“Josh, I think you need a roommate.”
“Because I think you spend way to much time by yourself. I worry about you.”
“Well I don’t know, man, maybe you’re right…”
I walked away and threw my lunch bag in the back of the truck, checked that all the equipment was loaded, then hopped in the truck and drove off.
Before I left I mentioned the amount of time I’d spent alone in Wyoming and other mountain ranges scattered across the western United States this summer. When I got back it was difficult to assimilate back into mainstream society. It’s so crowded and noisy; it’s offensive.
I planned to go up the East Buttress of Mount Whitney with a group in early June this year and arrived at the Whitney Portal in Lone Pine two days early to acclimate and get permits. I arrived at 2pm, grabbed permits, and then solo’d Lone Pine Peak’s North Ridge. I slid down an ice slope back to the lakes, alone, in Chacos and self-arresting with an ice ax. It took me three hours car to car and I was able to experience life in its purest.
That night I laid in my tent thinking about the upcoming trip to Wyoming, and started to feel a sense of dread that others would start trickling into camp through the night. I laid there sleepless writing Self-Acceptance.
In the morning I stuck around for as long as I could to at least try and relate with the group and start building the bonds of climbing partnership that is so dire in the mountains. But soon I felt it was just another social gathering without purpose, and I don’t really do those.
By 9am I’d made my way up up the entire North Fork to Upper Boyscout Lake, where I veered to its north flank gaining the slabs up onto a ridge leading to Mount Russel. I solo’d the Fishook Arete, and then down climbed the 3rd class ridge. I was back to camp at 5pm. I solo’d two world class routes in 8 hours by myself, and hiked about 14 miles. Meanwhile, the rest of my party stayed at camp.
The next as I rope gunned up the East Buttress my belayer was asleep and altitude sick, and a second following party that was incompetent and also altitude sick. I wanted nothing more than to untie my rope and dance to the rhythm of my own beat. I think that’s the moment I went off the deep end.
The next morning I jetted out of Lone Pine back to San Diego, early and without word, in record time–unhindered. And I think that’s the word that has really resonated with me over the last few weeks–unhindered. I do spend a lot of time alone, and the reason I enjoy spending as much time alone as I do is because I don’t complain. When I’m hungry I eat anything. I’ll drive through McDonalds, or I’ll drop into a taco shop, or eat dry crunchy ramen; I’ll eat cold soup out of a can–I don’t give a shit if it has GMO or gluten: I am not picky. When I’m over it, I can just hop in my car and go home, and the only person I disappoint is myself.
In Wyoming this Summer I ran the trip until everyone else had to go home, and it was time to make a decision: was I going to head to Yosemite? Tahoe? Maybe head to Reno for a day or two while I figured it out? Stay in Utah? I decided to just go home. I missed my peoples. I wanted to see my mom and grandpa, and make my bed and drink coffee at my desk in the morning while riding some absurd shit on this blog. I am only accountable to myself, so when I feel like staying I say, or when I feel like going I go.
I think another thing that has changed a lot is the way I view my role in relationships. When I met Galen in Lander, we were soon off into the wilds of the Wind River Range for a week. When you backpack with climbing gear everything is shared, and sharing that kind of proximity with another is quite an art. Sharing a stove, sharing a tent, sharing memories and personal space and food–sometimes clothes. That dynamic was compounded as we hunkered down in my tent from the hoards of hummingbird sized mosquitoes. We learned to talk when we wanted, and to enjoy silence when we needed it, and it’s never personal.
That is a strange dynamic in our society. Proximal silence is often viewed as strange or awkward in our day to day living in cities. If I show up to work quiet and just set down my tools and start plugging away my coworkers think I’m having a bad day. If I just show up to the climbing gym and throw in some headphones and do my thing I’m an antisocial jerk. That’s not the case though. I just don’t have the capacity to switch myself on and off socially at a moments notice. I’m weird like that.
Including people in life is a lot of work, and I feel like there is something inside of me that’s broken, because I’m not really all that capable of nourishing and maintaining relationships that require that kind of tending to, but it’s broken in a perfect way that is undeniably me.
The one thing I haven’t worked out yet is if I’m just getting acquainted with who I am, or if the more I isolate the further I drift into solitude. It’s kind of sad sometimes, not because I’m lonely, but because I’ve become so content with being alone that I’m now seemingly incapable of allowing others to get close. I push people away–often knowingly. Sometimes the amount of work and effort just seems to intimidating and stressful, and more often than not I prefer to paddle out alone in the the waters of life.