Sunday, 7 February 2016

East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

An image by Kay Nielsen from the Norwegian children's fairytale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
I've brought you along, dear reader, on a journey these last four years. It's never been my thing to pretend, I don't like leading you astray as you follow me through life. Sometimes it's been super awesome, and sometimes it's mostly just sucked. My life isn't perfect, nor is anyone's despite what we might think sometimes.

So with this in mind I guess I'll just share this with you; I said good-bye to my best friend, someone I loved more than anyone, a while ago now. Closing this last chapter of life has been the most difficult period of my 35 years. I've done my best to travel this road with as much grace and dignity as possible, but I know that I've made mistakes. I wish there was a template, a series of steps one could simply follow to boldly move forward into the new paradigm, but I just don't think there is. 

As I look back on the last half a year I can see themes building, and though it's painful to analyse, I think it's an important part of the process.

Probably what shines through the strongest is how integral the mountains have been during this change. I've felt an almost constant nagging to be in motion since we parted way, and the mountains have been my one source of joy during these last months. Surrounded by my friends, running against the wind in an alpine meadow, feeling the cold snow on my face, hearing the sound of a glacial stream, powder turns, sweat running down my face, being run out, all of these things bring me one step closer to peace, and I need this right now. In the mountains I feel a connection to the past, but can live for the future. 

Strangely, social media feels as though it has a place in this analysis. Ah social media, that giant black hole of validation and affirmation. I've inundated you with images and stories of adventure, which on the surface is so fun and light-hearted, but at its root is my own subversive attempt to find solace and validation in my achievements as I've struggled to come to terms with who I am now. I don't want you to think my life is one blissful adventure to the next. I don't want to coerce you into thinking I'm anything more than a girl who really likes to climb. Sure, I'm driven and I get out a lot, but I'm not Lynn Hill, Ingrid Backstromm, or Ines Papert. Glossy images of beautiful places can be misleading, and I'm no hero. I just happen to have friends that take pretty pictures, and maybe a slight inclination towards photography myself.

It's easy to confuse social media with a news source. Let me assure you, my social media channels are not a news source, I do not do anything news worthy. I do however have a strong desire to share stories and images of my journey. And it's been a journey! I don't know why, but maybe in part, it helps me process everything that's transpired. I also hope that through my own story, you too can find comfort in difficult times. So, if you feel I've lead you astray, please accept my apology and know that I'm here for no other reason than to say, "I've done it, and so can you!" I won't be offended if you don't feel like following my social media posts, but if you want to join me on my journey of life, then saddle up dear reader cuz it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

I guess I'll just close by acknowledging that the life that I had forged for myself in the company of my best friend was beautiful. We experienced success, failure, happiness, and sadness together, as I'm certain you've experienced with those you choose to love as well. I know my 35-year-old-self well enough, to know that I become easily overwhelmed with difficult times. For me, these periods seem to have no end, and the pain seems permanent. But for goodness sake if 35 years has taught me anything, it should be that pain never lasts. The goodness of my past is part of me now, it will always be there, but the goodness of my future is just around the corner.

Kay Neilsen
I don't want to wait anymore I'm tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there's music and there's laughter
I don't know if I'm scared of dying but I'm scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I've got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on

And you've just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can't worry 'bout what's behind you or what's coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong

I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I've made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won't take the easy road

I've woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am

Something good comes with the bad
A song's never just sad
There's hope, there's a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I've made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won't take the easy road
~ First Aid Kit

I have a lot of catching up to do on my blog, because let's face it, I have been busy! To begin, let me share some photos and short stories from the people and places that have helped me find my way.

This past summer, I sort of became a runner. Running might just be the most emotionally stabilising sport out there. In fact, this quote kind of makes me chuckle, “I love running. I’m not into marathons, but I am into avoiding problems at an accelerated rate.” ~ Jarod Kintz. As you'll see, most of my alpine missions became more of an alpine "running" mission than a climbing trip. I hate heavy packs, and nothing gets me more psyched than racing up a mountain in a day, on a trip that would otherwise take 2 days. Maybe I also just really like wearing my alpine short shorts and a tank top while scampering around the mountains.

Rich and I decided to day trip Castle Tower (2675 m) in a remote corner of Garibaldi Provincial Park in late July. Living in Squamish, Garibaldi Park is my "backyard" so it only seemed natural to sleep comfortably in my own bed, wake early, race up the mountain, and return home in time for Pure Breads. I always leave the calculations to Rich, and he says we travelled about 40 km, gained 3000 m of elevation, and managed 10.5 hrs car-to-car. Castle Towers is generally completed as a two or three day adventure.

OK, maybe this picture was posed. Photo, Rich So.

Morning mist, and alpine short shorts. Photo, Rich So.

Running on to the Helm Glacier, which should be noted, is almost entirely gone. Eek! Photo, Rich So.

Rich scrambling with Garibaldi Lake below. Fun fact about Garibaldi Lake; At it's far northwestern end lava flow from nearby volcanoes formed a natural dam creating the lake. One day, when we have the earth's-biggest-earthquake this natural barrier will most likely be broken, releasing the lake and taking out my dear town of Squamish. Crazy! Photo, Sarah Hart.

Me, making a couple of technical moves as we near the summit. Photo, Rich So.

Yup, that's all she wrote for this mountain adventure, alpine short shorts, my beloved Spicy Jacket and my pink Travel Pack. So light, and so nice. Photo, Rich So.

Rich about to tag the summit. Photo, Sarah Hart.

That's me. Photo, Rich So.
The following weekend was another alpine running mission. This time, with my good friends Kelly and Julie. There's a cool new hiking trail around Rainbow Mountain, across the valley from Whistler. The trail, I believe it's called the Skywalk Trail, is great for running and pops you out at Iceberg Lake below Rainbow's East Glacier. The ridge scrambling from there is super duper fun.

Kelly scrambling along Rainbow's long East Ridge. Photo, Sarah Hart.

My buddies. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Kelly looks out across the Whistler valley. Photo, Sarah Hart.
Elise is my soul sister, and spending time with her always brings me peace. In September we ran/scrambled Mt. Tszil (2377 m) in the Joffre Lake area. This is an awesome mountain running adventure, I'd recommend it to anyone. With the recent trail work on the Joffre Lakes trail system, running to the third Joffre Lake takes no time at all, and then you're in the alpine!

Elise on the summit of Mt. Tszil, overlooking the Pemberton valley. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Yes, this shot is about as cliche as it gets, and also kind of ironic. Photo, Sarah Hart.
After all that running around, I was apparently, at least according to Rich, ready for something a little slower. So I joined Rich and Nick on a two day "fast packing" trip around the Pinecone-Burke divide, in Pinecone-Burke Provincial Park. It should be noted, the park incorporates some of the traditional territory of the Katzie First Nation. It's an incredibly fun high alpine ridge scramble that circumnavigates Pinecone Lake. We were above treeline almost the whole time, but for all the nerdy specs of the trip, we'll have to wait for Rich to finish his trip report. I should add, with these boys, nudity is pretty much guaranteed as you'll see below.

Rich's naked butt, and a beautiful alpine tarn. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Naked again. Rich and Nick jump into Pinecone Lake after dinner. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Our bivy! Photo, Sarah Hart.

Nick's naked butt, and some mountains. Atwell Peak and Garibladi are visible in the distance. Photo, Sarah Hart.
One last mountain running adventure to wrap up the season. I'd just raced the Rubble Creek Classic, one of the oldest organised trail races in British Columbia, dating back to 1985. The course travels 25 km from Chekamus Lake, through the high alpine of Helm Creek Meadows and then down through Rubble Creek. It's an institution and only a small number of racers are permitted each year. I felt lucky to make the roster and even luckier to experience my first runners high during the race. I was on top of the world. Though, it's hard to know if it was the chemicals coursing through my body, or just the Taylor Swift pumping through my speakers. I will run this race every year now! Following the race, Rich, Kate and I ran/climbed Blackcomb Buttress, on Blackcomb Peak. 

Not the best weather for a scramble up Blackcomb Buttress. But, whatever. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Kate traversing onto the buttress proper. Photo, Sarah Hart.
No report would be complete without a few stories and images of my first love, bouldering. I spent countless hours in the forest around my home picking away at my projects. I love climbing. One of my favourite climbing partners, Jamie Finlayson, always comes prepared with his camera. So, below are a few of his images, along with one from my friend Andrew Querner

The Weasel. This wiley weasel had evaded me for years, and years. Some problems just really get under your skin. This past summer I finally sent the thing. I love to hate this one. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Method, a test in technical skill, and falling. This problem is awesome, but will require some serious focus, which is not my strong point. Photo, Jamie Finalyson.

The apple of my eye right now, Permanent Waves. This route was established by my hero Jim Sandford way back in 1993. It's one of the most stunning routes I've ever seen, and I am totally infatuated with it. Naturally, it plays to my strengths with a gentle 5.12 warm-up to a V9 boulder problem. Photo, Andrew Querner.
And here's my other obsession, The Black Hole. I came painfully close to sending this problem last fall. I'll be back for it this spring for sure. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Black Hole up close. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Weasel up close. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.