Archive for May, 2013
That is what I am doing most of the time these days, riding the couch, so to speak. With a slowly mending new ACL (which is apparently one of the longest recoveries!) I have become really good at sitting on the couch. Slowly but surely though, my former life is trying to usurp me from this comfy throne. Every day a little more strength is gained and with it, a little more confidence to sneak back out into the wide open world and grasp at my favorite things in life.
Having an injury like this is like slamming on the brakes in your life, especially when your livelihood (mountain guide) and all of your recreation depend upon working limbs. Adding to that is the fact that my entire social structure is centered around going outside to play. Skiing, climbing and mountain biking are my passions, and changing to a sedentary life has been akin to a heroin addict stopping cold turkey. No more endorphins flowing through my veins from natural highs of endless cold smoke in the hills or sending a splitter crack. Nope, now it is time to watch everyone else do it on Facebook.
As I have said before, I don’t think there is a silver lining in this injury, but my one major observation is that there is beauty in hitting the reset button HARD. A month ago I couldn’t really walk too well. It took me 40 minutes to take my first stroll outside in the rainforest for 1km walk around a lake. And I was basically in tears. Not from pain, but from joy, the pure elation of realizing that I would someday get my life back.
And the beauty of everything lately is that it seems like every day is another medium to large size victory. So many of my daily ‘mundane’ activities are now seen through the eyes of a beginner. On one of my first bike rides up the highway from Squamish toward Whistler, I noticed a car slam on the brakes in the other direction and then do a big about face and track me down. It was a buddy of mine, and he was going toward town when he saw this big lanky guy with the grandest smile he had ever seen on a road biker. Quickly he realized that it was me and he was so psyched to see me out there back at it again.
However great the hikes and road rides are, climbing has been gnawing at my consciousness. If you are a climber you might understand. I can’t quite quantify it, but for me climbing is as close to meditating as it gets. The focus and determination it requires just can’t be matched by my other pursuits, and consequently the rush of climbing cannot be replaced. The other day I had dinner with some of my best friends and main climbing partners. As chance would have it, all three of us are on the climbing disabled list. Between pregnancy and an injury, the three of us have been finding some other things to focus on life. But, as my pregnant friend Mandoline put it the other day, ‘I’m sick of talking about babies and kid stuff, I want to go climbing and shoot the shit about routes and places to climb already!’ I couldn’t agree more, and finally, whether it was poor judgement or not, I gave in.
No one has really given me a real NO about going climbing at this point in my recovery. I know the facts, that my new ACL graft isn’t fully reconstituted yet, and my leg is weak. But again and again I ask my self, if I am doing easy uphill hikes, how different is going climbing? I try to convince and fool myself again and again that it will be safe to go climbing. My physical therapist, a climber herself, was hinting that a really controlled return was imminent. I know I would not be going for it on the sharp end and taking falls for a while, but to be back out on the rock all day, and hanging with my friends again is what I am really missing. Besides, the only people I knew who had blown ACLs (both new and old) climbing did so bouldering when they fell off and landed. It’s easy to scratch bouldering off the list; as a big dude, people love to boulder with me because I am an all-star spotter, but when the big guy falls, everyone runs! No need to take part in an activity where every time you fall you hit the ground!
So where did my logical reasoning then take me for my first day back on the rock? To some super easy single pitch climbs of course… but without a rope. Now I am sure this won’t make sense to many of you, but in some weird and twisted way it was the perfect way to get back at it in my mind. If I am soloing I won’t try things too hard and I won’t fall. One of the things about my recovery has been that I have been by myself for so much of it. Most of my walks, bike rides and training sessions are in my own solo world, so to me, this was a continuation of my own journey to rehabilitation.
Just like the first hikes and bike rides, I had found a way to bring total joy into routes I had climbed, guided and soloed hundreds of times. The purity, focus and total body awareness were things I hadn’t had in my life in months. I ran into friends who were out climbing. The dogs got to run around the cliffs for a bit. I played in the sun and felt the hard rock crushing my toes in my shoes again. And 6 pitches of 5.6-5.7s have never been so much fun for me in so long. At this point in the journey it is as much about rehabbing the mind and soul as it as about healing the body. I just really hope that I can keep this fresh and renewing perspective on my passions for as long as possible, because if I can do that, then I will have really found the silver lining in this injury, the ability to find pure joy and a fresh bliss in things I have done so many times.
Exams are tough. Whether they’re your first driver’s test, an important midterm or a job-dependent physical exam, they all force you to lay it on the line. There is no hiding behind feigned indifference, or deferral to a more knowledgeable friend. It is you, the challenge laid out, and the raw truth of what knowledge or physical prowess you have amassed up to then.
To be a student and attempt an exam is normal; the risk of failure is part of the learning process, and is a generally accepted part of educational progression. But the Canadian Mountain Ski Guide (run through Thompson Rivers University for the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) exam process has a distinct difference. Candidates go into their exam identifying as ski guides already. The risk of failure is compounded by that negative result outing you as an unworthy guide, which is as crushing an assertion as anything to people who have worked so hard to get where they are already, and by all accounts are very capable of safely guiding clients through the mountains. This “what if” outcome is always close by, reminding us, the candidates, to train harder and prepare more thoroughly for the upcoming exam. Maps are pored over, techniques refined and ski miles are pounded in. We visit the exam area, scouting potential routes daily, hypothesizing over different examiner approaches to a particular situation. The evenings are spent discussing more potential exam options, every candidate with their own opinion of how things will unfold. Everyone is fueled along by their own “what if” scenario, adding to the general group stress and anxiety. The weeks before the exam generally unfold like this: The focus is singular, creating a mad sort of efficiency, all of the candidates striving towards one goal, the successful completion of the exam.
In many ways we are no different from law students preparing for the bar, or firefighters with their physical tests. All of this preparation has come down to one week in the mountains with my fellow candidates and examiners. We are now up to the challenge, skills honed from weeks of training and years in the mountains. The pressure lies in putting together seamless days back to back. One great lead is not enough. The next day we need to put together another great lead, and the following day, and the day after that. The singular focus remains from training and all other worldly worries melt away. All that matters is the day in front of us. The stress of all our prior assumptions disappears as well, as now this exam is a reality, and we are actually out there, skiing in some wild places. The proper reasons for embarking on this crazy process come flooding back, as I top out on another Rocky Mountain peak, a vast expanse of mountainous terrain expanding before me. “What exam?” I think, as we lay turns between massive rock walls, sinuous pathways of powder cascading far down below into the valley.
The longest week of my life somehow quickly comes to a close. We are now left to reflect on the week, wondering what we would have done differently, if anything at all. Feeling thankful for a pretty much perfect week of weather and conditions with a great group of candidates, I now allow my body to start recovering from an intense winter season of guiding and training and begin a new stressful period: waiting for the official results of the exam to be mailed out in a couple of weeks.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: We first met Allie Bombach when she came to intern with Osprey several years ago and we’ve watched her explode into one hell of a filmmaker. It’s only fitting then that we share Allie’s words on what will be the 35th Anniversary of the incredible Mountainfilm Festival, coming up this Memorial Day Weekend (May 24-27, 2013). Here’s what Allie, rockstar filmmaker of Red Reel and the MoveShake series has to say about her time at MountainFilm past and how it’s inspired her to become who she is today.
I went to my first Mountainfilm in 2009. It was during a time where I was uncertain where to go with filmmaking. I had just sold most of my belongings and I was preparing to set out on the road to film my first documentary – 23 feet. It was at a time where I was overwhelmed and discouraged if I could even make a film. I needed support, a community, and MountainFilm gave me that and so much more.I hitched a ride from Santa Fe, slept on a friend’s floor in town, and out of sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time I was given a pass by a kind Mountainfilm staff member. I was elated, and I spent the entire festival not missing a beat. I listened and absorbed every moment that I could.I was so inspired by the films I saw and even more so by the discussions afterwards. Being able to meet the filmmakers that still are my mentors today was a life changing experience. They helped me believe in myself and encouraged me to push forward with filmmaking.After that festival, I knew exactly where I wanted to be every Memorial Day weekend to come. I made it my goal to one day have a film in the festival. I thought maybe ten years down the line I could be a part of it, I had no idea it would be the next year.The week I spend in Telluride for Mountainfilm is the wind in my sails for the rest of the year. Living on the road, I am constantly moving and trying to keep connected to a borderless community through the virtual world of social media. But, nothing compares to being face-to-face with the community that inspires me to live this life. The conversations had at Mountainfilm inspire new projects, create wonderful collaborations, and fuel the drive that it takes to make these films a reality. It’s such a gift, one I look forward to every spring and I’m so thankful for it.Looking back, I think who I am and what I am striving to create would be entirely different if I hadn’t gone to Mountainfilm. That sounds cheesy – but, it’s the truth.Happy 35th Mountainfilm! Thank you so much for the inspiration and community you bring into my life.
If you are in the Big Apple May 3rd and 4th, don’t miss the chance to attend the Bike Expo New York as there will be more than 60 vendors attending, one of them being yours truly, Osprey Packs! This event is great for road bike aficionados, and we’ll be showcasing and selling our recently redesigned line of hydration packs.
Over 50,000 spectators are expected to attend and admission is free and open to the general public. Hours of the show will be from Friday, May 3rd from 10 a.m. -8 p.m. as well as on Saturday, May 19th 9 a.m.-7 p.m., so come after work and check out the product tonight or head over first thing tomorrow. The event takes place at the Pier 36, 299 South Street, Basketball City, New York, NY.
Want to know a little bit more about what to expect? Here’s the rundown from last year’s awesome Expo:
In keeping with its mission to provide free bicycle education in New York City, Bike New York held several of its signature Learn to Ride classes throughout the event. Garnering more than 43,000 attendees, Bike Expo New York 2012 presented by Eastern Mountain Sports was the most attended inaugural consumer bike expo in the country. BE NY carried an unmistakable New York flair with street signs, carpeted bike lanes and even a massive Verrazano Bridge suspended from the ceiling.
We hope to see you this year!
It’s time to celebrate; May is National Bike Month! That means wherever you live, no matter what city or state, you can take part in something as simple and beautiful as riding your bike.
The League of American Bicyclists has a fantastic website with all of the key dates for this month’s happenings, so if you want to stay in the loop, check here. If you want to partake in an event in your neck of the woods but don’t have the inside scoop, search here by city, state or zip code.
Looking for more National Bike Month info to digest? Check out the League of American Bicyclists blog for inspiring, motivating and informing posts centered around cycling. And while you’re at it, check out the video at the top of this post, a PSA of sorts created by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition that asks the question: “Why ride a bike?”
The 10th Anniversary of the Red Rock Rendezvous not only had a great attendance rate by pro climbers and climbing enthusiast alike, but also had the best weather it has seen in the past years. The tormenting desert winds took a hike the weekend of the festival, which left climbers with the perfect conditions for enjoying the festival events and outdoor activities.
The weekend was filled with various clinics from wilderness first aid, multi-pitch climbs, trad leads and even mountain bike clinics by our very own Osprey athletes Jeff Fox and Alison Gannett. Osprey provided demo packs to attendees for a chance to test out our new hydration packs and reservoir as well as our climbing specific packs, the Mutant and Variant.
As the festivities began to wind down and outdoor enthusiasts returned from their adventures, Red Rock Rendezvous continued the party with events like the Dyno Competition, where individuals would miraculously dyno to holds 6-9 feet above, and with guest speakers including Conrad Anker and Malcolm Daly who spoke about some of their landmark climbs from the past years, to bumping beats from various DJs later into the night.
Whether you were a local from Las Vegas, a dirtbag from different parts of the country, or a newbie just checking out the scene for the first time, Red Rock Rendezvous offered experiences for all skill sets and allowed strangers from all walks of life to celebrate climbing and outdoor community.
The Sea Otter Classic proved to be bigger than ever this year as the 22-year-old event brought together racers, fans and bike companies from around the globe to start the spring season with four days of festivities, races and all things bike. The attendance was staggering this year; it’s grown exponentially since 1991, when only about half a thousand gathered around the course, to nearly 65,000 people attending, all in the name of love for our two-wheeled friend, the bicycle.
This year, there were a variety of races from road races to downhill mountain biking. Sea Otter serves as the first race to kick off the season as top pros in North America and from around the world flock to Sea Otter. However, all of the events are also open to amateurs so if you want to race your bike, you have the chance!
One of the greatest things about Sea Otter is that it is open to the general public, which allows everyone to check out and demo different bike product for the upcoming season from a wide range of vendors. Osprey teamed up with Cambria Bike shop for a four-day sale of Osprey Hydration packs and demos.
Osprey mascot Talon also made an appearance at the event as he cheered on our Osprey athlete Macky Franklin and even had a photo shoot with the Sea Otter himself!
Start planning your trip here for next year as everyone is welcome!
Photo via Alex Strickland