Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Gambler

Part 2

Read Part One Photos and Story First Here

Read Part One Photos and Story First Here

Accepting failure is not easy, choosing to back off and surrender is even harder but I knew it was the right choice and perhaps my only choice given that my body’s core temperature was dropping fast. As Dillon lowered me down and my feet hit the ground I was infused with disappointment. Although I knew I didn’t have the power left in me to pull thru the roof of the climb I knew I could do it and that settled in mind as I walked away with a new nemesis in my life.

I don’t take failure very well, perhaps nobody does but I think it’s also a learning process. As my friends would tell you I don’t give up and failing consumes me like the plague. I have learned you have to loose the emotions of failure and concentrate on how to move forward in life. The failure of my marriage taught me so many things but unfortunately the process and emotions of the situation consumed me and it took time to except the situation and learn from it. As I continued down the mountain I reminded myself of these lessons and found myself looking back every few moments catching one last look of deprivation.

The damn pillar drove me nuts. I think my friends were sick of hearing about it but I was determined to go back for a second try. The temperatures over the next week were super warm and I started thinking that my chances for another go were melting away. Since daylight savings got me an extra hour of light after work I decided to drive up the valley to see if my secret stick of ice was still standing. As I got closer my heart started to race like I was going on a first date with a smoking hot sexy girl but I reminded myself I live Cody, Wyoming and this pillar was the sexiest thing in my life. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I came around the corner to see it still standing and I was instantly fired up to get a second date with it.

My text message to partners “The Cow Is Fat….Its Time To Slaughter”

Within a few hours I had a crew together for the assault and everybody was fired up and ready to go. I decided getting to the pillar early in the morning was going to be a key factor in our success so Kenny Gasch and Dan Miller and I got set to leave town at 5:30am.

Hiking up in the moonlight was relaxing and tranquil; the peaks towered above our heads glowing with snow like flashlights guiding our way. The valley temperature was only 30 but a cool breeze was felt rushing off the alpine slopes above us as we climbed the lower pitches below our objective. A rising sun hit our backs as we climbed the last pitch and Kenny and Dan were able to get their first look at the looming pillar above.

I stood at the base apprehensive and nervous especially after seeing the horizontal fracture line all the way across the top of the pillar had gotten bigger since my last visit. I quickly tied in ready and willing to take the risks of climbing the pillar. My biggest concern was the fracture line and the free hanging pillars hanging above that I would have to climb.

The lower part of the pillar sounded like an empty milk jug as I kicked my way up and finding protection was like looking for a date in Cody…the odds are good but the goods are odd!

Once I reached the roof my heart rate jumped, I carefully threw a tool into the free hanging pillar wondering if it was just going to explode and plummet to the ground like the one did last week on My Morning Glory. I think Kenny and Dan were both worried about this as well since they were scrambling below like mice in a box trying to escape the claws of ice falling from above. Each move was unique and it was like no other climbing I had ever done before, I had to figure out the sequence of movements like the cha cha each step was important and led me to progress to the next tool or foot placement.

There is nothing nonchalant about swinging into a free hanging dagger of ice and as I moved on to the last one I could barely hold on to my tools. My arms were pumped out and I was concentrating every ounce of power left to hang on. If you have ever been this pumped you know exactly what I mean, someone could hand you a bottle of water and you just cant hold on no matter how much you try. Falling was not an option and it would be a huge ride with definite consequences not to mention marginal gear and a fractured pillar. I held on with everything I had and was completely afraid of dropping a tool but somehow I managed to climb as fast as I could to the top without failure.

Needless to say I was psyched and yelled at the top of my lungs throughout the valley. I felt like I had just escaped from the biggest whipper of my life. The hardest part was done and I held on with every ounce of energy and muscle I had. My muscles were instantly sore so I knew I pushed myself hard, I guess the thought of falling and possible serious injury allows you to push your limits!

The Gambler is now the newest addition to Cody's most challenging ice routes!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Moment Of Surrender Part 1

My body fights my conscience as blood rushes thru my veins; the rhythm of movement is lost as my personal strength is kamakazied by my core.

Climbing, Kayaking, work or relationships we have all found that point at which you could give no more. In the past few years of my life I have met this point more times then I care to admit too, but I have learned something each time. I have learned that the battle to hold on or change something in your life is not always the answer and that in many situations it prolonged the pain or made things worse. We fight everything in our lives and so it seems natural to only succumb to failure kicking, screaming and bruised as you finally fall at surrenders door.

My battles and fights with my business, relationships and personal challenges have been difficult and life changing at times. I have felt the winds of heaven brush against my face and the devil pulling at my toes and thru these triumphs I have been able to find my soul.

I stared up the pillar like a kid staring into the cookie jar….I knew I shouldn’t but I wanted it. I stood here 2 weeks prior in the same spot pondering the same thoughts and now my body and conscience battle once again. The pillar had grown from a skinny toothpick to a carrot shaped dagger of ice spilling from the roof above our heads. Everything about the pillar looked better then 2 weeks prior other then the shower of water spilling from above. Eighty percent ice twenty percent water is the figure we worked out which normally means walk away. I was reminded of man with long dirty blonde hair and a mustache that would make Mexico proud. Standing on the bridge in Ouray, Colorado many years ago staring into the ice glazed boxed canyon a man approached me and introduced himself as the Ice Farmer. He was very young and looked almost homeless and as we both stared into the lead climbing area he mention a WI3 line that he had been eyeing for weeks. I looked at him with a blank stare rolling my eyes wondering how high this poor lad was because I saw nothing but vertical ice. He looked straight at me with a preachers stare and said, “You have to visualize it man”

When you want something really bad you have to visualize it and sometimes it fools your own reality into believing anything is possible. We have the choice to make the impossible possible and only your determination, strength and vision will break those barriers.

I looked at the pillar and thought maybe I could stay out of the rain of persistent water pouring down. I was reminded it wasn’t just a few drips it was a thunderstorm. I paced back and forth as all my thoughts collided giving me mixed feelings about my decision. I usually have a good feeling about a climb and for some reason the rain of water and warm weather concerned me that the pillar might not be stable.

Just as I was ready to walk away a rush of teenage rebellion came over me and I was ready to tie in and go toe to toe with the pillar. My heart rate raced as the vibrations of each kick and swing swam thru my body. I became intimate with the pillar wrapping my arms and legs around it clinching on like a 2 year old to their dad’s leg. Each tool placement took me further from my safe zone below and committed me to push on. Within seconds I felt like I was at the base of a waterfall with the mist blowing against my face. I tried to tune it all out but the water began working its way down my back and into my boots, before I knew it I was in a shower. Half way thru the climb I felt water running down my legs and I knew that was a bad sign. I pushed on feeling my boots fill with water and each kick looking like a water balloon exploding against the ice. The pillar was unrelenting steep giving little to no rests the entire way while showering you at the same time. I moved with hopes of dryer ground above and trying to keep warm but the conditions were unrelenting.

Just before hitting the roof I swung my tool right into a fracture line 70 feet off the ground and my heart stopped and a daunting silence fell thru my body. At this point I began to feel my core temperature dropping from my hands to my toes. I carefully moved upward trying to stabilize my weight and not make any drastic changes in my motions. I found myself at the roof of the climb feeling like a wet sponge. I felt my body slowly shutting down trying to gain warmth and I tried to reboot my engines and stay confident but my core temperature was dropping to quickly. Within seconds I realized water had consumed every piece of clothing I had on and I was quickly faced with a moment to surrender.

Part 2 coming soon……

All Photos By Matt Steen
Climber Aaron Mulkey

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pride Or Glory?

Story and Update coming soon.............

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