I texted a buddy that I did my AMGA Guides course with to confirm the dates we’ll be meeting in Lander, Wyoming. We are bound for a week of alpine climbing in the Wind River Range. When I first started learning the ropes it was with the goal of mountaineering. When I started out I expected it to be years before I was ready, but now I find myself able to launch into the alpine whenever, roped or unroped, on a team or solo.
When I first began preparing for the East Buttress of Mount Whitney it was a huge deal for me. I didn’t have my food systems down, we took way too much gear, and the gear I had wasn’t really efficient for alpine climbing. I took a 70 Liter pack and it was busting at the seams!
Since then I’ve climbed tens of thousands of feet, sometimes as much as two or three thousand in a day. I’ve done much bigger climbs, although not at that high of altitude, but with heinous approaches. I’ve refined my arsenal into an ultralight/minimalists dream.
I remember when climbing up Tahquitz was an undertaking. Climbing up it once in a day was all we were able to do, but now I can climb up it as many as seven in a day. And now Mount Whitney is the same, and I’m casually planning a car to car ascent of the East Buttress. I’m not taking a 70 Liter pack this time, but instead a 20 Liter. We’re not doing it in multiple days, but instead one (the 20 Liter pack pretty much forces us back to the car the same day).
One of the things I enjoy most about climbing is the freedom of movement it allows me, and becoming efficient and comfortable on the wall and in the mountains has granted me just that much more freedom. There is nothing more unsettling that not being able to do something because you don’t have enough experience or skill. Last year I had enough skill to do the East Buttress, but not enough experience to attempt it. I needed a mentor to ease me into that stuff.
To try and set goals a year ago that would project me to where I am today would have been intimidating and unrealistic. To think that I’d scaled large adventure routes in Red Rock; climbed Epinephrine and onsight solod solar slab, or that I would climb Half Dome, I just wouldn’t have believed it to be possible. To go back and feel the intimidation of looking at the 800ft Tahquitz, and try and understand 2000ft routes being “casual” today just wasn’t feasible.
On July 8th I’m going to be embarking on the biggest trip of my life. When I took my anchor building course way back I remember the guide asking all of us what our goals were in our climbing, so that he may better tailor the course to our needs. I said that I wanted to do big multipitch trad, and eventually alpine-style mountaineering. And holy shit, now here I am.
All that stuff above is great, but I’m not sure that is what I meant when I titled this I Have Arrived. I think that my biggest arrival is that I am embarking on this journey alone. I have partners and friends that I’ll be meeting with and climbing with along the way, but I’m going off on my own. There is no co-pilot on this trip. After I’m done in Lander I’m meeting Emma in the Tetons, but that’s it. From there I can go to Devils Tower, or City of Rocks, or Smith Rock, or go for an ascent of Mt. Rainier, or climb Mt. Hood. I might just head back south and skirt the Eastern Sierras.
I have arrived. I am free to move as I will, over the terrain I’ve trained for, and I’m not restricted by fear, or the lack of a partner, because I’ve found an excellent and reliable partner within myself. I’m so psyched to be alive right now, and I can’t wait until I arrive back on the ground sometime in August, because it’s exciting to see what my shoes will look like from that vantage point.