Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The mostly photos report on Squamish

My final year at my beloved and beleaguered high school, the Academy at Adventure Quest, I lived out of a tiny, bright orange, one person tent. It was really no more than a bivy sack with a single curved pole that kept it suspended above my head by a few inches. Most nights I'd drag my sleeping bag outside and sleep under the stars, but when the weather was bad I'd lie on my back in the tent,  staring up at the orange nylon, listening to my discman and eating squares of Black Forest chocolate. I was an extremely content in there.

We spent our final semester in New Zealand. There were only eight of us kids by that point, the school limping towards towards the cliff of its unsettling demise. We were six boys and two girls, and by this point in the year, the boys had turned mean.

One week we did a trek in the Southern Alps. It rained all day, every day. We camped the second night on a hilltop overlooking a massive blue and white glacier. A fierce storm blew in that evening, kicking up wild winds so strong they ripped my English teacher's tent in half. She staked the shredded corners to the ground and to her ankles, and lay splayed on the ground for the duration of the night, a human anchor.
My little tent was stuck to the earth by five tin stakes. Each time the wind blew them out of the ground, I'd hop out and try and shove them back in, but it was no use. The rain fly flapped loudly, like a lose sail. Inside the tent, the fabric pressed so tightly against my face I could feel it against my nose and mouth. It seemed as if the whole thing was going to lift off the ground and blow into the glacier, taking me with it.

That night, I was not content sleeping alone in my tent. I was tired and almost frightened and everything was soaking wet. I remember that the splendor of the storm, the adventurous thrill that should have consumed me at the moment, was lost in a dismal sort of loneliness. The howling winds made it sound like I was the only one on the planet.

What a completely different situation it would be if I had a girlfriend lying next to me, and the two of us were trying to hold down the tent, and if we went sailing over the cliff into the ice, at least we'd be shrieking together. Sleep was out of the question, so I tried to write in my journal. With all the melodrama of the sixteen year old girl I was, I wrote "I'd give my right eye to have a friend with me right now."

I was thinking about that night last week, when Amber and I were falling asleep at the climber's camp beneath the grand wall in Squamish, BC. Our two dogs were curled up at opposite ends of the tent. The climbing that day had been phenomenal, perfect cracks and clean faces, but I'd been fighting off thoughts of Andrew the entire time. The sight of the big walls he'd told me so much about made my stomach flip with the memories of our multi pitch days together. That part of me, the part still tethered to him in my mind, is a real fucking bother.

But finally, after a very lively evening, I lay in the tent next to Amber and the memory of that night in New Zealand came bubbling up. We'd been talking for about an hour in the dark, and I felt a sudden stab of affection for her, of pure, almost giddy gratitude. The connection between old boyfriends (and all the rejection and unworthiness that comes with them) and climbing is dissolving, and once again the sport is starting to belong to me and my friends and the girls I would have, apparently, traded my eyes for twelve years ago.
We went to Squamish! Four people, three dogs, three crash pads and one car. We left on Thursday night at 8:00pm, were hopelessly lost in Vancouver by midnight on the dot, passed out at the camp site by two in the morning.

Four days gave us just a taste of the unending sport and trad routes of that little town on the road to Whistler.  We even spent a half day engaged in the insufferable sport of bouldering. I'm really not into it, it's too hard and tedious for me, but my friends are obsessed, I don't know, they're crazy. But I will say they look good doing it.
This never happened.
Amber Jackson Photo
Things got real interesting when we roped up, as we didn't have a guide book, and when we did find a guide book we didn't know how to read it. We put up some ridiculous difficult routes. By accident.
Amber leading the 5.11d we thought was a 5.9
Sunshine taking a stab at the crux
The result
Me leading a 5.10d we thought was a 5.8 
Amber lent me her tights.
Like any climbing trip, the rewards...
I've been climbing for seventeen years now, in nine countries, and Squamish was some of the best rock I've ever put my hands on. 
As for everything else. Bolt by bolt it gets easier. That long night when I was 16 did not end up with me being swept alone into the blue glacier, and neither will this one. 


Anonymous said...

Nicely written.

By the way, I read a comment under your Raw post that suggested you get a real job, get married, gave kids... Grow up. Some total bullshit that I'm too lazy to quote directly right now. I hope you never do anything so foolish. Folks like this suggest that growing up means growing out of our joy. What we are "supposed" to do, be,have,love and live for is an illusion. But then I hope I am preaching to the choir.

R. Manning

Jen said...

First of all, totally jealous of you and your lady friends' arm/shoulder/back muscles and definition. Looking good ladies!

Secondly, loooove Lagunitas and will be visiting the brewery when I'm in Petaluma, CA (first time on the west coast!) in October.

Third, what do the dogs to while you climb? I'm picturing you tugging them up on little pulleys, but that can't be right...I've never done rock climbing...tell!

Jacki said...

Dog pulleys! Hee hee, that made me laugh out loud.

I love the way you tell stories. This post wins the internet today.

Catherine said...

Awesome! We really have to go to Squamish then! So glad to hear you had such a great time!

Kerrie said...

Glad to hear you've spent time in New Zealand (my home)!

B. Holmes said...

So glad you were not swept away into the glacier, because you wouldn't be here writing and sharing in the "blogosphere"... Great stories as usual!

megattack said...

Great post! And what perfectly captured moments!

megattack said...

Great post! And wonderfully captured moments! I also recognized, your NZ'ed picture, I think I took one from that exact place!

Bethany Davidson-Widby said...

I will never forget that night under the Rob Roy Glacier! Alex and I held the tent down all night and when I had to climb out as I desperately had to pee, I thought I would blow away! Memories like that leave an impression in your mind that never go away. Love you!