Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never blame the mountain.

Where am I now?

It has been an uncomfortable few weeks. Physically, I have been housed, fed and warm. Outside the sun has been shining like some endangered creature allowing the people of Squamish a rare privilege of its presence.

Mentally, I have been trembling on a gully wall, watching rocks whip down from pressures and the winds around me. I have been getting cold again, shivering and soaked to the bone.  Multiple events have added up to produce that horrible and helpless black hole question of why? which when spoken just floats away, stolen from your lips. Why me? why now? Why at all?  For the first while I assume that friends can give some kind of solace or maybe science can explain these things, but at the end of the day, the 'why' monster remains. Creating this fragile and cowering being of myself.

I rolled over this morning after some really strange and realistic dreams about trying to surf on a flimsy board in an ocean with no waves and I flipped up the screen. On a different kind of surf I came across this video: Echoes, in which Nick Bollock explains with great conviction his choices in life.

It reminded me of what is and what isn't.

You can never, ever blame the mountain. That will get you no where. Events in your life do not have soul, or intention. The people do, or at least you might hope they do, but none of them are within your command, most of the time outside my understanding too. The only choice that I really have, the only question I really need to ask; is how? How will I deal with this? how will I build from it? How can I react, analyze, learn, grow and inevitably callus.

I am attempting to run that whole track. If I was on a physical mountain, would I just curse at the rain and the wind and allow those happenings that are outside my control? Would I allow them to stunt my growth and my progress? or would I take control of my battered ego, and alter my direction and my goals to find a new way, a new challenge in this storm. Getting down seems too easy, I have to find my way back up.

Game on.

This is not me, as I took it. But it is a perspective I value.

Friday, August 10, 2012

taking flight.

I like to believe that if I were to pick up a child who is screaming beyond reason on an airplane, sit them stiffly on my lap and stare deep into their young eyes, that I could connect with their soul. If I was to keep my focus, really stare them down, I could access a level of understanding that adults tend to dismiss as luck. Through this wizardry I could make them quiet, satisfied and curious.

 But, alas, social hurdles prevent me from trying; the parents, the stewards, the small aisle ways and the misinterpreted kidnapping.  For now I will just have to turn up the lumineers and drown the chaos. My ears the victims.

The woman across the aisle from me is clutching a rosary. The beads indent her wrist as she squeezes and her french nails turn white as the plane drifts up to altitude. She makes the sign of the cross and closes her eyes. She has her faith somewhere else right now. Mine remains firmly planted on the pilot's java fix this morning.

I am on a flight, en route to San Fransisco and then Wyoming. I will be performing my duty as a bridesmaid, with due honor and respect for my friend who is brave enough to follow her dreams. So where is my mind? It bounces like a slow motion pong ball between pending goals, obligations to friends and a strange guilt from getting what I wanted.

Why must we crave to be the things we are not? Who am I speaking for anyways? ...or is it just me. I am about to go celebrate a union between two people who were brave enough to commit to eachother and although I just passed customs I feel a world away.

In my haste to smash my eardrums and silence the children through jedi mind tricks I must have missed the safety briefing.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Ninja kick the writer's block.

Squamish is beautiful right now. The heavy veil of spring has lifted to reveal this bright and powerful white light in the sky, it is surrounded by blue stuff. So fantastic.

While rummaging through old journals, of which there are many, I found some gems. It was a grueling sieve through the pans of teenage angst and break ups and over-elaborated feelings, but somewhere along the way I managed to record some of my interactions with the world outside my own head.

This is 2007 for ya.

Foot Bridge over Speed River

Today I met a man. I was busy trying to set up a photograph of the river when he approached me. He asked me not to take his picture. He told me that on this day he was not feeling very photogenic. 

Looking up from my work I asked him why. He  said it was because he dropped his glasses in the river. I told him I was sorry. He told me I didn't need to be sorry, but thanked me for it.

He asked what I was trying to take a picture for.... was I a journalist or something? I told him I was not. I was trying to take pictures of what I saw. 

He said it must be hard, hard to see everything. I agreed, remembering that he recently lost his glasses. I asked him to have a good night. He said  he was sorry for taking my time. I told him not to be.  He left telling me his glasses hadn't helped him anyways.  

...hope you enjoyed that. 

Picking apart the past is a peculiar activity. It seems to change over time, you reassess and chose your prized memories for the walls of your mind, embellished and framed squarely.  Meanwhile other details go into storage or worse, fires, where the passions you once felt can finally burn to ash and leave you alone, or so you hope.

I am currently looking to rediscover what made me a vagrant dirtbag.

 I think I have pin pointed the first adventure, the turning point. This idea came by reading an inspired memoir of Alabama in the middle of the twentieth century. All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. It has taken me back to the southern lands where I cut my teeth on climbing trips and adventure living. The place that remains to have delivered the biggest culture shock I have ever experienced, with a history rich in passions, both the ones we are proud of and the ones we most certainly are not.

So here we go, down the gravel roads.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Turning wind to Granite Walls.

It was hit or miss.

Many a thing stood in the way of making June 21st 2012 an epic. The first being that I worked until 11:45 pmthe night prior. Arriving home, I slumped on my house mate's floor and told him what some co- workers had told me some hours earlier... that June 21st was not in fact the longest day of the year and that the Chief trail was closed due to rockfall. A quick Google search revealed that yes, indeed, the trail was closed and  June 20th, the day that we had just bid farewell, was the longest day of the year.

What was the point of waking up at dawn anymore? We couldn't bag the peak and we had missed the longest day. It all seemed more trivial especially because dawn was still so early ( but not the earliest) and work finished so late ( 4 hours sleep max on the radar). We really had to re assess our goals, our objectives, and our motivation. Why did I want to do this?

We carved out an answer, recollecting our reasons; it was all quite simple: We love the sun.

Living in Squamish alone makes you grateful for sunny days, but long sunny days are priceless.  It does not matter that a few minutes were shaved off our fun.... we still have 16 hours and 24 minutes of sun in the sky to be grateful for... and having a day off ( and having told an inter-web of social circles the preliminary hatch of the plan), gave us no excuse.

Today, we will make the most of it.  Today we will celebrate the beginning of summer.

 Bedtime on Summer's eve: 12:45am


Woke up at 4:40am. looked outside and felt cheated, the sky was already light.
By 5:10am, myself and Jimmy were on the trail, moving quick, silenced by the thunder of the creek on our side. As someone who usually wakes up at 10am, I could not believe how much light was on the trail. It could have been mid day! We slipped under the signage and cautiously made the decision to make our mission light and speedy. Returning before 7am would insure no interactions with BC parks. The rock in the trail was huge. A not so subtle reminder that rocks do fall, and when they do, they are unpredictable.

The summit came quick and before 6 am we were watching our snowy neighbors illuminate, cut between stratus clouds and rigid coastal shadows.

The fog has lifted. The sun is up, it's morning.


Right after the fog lifted, it fell heavy. I was tired. Feeling the effects of late work and early rise, my all too spoiled body stiffened and fell under an thick blanket of fatigue. As Jimmy was whipping up some amazing looking pancakes, I tapped out for a sun- nap.

3 hours later, the adventure continued.


10:00am: Kayaking was looking iffy, as no other kayaker's were capable of joining and Jimmy has neither experience nor gear. As for biking, I had no bike. We decided to use what we had... we had climbing gear. Peasant's route, a 6 pitch climbing route up the Grand Wall of the Chief was our objective.

It was hot. The air was humid and the bugs were out full force. With seeping rock and sweating hands we tackled the classic. The beautiful belays in between pitches lay as reminders to how damn lucky we were to be there. All the while, the Grand Wall route loomed. It hung over our petty goals, teasing us to try. Come Mid july, when the skills are honed and the days reliable... try we will.

After 2.5 steady hours of upward momentum, we were rappelling from the top anchors. Minds steady and legs wobbly, we hiked back to the car. Drove to base camp and decided it was time for a hardy meal. 


I tried to avoid it, I searched for more options, if there was anything else I could do. But when it came down to it, you cannot complete a day in Squamish without a bike ride. Jimmy and I packed up and made our way out of town,  by help of the little green wagon. For the first time in 4 years, I mounted a bike and rode a trail.

It was easy, apparently.

Pedals, handlebars, weight distribution... Jimmy reminded me that it is just like climbing, stay relaxed, allow your body and the bike to do the work. I followed the trail, stopping and stuttering the first time around. Steeper sections were walked and strange noises were emitted when roots or rocks were hit without enough momentum. I felt new, I felt beginner, and I loved it.

We flew out of the woods, back on the road where we started. Jimmy patiently waiting for the word... " Let's do it again!" He laughed and we pedaled back in, dialing the turns and the speed, trying a bit more, a bit harder. And then I stopped. Jimmy was ahead. The afternoon light warmed the lime green moss on the trees, branches arched like rainbows across the canopy, the world was a hundred shades of green and brown.

To end the day off, we drove up to Alice lake. With Mount Garibaldi as background, we stripped to the bare minimum and sprinted in. More refreshing than coffee. We were both ready for more.

After some nachos and beer at the Howe Sound Brewpub...

Dusk settled in over the slack lines of Nexxen beach. Friends came out of the wood work and with stereos and hoola hoops. We slacked and danced and wandered the beach. It was 10:30 before I would call it dark. Slowly but surely, we all dissipated, most with jobs the next day, but smiling because summer has begun!


75% complete... kayaking was lacking but not because of a lack of energy... just a lack of resources.

no car. all human powered.
no naps: more time.
No work the night before maybe?... ya that would be nice.

Have a great summer everyone!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Sea to Sky Highway
looking over Squamish from the first peak of the Chief
Out of breathe, thighs burning, heart pounding through my chest,  I drop my concern for a threat of cougars and start running.  I pushed through the inclining woods, up flights of steps, rocks, through trickling streams and waterfalls pounding from weeks of rain. My legs quiver and fill with lactic acid but I can not stop. This is a christening. I pull my body along chains and up cold metal ladders, lightly brushing the textured and damp granite as I pass . Finally I scramble the last few hundred feet, stumbling ecstatic.  I am looking over the granite kingdom of Howe Sound, I am one hour of man-power from Ingrid’s apartment in downtown Squamish, which seems like a toy village from here. This is my backyard, finally. I am home. I am not a visitor. I can feel it.

My new Palette
It’s been 3 weeks since I crossed the border back into the motherland. After declaring the one postcard I bought in my near 3-month stay, a confused but apathetic border guard let me go. Thank god. I thought I was never going to make it. My first goals were to navigating Vancouver, finish my arts-and-crafts-creation of a Brewpub application and get to Squamish. The next morning I rolled down the sea to sky highway… mountain lines waved and rose as the trees expired mist while the grey skies hung like blankets above. I twisted and turned through the rain, unable to shake my smile. I had this feeling of sinking into the landscape, comforted by every click. At 9am sharp I presented the Howe Sound Brewpub with a coaster showing a cartoonized version of my face on the front and my resume held in a neat little origami folder on the back… I looked straight in the manager’s eyes and told her in no uncertain terms that this resume proved that I was both creative and capable of following simple instruction.( I will get a photo of it soon)

Materials required: 
Thanks to my brothers Co-worker during our nice meal at the Bellagio
 + Origami Instructions
+ varnish and cork and a generous friend's printer ( thanks Kev), Scissors ( thanks Kev) and glue (thanks Mike) .

Job done, wait no… I mean… job starts….

Dog walking with I! one of her 3 awesome jobs
Having successfully overcome the first unknown of my grand pilgrimage ( being employed) I set out to find a home.  Now, 3 weeks later, but I have something in the works. May will have me settled. Until then, I was welcomed into an old friends home, courtesy of facebook’s revealing news feeds. I, who went to University with me, noticed I was west and dropped me a line. “ You can stay here until you find the perfect place, don’t even worry about it, I know how it feels” She said, completely genuine. I paid half her rent and started life in Squamish, quickly becoming close with Ingrid and sharing as many climbing and yoga expeditions as humanly possible.
let the fog clear

my temporary bed and home.
teaching I to rappel with a Prusik
Questionable success

I can feel myself sinking into the beautiful. My mind is quiet and controlled, far from the buzzing light bulbs of the past life. I wake to the gentle tap of rain on tin and roll to see the chief through a misty window. I put less work into my smiles, my world seems effortless, not because it is any easier but because everything I do seems worth it. At night I sleep, I feel happy, self sufficient, tired. I am waiting for my honeymoon with Squamish to wear off, but thus far this seems the easiest and most natural transition I have ever made. With the fear and uncertainty of packing a car with all my earthly belongings and moving across the country for the second attempt at creating a life out here... I had no idea what could happen. In Utah I became nervous and anxious, knowing that leaving the desert might mean realizing that Squamish was only a dream I could not make happen. I wouldn't get work, I would be hungry again and stressed about money, I would miss  Toronto too much and fall back into my parents home and the imposed dreams of financial security and smash and grab vacations.

The nice thing about Squamish, is you get to do all those things you planned for rainy days... all of them.

Rainy day activity

If I had to name my biggest lesson on this road, I would have to say that  if you commit to something, fully completely, and you accept the worst case scenario but you take that chance on the best case, then no matter what you will come out on top.You alone are capable of overcoming a fear of insecurity ( on rocks and in life) , you alone can find a better place for yourself, and you alone can decide what to make of what you have. 
Stay strong. Stay Lucky.

Chief. Better start training.
Simple facts through numbers: Inventory of life since January 14th 2012: 

Things lost/broken/gone: 
- 1 right show blown out at the toe
- 1 rope: 2 core shots
- one stove
- 1 yellow C3 left in a crack
- 1  jackrabbit, relating to a large piece of plastic that covered the front half of the undercarriage of my car... ( who knew rodents could destroy a station wagon on impact?!)
- 2 sweatshirts
-6, yes, 6 pairs of pants: ripped.
- a bunch of socks
- some cartilage in my ankle
- a whole lot of skin
- a bit of dignity in a wide chimney

Things found/ gifted from climbing gods: 
- 1 right shoe that fits me
- 1 rope from a nice Swiss man
- the ability to change lanes in Vegas without hitting the bumps on the dotted lines. 
- 118 bucks ( thanks slots!) 
- the discipline necessary to do yoga often.
- a profound appreciation for Elvis Presley 
- a grasp on Eastern European humor
- a ton of  gratitude for hilariously open and lenient campground hosts 
-  half a bottle of Jim beam
- one dinner at the Bellagio Casino ( thanks brother!) 
- one pair of pants
- a lot of couch sleeps, floor sleeps and safer than expected sleeps ( thanks boy scouts of Idaho! and the Kev! ) 
  - a realization that I am doing what I should be doing now. 
- a conviction for sharing my passion for the outdoors
-stories, lots of stories.

and half a dozen unforgettable people, each of whom I do not plan on loosing touch with.

Monday, April 2, 2012


There is a welt at the crease in my lips. Well, it is more like a laceration. Every time I bend or stretch the skin nearby it rips open again. To some this may first seem like a piece of food stuck on my face, or maybe you could hypothesize that I have the herp, but alas, it is one of my many, and newly dubbed, ‘happy scars’. It came about during the epinephrine day. While severely dehydrated on the 5 hour descent, my lips became overly chapped and dry. This would not have been much of a problem if I hadn’t been smiling and laughing so much. And so now it stays, like a scar to what happened, reminding me every time I open my mouth, with the sharp pain of a ripping scab, that I am happy. This trip has been good.

Driving into Idaho was like entering into a dream. Out of the dust spread a sea of yellow and green that rose into brown and grey/ white streaked mountains. The sky was musky; streaking out the sun just enough to allow for overcast glows to cover endless farmlands and pastures below. I could hardly keep my eyes on the road. Playing through the lengthy “purchased” play list on my Ipod I questioned my own love of music and the value I place on it. It built the scene, the mood of change, just as much as the visuals.

Before all this was the last morning in Utah. I woke up to watch the frost on the windows turn to condensation. The sun streamed through, slowly illuminating the car-nest. I said goodbye to Utah right then and there. D was already making breakfast. Like the perfect bookend to this trip, I had run into her at the SuperCrack Buttress parking lot the day earlier.  The first climber I met on the trip becomes the last to share stories with. Reminding me that these life lines that crave the natural world will run parallel, especially the climbers.

Saying goodbye to the guys was hard, the hardest yet. We all hugged goodbye in the wake and bake cafĂ© in Moab. I have gotten much better at goodbyes, while at the same time getting much worse, I think. I don’t know how to say what I mean, or do justice to the impact and gratitude i feel towards these people. So instead I rush, I just want the goodbye to be over with otherwise I was worried I might not go at all.

The relationships I have built on this trip have been invaluable. The bonds we have made have been stronger and more founded than many I have made over the years living in one place.  Although many may be ‘situational friendships’, it is really too early to tell. But for a trip that was only meant to be a stop over, free of expectations and objectives, it has proven to be pivotal to my faith in direction and my conviction to follow my passions. The solitude of traveling alone, matched with the freedom of a vehicle have given me a liberty and an opportunity to really thrive, write, make photos, grow and experience everything I want to experience for as long as I deem necessary. I would trade this for nothing, I know now that this isn’t the last road trip. That’s all I can really say about that.

So now I am sitting in a positive space, a shop on the main street of Lava Hot Springs, ID. There are three gentlemen in the back jamming on electric guitar who were nice enough to let me sit at the front, on this vintage couch and type away, trying to find internet. I hope camber comes tomorrow. I am more hopeful that this drive will go smooth. I cannot wait for the next adventure.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

...and on the 7th Day Dr. Suess Rested

This land was made in the image of who-ville and Lorax land.

This is the closest I can come to making sense of the landscape in Moab, Utah.

We arrived late on Tuesday night, spending the week cooped up in a hotel, trying to make sense of our lives in our mother countries; Myself, W and C. C left us on Saturday, returning to Canada with near certain plans of returning soon. The trip is has been above and beyond what was expected, with friends new personalities entering and exiting the adventure along the way. Right now I am working feverishly on the rest of the lessons learned, looking to explain them through a replay of the longest day I have ever spent on a mountain. 18hr: no epic.

For now though, let me show you what I am seeing...

Onion Creek

Onion Creek

Onion Creek

A hole... where the sun comes through

Great times on the Corona Arch

This is a play by play of what W did on the Corona arch.

Indian Creek

What? is that you loving Crack? I think so...

Colorado River

Arches National Park at sunset

Claire joining ranks with the double arches

Best Cairn I have ever seen