Yes, I really did quit my job. I’m going climbing. For a long time….
I’ve finally reached the obvious full stop in my career. A perfect point to step away. I don’t have years worth of money saved; In fact, my parents very kindly (*read* blindly) co-signed a line of credit with me to help fund my time away from work.
I mean, I’m not fooling myself here, I’m going to have to go back to work at some point, but come on, some people pay thousands of dollars to further their education. I’m just spending thousands of dollars to further my climbing goals. Ha, ha, ha! As if you didn’t see this coming though? I’ve dedicated previous blog posts to waxing philosophical about working to live, not living to work. I’m just taking it to its logical next step – not working at all!
When I forwarded my “early retirement” notice to my colleagues at Mountain Equipment Co-op’s head office in Vancouver, BC where I’ve been happily, and gainfully, employed for the last three years, Sean replied simply with this quote….
“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to those who play with their boats at sea... "cruising" it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.
"I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it." What these people can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone. What do you need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.
The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?" ― Sterling Hayden, Wanderer
Guess my choice is quite obvious….
And so I begin what I hope to be a very adventurous blip in my little life as a working stiff. Now to the good stuff, to document my first couple of adventures under the guise of “dirt bag” climber. Two tall tales come to mind, one of which has some hilarity to it simply because it involves 3 girls who do not consider themselves mountaineers, climbing a very “mountaineers” route – the North Ridge of Mt. Baker. The second, I must write about because I ignorantly let the words, “I promise” leave my lips.
Some of us are renowned for our photographic genius, for an artistic eye. I am not one of those people. I see beautiful things, because I've had the privilege of traveling to some pretty beautiful places, and yet, I can somehow totally debauch a glorious scene. The picture will be sideways, the people bleached white, and the pretty pink flowers that I intended to take a photo of, not even included within the frame? What gives?
|How's that for quality photography? Notice the not so subtle camera tilt. I've cut off most of Paul's lower half, and the picture is a sickly shade of yellow. Yes, this is my photo! Sorry Paul.|
What I do have to offer is the gift of verbal diarrhea. I can fill a couple pages with B.S. without really even trying! This is where the promise comes in. I promised my good buddy Rich, a supremely gifted photographer, that I would write a blog post about our recent climbing trip to Leavenworth, WA if he contributed the photos. And so, without further adieu a blog post about, the North Ridge of Mt. Baker, and a long weekend of climbing run-out Fred Beckey 5.7’s with Rich, and a company of other characters.
My upcoming Waddington trip compadres and I thought it be fitting to do a practise climb before we hightrailed it to the big guns in the Wadd. What a better training mission than a jaunt up the apparently classic North Ridge of Mount Baker?
The hilarity in the whole adventure is that Jasmin, Kinley, and I are simply not mountaineers. We like warms rocks in the sun. A volcano of 3286 metres is covered in snow and ice. Go figure?
|And yes, it really is quite funny. Jasmin's photo.|
|Mt. Baker's North Ridge. Yes, it's very foreshortened.|
So on Wednesday, July 4th, our unlikely team of mountaineers set out to learn the art of crevasse avoidance (*read* how to provide the widest birth possible so as to not slip in that dark, cold hole of ice), and ice climbing! Turns out this stuff isn’t so bad. I recall there may have been a few tears shed on Day 1 when a very large serac came tumbling down Baker's Coleman Headwall. We all stood agap, unsure of whether or not the prudent thing to do was stand or run?!
Day 2 dawned early, 3:15 am to be exact. Did I sleep at all? I don’t think so? We roused our tired bodies, donned our harnesses (of course, I forgot mine, so had to wear a cordalette turned swami belt – now that’s very mountaineer of me isn’t it?!), ice tools, ice screws (I was feeling pretty radical with those things dangling on my harness...um...I mean, cordalette swami belt) and snow pickets.
|The cordalette swami belt harness! Nice one!|
|Navigating our way along the Coleman Glacier in the early hours of the morning. Jasmin's photo.|
And, we were off. Coleman Glacier navigation, complete. Short 45 degree snow climb to the North Ridge proper, complete. Pass a party of two men as we blast up the perfectly hard snow/ice on the Ridge, done and done. All was running smoothly until we encountered what we feared most. A wall of ice!
“Huh, have either of you ice climbed before?” Kinley,
“Um, no? I don’t think I even know how to place ice screws?” Sarah,
“I went ice climbing in Ourey once. It was on top rope mostly, but I think I could figure this out again” Jasmin,
“Thank god!” Sarah and Kinley.
|Jasmin leading the way up our 15 metre ice pitch! That's right folks, we're ice climbing!|
And just like that, we became ice climbers. Jas rallied, and placed all the screws we had on our 15 metres pitch of ice bringing us to the upper ridge and again back on to steep and deliciously hard snow. We returned to blasting upwards and before we knew it, we were on the tippy top. Cumbre!
|Day 1 Sarah and Kinely attempt to find a route through the maze of crevasses on the Colman Glacier in preparation for Day 2's early start. Jasmin's photo.|
|Evening of Day 1, looking out over the Fraser Valley, and Pacific Ocean. Jasmin's photo.|
|A short stop on route to the North Ridge. Jasmin's photo.|
|Jasmin and Kinley on moderate snow as we approach the ice headwall.|
|Looking down the ridge. Jasmin and Kinley far below.|
|Three unlikely mountaineers on the top! Jasmin's photo.|
|A few parting shots. Jasmin and Kinley.|
|And the obligatory artsy shot.|
With the whole mountaineering thing now securely under my belt – ha, not really! It was time to go get scared on run-out Fred Beckey 5.7’s in Leavenworth. This deliciously fun weekend began in the usual way, a slew of confusing and indecipherable email, voice, and text messages in the days leading up to the July 1st long weekend. Of course all that back and forth was pretty much useless because we couldn't even decide on a location until Thursday evening at 11:23 pm – that’s not enough time for me to pack people! I have to be at work at 7:00 am!! Jeez!!
Regardless, plans were made, and Rich “I’m so scared” So, Paul “peanut butter” Backhouse, and Kristen “chesty la roux” Brewer were in. Off to Leavenworth we were. Rendezvous time 5:00 pm the Surrey 108th St. exit.
|Paul "peanut butter" Backhouse at his finest. Rich's photo.|
|Rich "I'm so scared" So. He looks good in blue doesn't he?|
|Kristen "chesty la roux" Brewer showing us how it's done. Rich's photo.|
|And finally, Sarah "stupid face" Hart -- that's me. Rich's photo.|
Said time arrives, and my worst nightmare is realized. Paul has come ready to fill my little car with items such as; 5 litres of wine, a full kitchen set, 5 changes of clothes, a small goat, and bocce ball set.
We got lost. I was convinced I would remember the secret camp spot on the outskirts of town. So we drove back and forth a few times along the Hwy. leading into town to no avail. Sorry guys! In the end we bivied on the side of a logging road. Darned if I’d remember where that place was again…
And so, our weekend of 5.7 carnage began. The temps were hot, the company even hotter, and we had a blast. Here are a few photos to prove it…
|Did I mention Leavenworth, WA is a Bavarian Village in the heartland of America?!|
|Rich brewing up on some logging road, somewhere on the Hwy. leading into Leavenworth. How's that for nailing down the location?|
|Day 1, Sarah enjoying some 5.9 fun. I'm not scared yet! Rich's photo|
|Paul crushing on Day 1. Rich's photo|
|Kristen on Day 1. Rich's photo|
|A dinner party, dirt bag style. Rich's photo|
|Day 2 the ultra classic 5.9 ramble, Outer Space. Rich's photo|
|Rich on Outer Space.|
|Yes, the chicken heads were out of this world. You might say they were from, outer space? Rich's photo|
|A little ridiculousness on the summit. Rich's photo|
|WE SAW A BABY GOAT ON THE WAY DOWN! I want a baby goat! Interestingly, mountain goats were a bit of a theme on this trip. Before leaving Vancouver, Rich informed us that in 2011 a hapless tourist was gored by an angry mountain goat around the Leavenworth area. Oooo! Then, upon returning home, Colin forwarded me some news that the "goat man" had recently been sighted again. You can read more about this mystery "goat man" here. Rich's photo|
|And then we got back to the base of the climb to wait for our buddies. Who didn't show? And it was really hot. So we left, and went to get cold drinks. Rich's photo|
|They eventually showed up. It was still hot! Rich's photo|
|This is 5.7! Day 3 on the most radical 5.7 in Washington. For the life of me I can't remember what it's called. I'll figure it out. Rich's photo|
|Beautiful parting shot. Rich's photo|
|No drive up Hwy. 2 is complete without stop at the Monroe taco truck. Everyone agreed they are the best tacos around. Rich's photo|
|Parting shot number 2. Sarah "stupid face" Hart and Mt. Index in all its radicalness. Rich's photo|