Matthes Crest is a mile and a half long fin of rock that juts out of the earth like the spine of a sleeping, long buried dragon. It looks almost sinister in the distance. A wall of impenetrable granite with only one cleft down the middle, an ominous gateway.
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The Squamish sand lot. It’s a parking lot on the side of the sky to sea highway in Canada. It can hold maybe 8-10 cars if you pack em in real tight. Less if its the weekend and we’re trying to keep the tourists out. Many nights we realize there’s no room for one of the regulars, so we frantically re-shuffle the cars and make just enough space for one more econoline.
It’s 70 degrees outside. My air conditioner isn’t working and hot dry air comes blasting out of the vents. The check engine light is on, had been for the last 1,000 miles.
I glance at the dashboard clock, 7:49am.
The water we were standing in was hot now, and would have been too hot to hang out in for long. The steam was denser, and the claustrophobic feeling more intense. I closed my eyes and imagined for a moment that I was in the throat of a giant dragon, walking toward its fiery belly.
I can’t overestimate the importance of women having control over the little things in their lives. It sounds so small, like ‘I want to listen to this song on repeat for the next 3 hours.’ Or, ‘I will be stopping to pee right now at this gas station.’
I drove my van into the desert, and I didn’t drink. I spent nights alone in my van listening to the sounds of people slurring their words and signing late into the night around a campfire. I met a mormon girl with a German Shepard and we woke up at 6am to watch the pink sunrise with mugs of tea. The startling clarity of the morning sunk in through my eyes, my ears and my mouth, and it woke me up better than any cup of coffee.
To be a steward of climbing, to take care of and preserve a sport is a strange concept. The sport is alive and well and does not need caring for. What needs tending to is the natural spaces this sport inhabits. To be a climbing steward in Yosemite is to protect the rocks, the trails, the vegetation, and the trees.
The best day of climbing I ever had, the air was on fire.
It was summertime in Squamish, a small town just north of Vancouver in British Columbia Canada. This town, up until recently had been known as a sleepy kiteboarding destination and—to those who cared— a place where you could find some of the best bouldering in the world.
We see two people soloing intersection rock in the distance, one is possibly naked and the other is wearing a pair of hot pink booty shorts.
Mike grabs the binoculars, “Yep. He’s definitely naked.”
5 minutes later the naked guy rides by on a bike. There’s a chalk bag clipped to his waist that is almost covering his junk, and he hollers loudly as he wizzes past. “ANARCHY!”
“Well,” Mike puts his hands on his hips, “that happened quickly.”
Last year I came up with a ‘Best gifts for Vanlifers under $50’ blog post.
It did pretty well, but I looked at it again this year and I have a lot more useful things to add to that list, so here is my Christmas gifts for Vanlifers 2018! Enjoy and make a vanlifer in your world happy this holiday season.
Kate and I are cruising down highway 191 headed back to Indian Creek after getting rained out of Castle Valley.
We had been planning on climbing the North Face of Castleton and Fine Jade, two excellent (and challenging) climbs, but the weather decided otherwise.
I was lying in my bed, half asleep, when I heard the first knock.
It wasn’t so much of a knock as a bang. Someone was pounding on the side of my house. In the large metal box that is my van, it reverberated around the small space and startled me awake.
I blink and it’s morning.
My shoulder hurts so I roll over onto my other side.
I blink again and the sun has risen higher in the sky. I’m on my back. I look over to see Mike with his puffy jacket covering his face.
I never thought I would be bored at 500 feet off the ground.
Standing on Ahwahnee ledge on the West Face of the Leaning Tower, I pace back and forth in anticipation. Or what amounts to pacing when you have less than 3 feet of space to move around in.
Big wall climbing is the culmination of all of the climbing skills I’ve been honing over the last 5 years.
It takes technical skills, mental toughness, physical endurance, and good communication with a partner. I borrowed gear from friends, grilled them on the terrain, looked over maps that climbers before me had drawn, and scrolled through comments people had left on the mountain project to try and prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the hardest thing I had attempted to date in climbing.
Turn the key. Hear the rumble of the engine. Beep, beep, beep, beep, click. Roll the automatic windows down. Feel the warm breeze on my skin. Smell the wet grass and the still damp asphalt. It’s hot outside.
When you jump on you typically meet a few people who are riding the same wave as you. You’ll see them in Indian Creek, lose track of them for a few months and then see them again in Squamish. The circuit brings you around and around, like a merry-go-round of climbing destinations. After getting on, it can be difficult to get off.
I’m standing on a hollow flake,
about 150 feet above the ground, and only 20 feet from the summit. Hidden Valley Campground is spread out below me, people are cooking around their campfires, chatting about the day and playing music. The pinyon pines and Juniper trees create shade in the late afternoon, while the orange white boulders create stools, tables and playgrounds for the park visitors. Normally I would be down there with them, enjoying the sunshine, stretching and talking, but right now I'm more focused on not dying. My palms are sweating.
"How do you just show up to a new town?"
"Where do you park?"
"How do you know where to shower?"
These are the first 5 things I do when I get to a new town.
I’ve been living in my Sprinter Van for a little over a year now, and during that time I continue to be surprised by the little joys of living in a van, the ones I didn’t expect when I moved in. I expected the freedom and the flexibility and the beautiful scenery, but I didn’t expect the pure joy of a nice parking space or the giddy feeling I get when the wind blows through the curtains on my open door.