Category Archives: Rock Climbing

Stories from Rock Climbing, or something in that general area

Getting some outdoor leads in!

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Saturday, 25-Sept-2021


The Beacon, Washington State

Man… with the exception of my Devil’s Tower climbing adventure, I can’t really remember the last time I just went out to climb with friends in the great outdoors. Ehh, okay. That’s a bit hyperbolic – It was last November, or maybe October, climbing at Ozone / FarSide with Bri and Lizzie. I had to trundle a huge boulder out of the route when it nearly fell out.

Fun times.

But… distant times, you know?



When Imogen expressed interest in climbing outdoors… well, I jumped on it. I was psyched, and came up with a few ideas of where we could go – she’s a newer climber, so I didn’t want to overwhelm her just yet… so just some shorter and cleaner pitches to get the blood flowing, you know?

In other words, The Beacon called.



It’s not an easy area, but there are a few very well travelled, very clean, very moderate routes that I’ve gotten to know pretty well. Not so much that I could climb them blindfolded… but the “with one arm tied behind my back” phrase does come to mind.

I packed up the car, picked her up in Portland, and we made our way toward adventure!

What did we climb?

SE Corner, 5.6, Trad – I got to lead!

We also explored quite a bit around the base of the Beacon… I feel like I’ve explored these before, but I can’t quite remember any specific instances… so we crawled into caves, stared up at huge walls, and appreciated the open air and cool fall breezes.



It was a simple and fun day – we got one solid pitch in, but… I’ll admit, I underestimated just how intimidating outdoor climbing can be, in comparison to gym climbing… especially when you get an amazing view of the Columbia River Gorge. Great views are a double-edged sword, right? They’re awesome and beautiful… but they’re also intimidating if you’re not accustomed to them.

Which leads me to the real meat and potatoes of this post – Climbing today, I was reminded just how deeply immersed I am in my element. It doesn’t really fall into one of the four natural elements… but instead I’m just exceptionally comfortable outdoors. Which… I’m just going to say it, I’m really exceptionally proud of.

It’s neat to think of, you know? I’d been camping when I was younger, a few times, but I’d never really considered myself into the outdoors until I got to college and had a chance to really stretch into my own wings.

But once I did… I’ve learned a lot, and experienced such a huge bounty of amazing trips, places, and… well, let’s be honest here. Quite a few mistakes along the way as well.

But… It’s been at least 16 years that I’ve been doing this. 16 solid years of trips, adventures, mistakes, memories, and excitement. Highs and lows, great summiting and rappelling in the rain.



It’s good to step back and recognize just how awesome we really are, every once in a while. To look at ourselves from the outside, and see just how many experiences we’ve lived, and how comfortable we’ve become in our elements – be it work, adventure, hobbies, or what have you.

To quite a wise (if short) old master: “Luminous beings are we”

A labor of love – My labor day climbing road trip! Part 5: Returning home

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Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

FSaturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

For my birthday, I’d originally planned to climb at Index with Daniel. When that fell through, I’d sketched out a road trip down highway 101 into California with my friend Laurel. That fell through too. Finally, I gave up and decided to do something on my own – something I’d always wanted to do, but had never quite been able to make happen.


An ascent of Devil’s Tower...



Friday and Saturday, 10-Sept-2021 & 11-Sept-2021


Friday:

I need to type words here… but frankly, it’s kind of hard to think up how to describe the drives home.

It’s sort of like a hike, maybe? In that a description isn’t really viable, and instead I should just skip over it as “Ben did the thing, time passed, and then he got where he was going. Here’s some pictures”?

Like the preface says, I really enjoy long drives. They give me a chance to keep the “I want to be moving!” part of my brain occupied while the “Let’s think about life!” part of my brain gets to run rampant. It’s really cool, actually… there’s been studies on “highway hypnosis”, and it’s even got a Wikipedia article written about it (Ed Note: See the link below!)… from what I can gather, it’s not dangerous… just an example of the human brain being pretty freaking amazing.

I drove.

I thought.

I kept an app open on my phone so that I could dictate notes as I thought up interesting things worth considering.

Wyoming came, and Wyoming went. Montana appeared on the horizon, and then the border passed under my wheels.

It was…

It just was. Excellent.





OHH! One thing worth noting – Missoula was still great! I had a room in a dorm this time, COVID-safe of course with tons of walls and screens, and I had BBQ again!




Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_hypnosis

Saturday:

I planned on leaving Missoula early in the morning… around dawn, ideally. That didn’t quite happen though – I got up early, of course, but as I was putting my bags in the car I noticed something… something dangerous. Something familiar to an Oregonian.

I noticed a farmer’s market.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t go to farmer’s markets that often. But I do try to when I have the chance – I don’t know how realistic this is, but I feel like veggies from a farmers market are just… healthier than ones from the store. You know?

They haven’t travelled as far, they haven’t been in storage quite as long, and… I dono, I kind of assume that the farms are smaller, so… they’re from less industrial seeds? That last one doesn’t quite make sense the more I think about it, but the rest of the ideas hold true.

So I bought some potatoes, carrots, dipping oil, and even a super-fancy dry-aged New York Strip steak. I’d still be getting home pretty early, so I figured that a nice meal would help top off the trip, you know?

One last stop on the way out of town took me to a semi-famous used book store (Ed Note: Hello again! Check out yet another link below!), though I didn’t find anything particularly interesting. A few mountaineering books that were maybe worth something, but… none of the climbing guidebooks that I’d been hoping to find. And since my apartment is already a bit overloaded with books, I held off for the time being and got back on the road.


The drives were.

Just as the day before, they simply were.

Miles passed, Montana passed, Idaho passed, and then even Washington passed.

The Columbia River grew up beside me, and the Gorge reared up around me.



Soon enough I was home, laying out the spoils of my adventure and cooking up an exceptionally stellar welcome-home meal.




It had been an excellent trip.


Link: http://www.montanavalleybookstore.com/

A labor of love – My labor day climbing road trip! Part 4.b: Exploring Devil’s Tower

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Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of juSaturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

For my birthday, I’d originally planned to climb at Index with Daniel. When that fell through, I’d sketched out a road trip down highway 101 into California with my friend Laurel. That fell through too. Finally, I gave up and decided to do something on my own – something I’d always wanted to do, but had never quite been able to make happen.


An ascent of Devil’s Tower...




Wednesday and Thursday, 08-Sept-2021 & 09-Sept-2021


Wednesday:

I left Rapid City in the mid-afternoon. The goal was to make it to the tower early enough that I could get a solid 8 hours of sleep before waking up… which meant that I needed to be asleep by… 7pm.

Yeah…

Okay, maybe I wasn’t aiming for a full 8 hours of sleep. Plan was to be asleep by 8:30, okay? Still a very legitimate amount of sleep!



Anyways, okay. So I left Rapid City.

The drive into Wyoming was pretty simple – beautiful, in a hazy… sort of ethereal way.

With many thanks to a guy at a gas station who warned me about a few speed traps on the road, I made my way out of South Dakota, into Wyoming, and along the road to the first national monument of the United States.


When it finally came into view over the horizon, I was… Excited? Apprehensive? I had mixed emotions, to be sure – this was the culmination of the whole trip, and quite possibly one of the biggest (or at least, the most famous) route that I’ll have climbed. This was a big deal, climbing and emotion and anticipation all wrapped up in one point on the horizon.

I kept driving.

Wednesday was primarily a rest day – I didn’t plan on exploring much of the tower before the ascent, but I did plan on driving up to the base, at least, to scout out driving times and other concerns. If I was going to be up there by 4am, I’d need all the recon info I could get…

And with that info gained, I headed back to my campsite. A teepee, actually, with a lovely soft bed in it waiting for me. I mean, not honestly that soft… but hey. A heck of a lot softer than the sleeping pad I’d been rocking, so I was absolutely not one to complain.

I ate an amazing dinner, watched the sunset, read a bit from my book, and slept like a log.





Thursday:

First things first – Prairie Dogs!



Okay, with the cuties out of the way – Thursday was my climb day! But… the climb was early, and even after taking a nap I had quite a bit of time left in the day. See, we summitted by 7:45, and I was back asleep in bed by 11:00, after doing a few extra routes… which meant that I was awake from my nap a bit after 1pm. A quick breakfast-for-lunch later, and I was heading up to the tower to really appreciate the cultural side of it.

I treated it like a museum, really… Walking slowly, enjoying the scenery, and going at my own quiet pace.

So walk with me. Enjoy the signposts, read a bit, and see the views that I saw from along the trail!





After exploring the tower, seeing the signs, and appreciating the work that the national park services has put in, I headed back to camp to enjoy the rest of the day. Peace, quiet, and beautiful views were my greatly appreciated reward for the day.