‘the other shoe is going to drop sooner or later, I wonder when…’ See, I was nearly ecstatic to be done with the work week and to be going climbing and to have a solid partner lined up for the weekend, and what I’ve learned is that the joy of those anticipatory moments far outweighs any that follows. Soon enough the dread sets in and I started conniving how to get out of it all. Which pitches do I offer to lead so that I won’t have to do the ones that follow and how can I phrase it so that I maintain my dignity? This is how it goes – I want to go climbing in a distant sense but when it really comes down to it, I’m a fearful little shit. There are a great many climbs I’d like to have done, but very few that, when presented with the opportunity, I’d actually like to do. This is not a state of affairs I am pleased with, or proud of, or that I consider remotely acceptable. It demands not that I just go climbing more, push myself more, try harder to conquer my fear, but that I critically re-think my entire life. Thankfully, for the few of you committing to reading these posts in their entirety, this is not going to be a serious attempt in that direction.

When I got into climbing what I was looking for was distinction – some way I could set myself apart, be someone special, have significance, matter. I’ve always struggled in this regard. I don’t really understand why. I don’t really understand why everyone else doesn’t. My attempts to explain my conviction of my own worthlessness, of most everyone’s worthlessness, have historically, and without fail, been unsuccessful and so I’ll not try again here. Suffice it to say that, for me, the possibility of recognition and distinction, even in as fringe and esoteric an activity as alpinism, was a major, if not the major, draw. I have known this type of motivation to be unhealthy for some time. That knowledge has not been of any great help.

We downgraded our plans. It wasn’t even my idea but I was happy to hear it. I led one sopping wet free pitch and my partner led another. With great difficulty we hauled the pig, and set up the ledge, and got ourselves settled in, and then it rained all night and we bailed. There was no terribly good reason for this and it wasn’t by my suggestion, but I was glad to hear it and thereby be excused without humiliation from a climb I have been telling myself for years that I want to do. The other shoe had been dropping all morning and on the drive back to my parent’s house I had a epiphany: I don’t have to do this.

Now that I’m warm and comfortable and full of quesadillas and mildly inebriated it all starts to sound good again, but I know that what I really want is not the climb, but the swell of pride that follows it. The climb is just fear. I’ll go into it wincing, gritting my teeth, telling myself it will be over soon, and hoping I don’t get badly injured again. Mostly hoping whatever injures I get won’t be permanent. And if we fail I’ll be depressed and feel worthless for awhile until things even out and if we succeed I’ll feel awesome for about thirty six hours and then be depressed and feel worthless for awhile until things even out. I would like to blame this on last year, 2014 – the year of all injuries, when, in five separate accidents, I broke seven ribs, punctured a lung, dislocated an ankle, fractures two vertebrae, broke two metatarsals, a good friend of mine shattered his collarbone, and another good friend of mine fractured his skull, several vertebrae, his collarbone, and several bones in his finger. It would be nice if I could just gesture at all of that I say, ‘look, if that wouldn’t give you ptsd what would?’ but I can’t. None of it helped, but there has been something broken about all of this for years.

In the winter of 2012 I made a series of solo attempts on the main peak of Mount Index via the Hourglass Gully route and never really got close. On one attempt I literally sat down at my high point, started crying, took out the photo of Mount Saint Elias I’d been carrying around in my wallet, on the back of which I’d transcribed part of a love poem for a girl I never even dated, balled it up and threw it over the cliff. It was the first time I’d really come to the end of myself and in a lot of ways I haven’t pushed it like that since. This was before I ever led a fifth class rock pitch or climbed water ice. It was over before it even began.

I don’t want to quit climbing. I want to be like the men I’ve read about: strong, driven, and bold. Courageous to the point of death. Willing to give it all for glory, to spit in the face of everyone who thinks normal life is meaningful. I want to blitz up the Emperor Face and explore unclimbed spires in Patagonia and finish that goddamn aid seam at Index. I want to be well, but I’ve been fighting this for too long and everything I’ve been trying has sort of stopped working all at once. I can’t climb in a team and I can’t follow and I can’t lead and I can’t solo. I don’t know how to make this work anymore. Thus my epiphany.

I don’t know if this is the end. I hope it’s not. I hope that I can go off into the desert and come back a different person, that I can find something out there that changes everything. Some healing maybe, some peace. Something that will let me live like everyone else, content with who I am. I don’t think I will though. I don’t honestly believe that there is an answer waiting for me. What is wrong here is what has been wrong my entire life: there’s me, and then there’s all this other stuff, and the two don’t seem to mesh very well. It’s worth a shot though, and the other option abounds.


On a more practical note, I do intend this to be the end of this little art project of mine. It’s been fun for sure, but I hate it when things drag on past their inevitable demise. Just because it was good doesn’t mean it needs to go on until it becomes bad (looking at you, makers of every American TV show ever, except Breaking Bad of course, because seriously, wow). Special thanks to Chris Kalman, for encouraging me in this direction, Blake Herrington, whose blog (that for the record, I admire) was the model for my parody, and all my dedicated readers, both of you.

Matthew Lemke and the Pursuit of Dialectical Bivouacism

Based on a close reading of the work of Greg Child,
Bivouac (noun) – (1) a tunnel of discomfort that one enters in the hope of getting through to the other end; (2) a pilgrimage.

I once asked Matt, upon learning that he held a bachelor of science degree from the Colorado School of Mines, if he had studied geology or engineering; he smiled and replied, “geological engineering.” The proper use of said degree I didn’t find out until some years later when I saw him unearthing mostly buried blocks the size of microwave ovens in order to clear a flat spot for himself on our bivy ledge. When he was done he laid out in his sleeping bag and slept through the night. Nearby, on a tilted slab of rock, huddled in my sack-shaped space blanket, I wasn’t sure whether I envied him or not.

On my leads I gingerly tiptoed past the detached blocks; where I stemmed wide or slabbed it out, Matt pulled on them, trundled them, protected behind them. Through shear force of will he held the choss in place; more than that – through expectation. If I had touched those death blocks my doubt would have brought them rotating outward like three hundred pound scythes to chop my rope and send me on a long, bouncing, journey to sheol. Matt builds with stone, he remakes the world however he sees fit, he expects it to conform to his will and it generally obliges him. Those of us less tall and blond must contend with a less cooperative universe.

Matt doesn’t watch movies or read books. Deciphering someone else’s fiction is beyond him, or perhaps just outside his interest. You can’t be bothered with stories when the life you have is perfectly sufficient. He’s a simpleton. A thing outside his knowledge cannot exist. He’s the ubermensch come early, without care or concern. Doubtless, grinning, with all the confidence of a goat, sure of his footing even when the look is desperate.

My trips with Matt often have a tunnel-like aspect, “Long was the night and tunnel-dark, / so that we entered one evening and emerged the next morning / with little conception of through what land we had passed.” Canyon or crack, ridge or road, the middle hours are surreal and don’t seem to be of the same world. I wonder, now, if this effect is shared or if I am simply glimpsing his entire experience.

A People Watcher’s Guide To The Climbers Of Index, Part 2

More Stereotyping, More Bird Jokes


The Pre-Yuppie

Status: Common

General Description
Like its more mature cousin, the Yuppie, the Pre-Yuppie is found abundantly throughout the popular rock climbing areas of the Western United States and has recently be sighted in some numbers at the Index Town Walls. They are invariably found in couples, or groups of couples, but are otherwise less insular than the Yuppie, and therefore despite their proclivity for cliffside flailing, are less of a threat to climbing community cohesion.

Disginishing Characteristics
The Pre-Yuppie is becoming somewhat ubiquitous but those hoping for a sighting should look for a certain clumsiness with trad gear, poor rope management, and a generally awkward, “first date” atmosphere. Pre-Yuppies are also invariably gym-trained, so single-fisherman knots backing up figure-eights, brand new helmets and grigri belay devices, and abundant chalk are all good indicators.

Tips For Interaction
The best way to obtain a favorable reaction from this species is imitation. Approach in a plausible mated pair and chat amiably with the appropriately gendered climber. The Pre-Yuppie is usually quite enthusiastic to engage in conversation as long as it judges the interlocutor to be nonthreatening and will, in fact, relish the break from what had theretofore been a rather uncomfortable dynamic.

Preferred Habitat
Single pitch sport climbs, or routes masquerading as such. Cunning Stunt, Model Worker, etc.


The Northwestern Collegiate Flock

Status: Invasive

General Description
Similar in many ways to the Pre-Yuppie, this species is differentiated by its proclivity for traveling in large groups, usually containing only one or two actually competent climbers. One of which may or may not be a raging bitch. More comfortable in their native habitats of Leavenworth and Vantage, the Northwestern Collegiate Flock will look for “out of the way” nooks and crannies in which to hide their absurd numbers.

Disginishing Characteristics
The best way to identify the Northwestern Collegiate Flock is by climber-to-top-rope ratio. If said ratio exceeds five (5) the likelihood that you are observing a Northwestern Collegiate Flock is high.

Tips For Interaction
Don’t. Insinuating that you also attend college will buy some cordiality, as will using terms like “marginalized knowledges” and “obtaining consent.”

Preferred Habitat
Top-ropable, gang-bangable, moderates. Private Idaho, Inner Walls, etc.


The Blue Collared Pipe Driller

Status: Threatened

General Description
Once the average Index denizen, this species has declined in recent years, driven out by competitors like the Yuppie and the Bro. Still present though, in some numbers, the Blue Collared Pipe Driller favors the early mornings and late evenings, retiring to more obscure crags during the heat of the day. Rather injury-prone due to the active nature of their employment, the Blue Collared Pipe Driller can rarely be seen climbing at full strength and instead prefers to sit around reminiscing about that one time they got Numbah Ten clean on top-rope.

Disginishing Characteristics
Like the Digger, this species is identifiable largely by its paraphernalia, which is, in fact, quite similar to that of the Digger. Look for impact drivers, well-used wire brushes, and leaf blowers. Persistently top-roping on core-shot ropes is another common sighting with the Blue Collared Pipe Driller.

Tips For Interaction
The Blue Collared Pipe Driller is a highly ritualistic species and joining in these rituals is the best way to gain their acceptance, which they are generally eager to give in any case assuming one acts suitably enthusiastic. The sharing of certain recently legalized smokable herbs is their most common ritual.

Preferred Habitat
Rattetale Wall, Mid Wall, Cheeks


The Pacific Smallbreasted Stoner

Status: Locally Common

General Description
It is uncertain whether this species should be classified as a “climber,” but since it is found in the same environment as many of the species listed here, and seems to be regarded among them as a climber, it will be here described. The Pacific Smallbreasted Stoner is a stout, somewhat portly species that, although possessing all the equipment and skills necessary for climbing moderate classics, is virtually never sighted anywhere near a known route.

Disginishing Characteristics
Differentiating this species from those around it can be difficult, the best way is to wait until a pipe is passed around the grouping and then observe to whom it returns. Logging this information over time will allow the patient observer to calculate the statistical probability of a given “climber” being a Pacific Smallbreasted Stoner.

Tips For Interaction
As this species has no discernible ego, very few of the typical people-watching concerns arise. Approach at your leisure.

Preferred Habitat
The wagonwheel


The Per (Psychedis Drunki)

Status: Critically Endangered

General Description
Lanky, bespectacled, rather excitable, and often intoxicated; only a single individual of this species is known to exist in the wild.

Disginishing Characteristics
The Per is easily identifiable by his loud, at times brash, often impaired, and never uninteresting, outbursts.

Tips For Interaction
Approach with caution, as the Per is a known moocher and will take any unattended food or drink as an offering from “Index,” which, as he is known to frequently insist, “Provides.”

Preferred Habitat
The Quarry Wall, The Diamond

Rattletale Rehab


Look At Us We Cleaned Some Routes!

There are some places where gardening and climbing are considering separate pastimes, where their intersection is an aberration, where new routes get names like The Constant Gardener because OMG, we had to clean out some plants! (incidentally, this fully supports my Universal Law of Route Naming, that all route names must fall into one of three categories: 1. inside jokes no one is ever going to understand, i.e. Brad Driscoll…, 2. really obvious puns, i.e. Preying Mantle, and 3. Bob Dylan references). The Index Town Walls is not one of those places. Here routes are not found, they are made, they are dredged up out of the dirt and moss and forced screaming into existence. It’s not very LNT but we don’t care. Once we’ve had our fun the routes, although made from stone, will slide back into the primal mud with scarily a cry. The fringes of Index are filled with mossed over bolted slabs and pin scared cracks with ferns sprouting from them. One such fringe area is a scrappy little cliff called the Rattletale Wall.

The eponymous route is a beauty: three pitches of gorgeous crack climbing, all in the 5.9 to 5.10- range. Although the Cramer guide lists three other routes, this offering has historically been the only reason people have visited the cliff. Its well deserved reputation as one of the best 5.10s at Index has kept the traffic constant and the constant traffic has kept it clean. Meanwhile, Avenging the Goddess Kring, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, and Arch Enemy have probably seen fewer ascents between them than Rattletale sees on the average summer weekend. If this isn’t precisely true, it’s only because a variant of Goddess Kring, Chasin’ The Lizard, goes at a moderate 5.10a and is actually a surprisingly good climb; it’s still gritty as hell though. This was the situation in which the cliff languished until this summer.

Spring at Index is a time of epidemic Lower Wall Syndrome; you park your car, you walk less than five minutes, and there it is, the highest concentration of quality routes in the Pacific Northwest. It’s the best thing ever until the daytime highs start reaching into the 80s and all that south-facing goodness that kept you warm and stoked on chilly spring mornings turns the place into a dehydrating grease-fest. Like slipping out of hot-to-the-touch finger cracks? Then you are in the right place. The rest of us flee to the hills. The Inner Walls are my favorite haunt, perennially shady with an ambiance you would ordinarily associate with the mid cretaceous period. I’m honestly not sure why Michal settled on the Rattletale Wall for this round of playing digger but he did and right away he unearthed a gem: The Amphibian, a classic, bouldery, arete climb bolted with traditional Index scarcity. After that came The Wasp, currently unsent and rumored to be, and I quote, “hard as fuck.” Then him and Ryan hiked up around the top of the wall and rapped down to the right of Arch Enemy, resulting in an orgy of new development. On the far right side of the wall rises The Claw, The Cricket, Ze Squid, and The Source, with The Snake and The Shrew above them, and down closer to the main path I put up the perplexing C2 arch, With Man Gone Will There Be Hope For Gorilla.

While I was cleaning it (which I did in the process of aiding the FA) the other guys kept harassing me about the route name, saying I should call it Dorkel’s Revenge or Jacob’s Rainbow or some such thing. I told them they didn’t shut up I was going to call it Ryan Hoover And Michal Rynkiewics Are A Bunch Of Fuckwads. There is actually some dispute over whether it is a true FA or not. The first half was heavily mossed over and can’t have seen an ascent since the 90s, if it ever did at all, but the second half was relatively clean and a short ladder of bolt studs led to about the point where the moss ended. But if some mystery climber did a partial ascent of the crack, what did they anchor off of? Could they have made a cam nest and then rapped in from above a retrieved it? Why then did they strip the bolts? Or did they reach the crack, which appears from below to be much, much, better than it is, and back off immediately? We may never know, but I’m claiming the FA anyways, because it’s my first and I can.

The first time I met Danny Coltrane he mentioned wanting to climb Arch Enemy. That isn’t actually true, I ran into him one time when I was solo aiding, but that’s another story. His exact quote was something like, “I’d like to try Arch Enemy but I need someone competent to follow and clean it because it traverses so much.” When I contacted him about borrowing some gear and/or bumming a belay for Hope For Gorilla he said he would do it on the condition that I belay him on Arch Enemy and I agreed readily, since that climb was on my list too and I wanted to see it done. It turns out that I was just competent enough to think I was competent enough without actually being competent enough, a really horrible combination in climbing that happens way to often. What followed was one of the more difficult, frustrating and technically involved ordeals I have ever endured in my 4-odd years of technical climbing. It was harder than leading The Incision, it was harder than leading Golden Arch, it was harder than bailing off the West Arete of Eldorado. Lower outs are complicated and I hate them almost as much as welded knifeblades or lost arrows in expanding cracks that snap shut when you yank them out like a chunk of gristle from between the teeth of some granitic dragon, and I hate dentistry anyways. Danny fired up the first pitch in around an hour and then we spent over eight hours on the wall as I cleaned that pitch, belayed him on the second (a true A4 by his report) and then cleaned that one too. By the time I got to the anchor and was setting up the rappel I was checking everything half a dozen times, terrified that in my exhausted state I would make some fatal error.

We’ve all moved on now. I’ve been rehabilitating a small crag below Lookout Point and the other guys have been cleaning up some old classics at the Mid Wall and even working out a new route or two. I hear as many people talk about going up there to do The Amphibian as to do Rattletale. The other routes may be subsiding already, nature may already be overtaking our efforts. I read, somewhere in the course of all of this, about that coming earthquake that will level everything west of I5 between Vancouver BC and San Francisco. If I try I can consider the suffering and death, how most of my friends and family will likely be gone, but what came easily and unbidden was a joyous nihilism. Everything is temporary, everything has a lifespan: the stone, the moss, our city. It may be anarchic, it may even be inhuman, but I do not think it insane to take joy in watching things burn.