Aug 14, 2013
Editors Letter. Issue 1. Summer 2013.
The ‘biner snaps as you clip the rope in, and for a brief moment you are safe in the long and lonely journey of a tough lead…
Before you read, remember this: Independent editorial isn't free. If you enjoy this article, please consider creating an account to support our journalism so we can keep going.
You can subscribe to the Outdoor Journal here.
… your finger tight on crimp edges, your feet smearing on a vertical sandstone wall, your gear rack clinking a light song against your side, the ground falling away to eternity far below, and you breathe a slow sigh of peace.
This is what steadies my nerves, this is what stops my brain from thinking, this is what calms my soul, this is who I am… tat tvam asi*
This story starts over a decade ago.
I place a #4 nut into the crack, clip in, and build a small anchor for the belay, my back to the void. I’m doing a classic route on Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. An older man sharing our tiny ledge looks surprised. “You’re pretty young to be leading trad,” he says. It’s my 20th birthday.
It’s two weeks after my 21st birthday, I’ve dropped out of college, and I’m standing on a Himalayan peak, aiming for the summit via a new route. Two months later I’m back in the US, on the fourth pitch up a Yosemite wall, clipping a rusty piton, my leg shaking furiously like a sewing- machine needle, the vast expanse of the valley so far below me that it seems meaningless.
It’s my 25th birthday. I’m alone on top of Kashmir’s Mt Apherwat, and I’m staring down at a 3000-foot descent down to the mid-station, a pure, untracked off-piste chute of powder. I tighten the bindings on my snowboard, catch my breath, and drop in.
I’m shivering in the winter night, our rope chopped, our line lost, waiting for morning and a rescue chopper.
I’m 28 years old, I’m in the Alps, front-pointing up steep ice on the side of Mont Blanc du Tacul, in freezing November winds, chunks of the mountain dinner-plating with every swing of my ice tools, the cold curdling the blood in my knuckles, the pain making me want to scream. Short hours later, I’m shivering in the winter night, our rope chopped, our line lost, waiting for morning and a rescue chopper.
I’m 32, holding a magazine in my hands, fresh off the press.
I hope you enjoy The Outdoor Journal.