10 Questions with Osprey Athlete Ben Rueck
1. What place inspires you?
The place that inspires me the most is Africa. It is the one continent that offers the most diversity in culture and climbing. Guaranteed if I travel to Africa I am going experience a life changing event.
2. What one item do you always have in your pack?
3. Who do you most admire?
This is a complicated question for me. I think that I admire a person that pursues their full potential– no matter how scared they are. To expand outside your comfort zone is something that is difficult and takes commitment. If I had to narrow it to a person that would be negating many influential people in my life that live this kind of way. So I admire those who try.
4. What is your favorite food?
Mom’s homemade tacos.
5. Which Osprey pack are you using right now? What is your favorite feature about your pack?
Right now I am using the Variant. My favorite feature about the pack is that it can handle all of my climbing gear and still feel comfortable on long approaches.
6. Do you have a favorite quote? What is it? (more…)
Osprey Packs Athlete Joe Stock is an internationally certified IFMGA mountain guide based in Anchorage, Alaska. He has been climbing and skiing around the world for 25 years with extensive time in the mountains of Alaska, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the North Cascades of Washington and Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Since 1995, Joe has been freelance writing for magazines starting with a feature article in Rock & Ice on climbing the Balfour Face on Mount Tasman in New Zealand. Since then, he’s published numerous articles on adventures and mountain technique in rags such as Climbing, Backcountry, Alaska, Climbing, Trail Runner, Men’s Health and Off Piste.
The Chugach is not famous for rock climbing. Probably the most fame it received was in a Rock & Ice article containing the Seward Highway among the five worst climbing areas in the United States. But the Chugach does have some solid rock. And if you don’t compare it to Colorado rock or California rock then you’ll have a great time.
The foothills of the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage have some of this solid rock. The problem is finding someone to adventure up there. I recruited my buddy Joshua Foreman to go exploring on O’Malley Peak. After hiking almost two hours we reached the base of a 500-foot buttress. As we climbed we found evidence from other parties, going back forty years: pitons, bongs, nuts, rotting slings. These climbers had intense personal experiences on this cliffs. They told stories to a few buddies at the bar. The adventure became a faint memory in their lifetime of adventures. Without social media, the adventure was able to refresh itself for the next party.
Joshua following the first of four long pitches on the Deep Lake Buttress. He’s using the new Mutant 38–light and sleek! The solid Chugach rock has a weathered brown veneer.
Joshua leading pitch two. He pulled this second roof onto 60 feet of wet and runnout slabs. For an hour the rope inched up the rock as grunts and explicative floated down. Joshua also enjoys high-speed downhill biking and has competed as a speed skier in Alaska’s notorious Arctic Man. Leading a runout wet slab as his first rock climb in six months was perfect.
Joshua and I with the Deep Lake Buttress behind. Rock climbing in Alaska in mid-May. We are so lucky.
What a difference a year makes. Last November Jasmin and I were on a ‘working’ vacation. Now don’t get me wrong, free climbing El Cap was a dream come true for us, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it was the hardest thing I have ever done in terms of athletic endeavors. I have done big days in the mountains on skis, rock and ice, but the sheer labor involved in free climbing a big wall for five days with diminishing sleep and a taxed body is a huge mental and physical struggle. I think combining that trip after a summer of desperately rebuilding the family business after storm damage, followed by an ankle joint infection requiring surgery, and then six weeks later destroying my knee led to one of the hardest years of my life. I had great friends and family through it all, and money was never a stress so there is a lot to be thankful for because at the end of it all was the muy tranquilo Spanish climbing vacation that Jasmin and I so desperately needed.
After a spring and summer of rehab, which is every bit mental as it is physical, I feel like I am finally firing on all climbing cylinders again. September saw me get oh-so-tantalizingly close to my sport climbing five-year project. Even though I didn’t send it, I did better than I ever had before, on my hardest route ever, which to me means that I was back from injury better than ever. The new and improved Evan, I hope!
So with that mentality Jas and I left for seven weeks of clipping bolts in Spain, specifically Rodellar and Terradets, two well-known destinations in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Tons of tufas drip and dangle from the overhanging walls, teasing us desperately toward the top of 30-40m endurance climbs. If steep, fun sport climbing, with five star hikes on your days not climbing is your thing, then it’s time to head to Spain.
Overall, the quiet Spanish towns are friendly and chill, which was a huge contrast to spending two days in Barcelona. I know we are not city people, but the homelessness and unemployment of Spain didn’t hit until we got to the city. 25 percent unemployment is high, and crazy enough is the fact that youth unemployment is 50 percent! A quick trip to the city made me thankful for all we have; jobs, homes, friends, family and health. At home I feel as though there is so much opportunity and support for me to pursue my passions.
So we continue to climb until we can’t hold on any more on some of the best rock we have ever touched. Staring off and wandering through the beautiful country side, enjoying local artisan breads, cheeses and produce. The simple life of eating, sleeping and climbing is being extra appreciated right now with the final countdown of just a few weeks to 17 hour work days and bottomless powder. Now and in the busy winter to come I will surely be loving exactly where I am and what I am doing and who I am doing it with! Except of course for the four days that I have to sit in a classroom to re-certify my first aid!
Climbing a Granite Big Wall, Discovering New Species for Science, and Starting a New Conservation Area. Aka, Going Camping.
Right now I am supposed to tell you I am ready and that I know what I am doing. I’m neither.
Projects that matter take self-trickery to make happen. I never asked myself if it was really possible or a good idea to splice together climbing and science and conservation and Malawi and Mozambique and 14 individuals all trying to achieve a collective goal. I just set about doing it. Now it is happening. Which means now is when the panic of the reality sets in. Put another way, we’ve already climbed the high dive ladder, stood on the edge, and jumped off. Now—when there is no way to go backwards—is therefore the first time when I am finally allowing myself to look at the giant body of water which I’m heading for at full speed. It’s just the way I like to do it.
I’ve spent the majority of my life in and out of major expeditions. I was that kid who had her dolls and stuffed animals organized for imaginary camp with peanut rations and toilet paper sleeping bags. It stands to reason that I am now the adult who has the following decisions to make:
- What percentage of the poisonous snakes which we will be around have fangs that are over ½ an inch long and thus make a case for the thicker high-top leather hiking boots versus low-tops?
- Will deet from 2004 still work, and work well enough against malaria-carrying mosquitos? Chance it or change it?
- Will 33 porters be obscene or accurate? And what size T-shirts do these porters wear/should we bring for gifts?
- Is EtOH alcohol available for our scientists’ specimen vials in Blantyre, Malawi, or should they tuck it in their luggage here in the U.S. and act none the wiser?
- If the rainy season starts early will it make any difference if I bring one rain jacket or two?
My nine-year-old niece Miranda called me yesterday evening to talk about camping. She was just back from a family trip in Northern Minnesota
“How was it?” I asked her.
“Camping is cool,” she said. I laughed and agreed.
We talked about her favorite part (waterfalls) the scariest thing (the sound the rain made on the tent) and yuckiest thing (sleeping next to her brother). Once we covered the highlights I asked her if she would do it again. “Well, yeah” she said. I think she would have said “Duh, yeah” had her mother not been listening.
“You know, Miranda,” I said, “I sort of camp for a living.”
She giggled. Usually she tells me I am silly for pretty much everything I say. This time she said “You’re lucky, Auntie Majka.”
After Miranda and I hung up I went upstairs and looked at the pile of climbing gear with pieces for every possible situation known and unknown, stacks of maps and research and logistics papers, rain coats and rain pants, bug nets, gaiters, sat phones, energy bars and more. This is the highest high dive off of which I’ve ever jumped. But at a certain level, it’s also camping—something I have been doing my whole life. And if camping is cool to Miranda, it’s also cool to me. After all, the thing I’m also most worried about is too much rain on the outside of the tent.
By Majka Burhardt, Lost Mountain Project director and Osprey Athlete
#LostMountain begins October 27th; Follow along at thelostmountainfilm.com
So, you’ve got the perfect pack for your next adventure in hand. But this very fact has you wondering what the crucial items you need to carry might be. Fret no more! Our Osprey athlete “What’s in Your Pack?” video series will give you the expert advice you need to be sure you’re dialed for that next adventure. In this month’s video, pro climber and executive director of Paradox Sports, Timmy O’Neill, shows off what’s in his Mutant 38.
Check out the first installment of this exciting series – and never be afraid to ask What’s in Your Pack?! We’ll have a new video each month to help you see what our Osprey athletes are packing.
After five months of worker’s disability checks and a slow re-entry into the world of climbing, it was time for me to start guiding again. I am a firm believer in doing what you love to do for work, if possible, and guiding is my perfect pursuit. Like any profession, you have to pay your dues, get trained/certified, and work the jobs that people don’t necessarily love to do, but eventually if you stick with it, it pays off. At the end of the day, any job as a mountain guide has you out in the hills, and not behind a desk, so how bad can it be?
Many people might view mountain guiding as a superfluous, luxury pursuit, but there are a few arguments that I believe in that justify its pursuit, and mountain climbing in general as well. At the heart of the matter is that the world is a better place when there are more happy, satisfied and motivated people in it, and skiing and climbing and the guiding of those activities is one of the best ways for me to make the world a better place.
This summer I really feel like I got a fresh perspective on the joys of guiding. Maybe it was the five months of not working and minimal activity with my injury recovery; maybe it was the few days of really high quality and rewarding guiding I did. My guess is that it was the combination of the two. So what were the days that made me so pleased with my chosen career path and my return to it?
First was getting the chance to guide my favorite multipitch route in the world, Freeway, in my home of Squamish. After the five minute stroll from your car, you are greeted with 1,000’ of sustained 5.11 climbing. Roofs, corners, traverses, slabs; Freeway has it all, and is a standard test piece. I can climb it again and again (and have probably climbed it over 40 times) with out ever growing weary of it. But this summer I got my first chance at guiding it. Freeway might only be guided once or twice a year at most, due to its sustained difficulties. There are also only a handful of guides that would feel comfortable in front on 5.11+ terrain. For me it became a litmus test of my confidence at returning to my favorite activities at a high level of performance. There is no doubt that I was nervous and apprehensive at accepting the work, but in the end, I decided to give it a go.
Fortunately, when I met the client in the morning, my confidence was boosted even more. Patrick was a climber who certainly has gotten a lot done over the years and he wanted a day out on the rocks to push his personal limits. As soon as he styled the first pitch of the day, a tricky 5.11a warm up, I knew we had it in the bag. All in all, we both cruised the route with no falls and were back at the car bright and early celebrating an awesome day on the rocks.
The other day that stands out in my mind was a lap up the Grand Wall, also in Squamish. At 5.11- and 10 pitches long, it is also considered a classic test piece. Sustained, with pitch after pitch of brilliant climbing, many climbers spend a few weeks in Squamish with their focus being to train for and send the Grand Wall. This route gets guided more frequently, and I have guided it a few times, but my client on this day was a little different. At 12 years old, Joe is a future star of the sport for sure. His sisters, with their coach Elliot, were on a rope team right in front of us. Both of the siblings have climbed 5.13 and train with a crew of young crushers in Boulder, CO. Don’t be surprised if you see their names in the mags in a few years, pushing the limits of rock climbing. However, neither of them had multi pitch climbed before, or for that matter done much trad climbing at all! Even though 5.11 climbing is well within their abilities, eight hours hanging in a harness with food, water and gear strapped to you is an entirely different beast. Whatever these two lacked in experience, they more than made up for in sheer psych. Joe was right at home with 1000’ of exposure beneath his feet, swinging and hanging around in his harness, cruising through cruxes. It was so enjoyable to have fresh perspectives, with no expectations and no complaining. Young people really have a unique and unbiased view of the world, and it was a pleasure to see an old favorite route of mine through the fresh eyes of a 12 and 15 year old.
- 15 year old Isabelle on the Grand Wall
There were definitely a bunch of other quality days guiding for me this summer, these were just the two that stood out the most. Really, every day has brought a lot of reward to me, helping folks to enjoy the vertical stone and fill their lives with a bit more excitement. As I said before I can’t imagine ending up in another career!
- 12 year old Joe on the super exposed bolt ladder mid height on the Grand Wall
The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” refers to a notion that a complex idea or large amounts of data can be conveyed or absorbed with a single image. While that may be true, I would argue that the saying relates to me in that a picture is worth a thousand words of inspiration, to go see that place or do that thing. Here in the outdoor community, we are continually exposed to many amazing photos of landscapes and destinations, with people doing activities we do or wish we could do. I have to admit many of my trips have been motivated by seeing a photo of a lake surrounded by mountains or red-orange desert canyon, and then I plan a backpacking trip to an alpine lake, or realize it’s been too long since I rappelled down a sandstone cliff. But my favorite images are the ones that inspire me to do something new, an activity I’ve never done, or a place I’ve never been to.
Last spring I saw a picture on one of our athlete’s Instagram pages. It was Timmy O’Neill doing a via ferrata in Telluride with some friends before the Telluride Mountain Film Festival. They were all in their best ballerina poses, with the ground far below them. Our headquarters is only an hour and a half from Telluride but I’d never heard of a via ferrata there. Via ferrata is Italian for “iron road,” but in climbing, these are typically routes across or up rock walls in which you enlist steel cable to secure yourself to and installed ladders, steps or bridges to travel on when there are no rock steps. They are more popular in Europe than the U.S. but there are a couple scattered around here nonetheless. After seeing Timmy’s picture, I did a quick Google search and found a route description on SummitPost.org. Turns out it was built by Chuck Kroger in the mid-2000s. A local climbing legend, Chuck forged and fabricated the iron steps himself and finished the route just before he passed away from cancer in 2007. It is named the Krogerata in his honor.
After sharing Timmy’s photo with two of my friends here at Osprey Packs, we decided that the morning before a music festival we were going to in Telluride’s Town Park last summer we would go find this via ferrata and do it. After the weekend, we shared pictures with the office and our own social media sites from the trip. People got excited about it and asked details, but like too many adventures, people put it to the back of their mind and didn’t just go do it. Than this summer, a year later, the three of us were again going up to Telluride for another music festival and remembering the buzz our trip across the via ferrata created and how much fun we had. I sent out an all-office e-mail with pictures from last year and basically said ‘We are going here, we are doing this, meet here, at this time, on this date, I’ve got gear, you bring beer’.
You know you work with cool people at a cool company when you get a huge email response from everyone, but you really know it’s a cool group of people when 14 of them actually show up the next morning. After some gear dispersion and a quick safety/procedure talk, we set off. We got all fourteen across, some had never slid on a climbing harness before and had plenty of the ol’ shaky leg on the exposed sections. We all had fun, we all felt accomplished and it personally felt good for the three of us to introduce something new to those eleven friends and co-workers.
Here’s what Lindsey Beal had to say after putting on a harness for the first time ever:
“As we were traversing the most exposed part of the Via Ferrata my Elvis legs really started to kick in. Every muscle in my body was shaking. A big thank you to the veteran climbers in front of me who were physically moving my carabineers for me and to the continuous words of encouragement from those right behind.”
So next time you see that epic Jimmy Chin photo or your friend posts a picture from her recent mountain bike trip to Crested Butte and your first reaction is: “I want to do that!” Hold on to that excitement, that motivation and do it. Or if you’re someone like me who doesn’t always lack the motivation but likes to share the adventure and see the excitement when people try something new or go somewhere they’ve always wanted to go then send out that picture worth a thousand words of inspiration and say ‘We are going here, we are doing this, meet here, at this time, on this date, I’ve got gear, you bring beer’.
-Chris Horton, Osprey Product Guy
Find inspirational pictures and follow us on Instagram
Also Osprey Athlete Timmy O’Neill
And Osprey Product Guy Chris Horton
Six hours into our “run,” Rhonda Claridge and I arrived on pace to the summit of Colorado’s 14,425′ Mt Harvard. Climbing to the fourth 14,000’+ summit of the day, we had played our hand in a limited window of time — it has been a tricky wet summer and multiple dry summits were a rare treat. But soon, while crouched in the nook of two frozen boulders harboring snow from the previous day and checking my GPS track, waves of frozen and mixed rain would plummet from the sky and to the southwest a hulking cloud front would devour the mountain a thousand feet at a time and rapidly envelope our position. I could tell you exactly where we were but nothing of where we were to go as we traversed shortsighted through complicated terrain led by the occasional stack of rocks 80′ in front of us. Fear and weather advanced upon us and here on Harvard’s airy summit ridge in an August winter storm, the certainty that we were high and wild sunk in. “I am not this type of adrenaline junkie,” I thought. These days I am looking for challenges and not all-out battles… but stopping to question philosophy gets you nowhere when it’s time to navigate a mountain, so I returned to primal instincts, we groped our way down and resumed course toward the target of this training day — the last day in my schedule for such an epic.
We had gone fast and carried light equipment to cover this ground in the heart of Colorado’s Sawatch mountain range. Rhonda and I were searching for the most direct way to climb these five “14’ers” — the affectionate term for 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado of which there are 54 official 14’er summits. As Walden-esque as traipsing through meadows and rugged forests may sound, we were now lost in an alpine world with no visibility and frozen hands, being suckered into the lore of an obscure challenge longer on ambition even than our present day’s objective. The challenge is Nolan’s 14, an unofficial race course born out of a conversation between two Hardrock runners, Matt Mahoney and Fred Vance, who ran together during the late stages of a 100-mile mountain run in Southwest Colorado in the late 90s, and their acquaintance, Jim Nolan, who coined the line of 14 14’ers in one stretch “Nolan’s 14.” Since 1999, only seven finishers have found that Nolan’s 14 is a mountain path that can be reasonably traveled on foot in a time of slightly less than 60 hours. If you’re one of them, then Matt Mahoney will put your name on a website. To understand how on earth anyone could possibly see a point to this, I have traveled 104 miles, 50,863′ of vertical gain and 52,251 in loss in these mountains in seven weeks, searching for the most efficient path between 14’ers Mt. Massive and Mt. Shavano — the beginning and end of this mountain oddity/odyssey.
I spent a dedicated year running in the mountains and enlisted Nolan’s 14 finisher and coach Matt Hart to fine tune my body in the hopes that I could be a finisher. I slowly ran five Ultra Marathons in nine months, followed by a busy summer collecting 32 summits in less than 50 days. There were weeks totaling 90+ miles and 30,000’+ of vertical in training where ambition became tempered by respect for the mountains and the balance of being a dad, husband and business owner. I showed up to the mountains as a working minimalist, carrying everything I need for precisely the moments we encountered but with the expectation that at all times I can and must continue moving.
Things can slow to a grinding halt while you’re lost in a boulder field, acrobatically navigating move after move between teetering rocks and precipices. Usually, though, you’re still moving forward, like when I got us lost descending off the summit of Harvard. The same will to succeed heading in a lost direction we negotiated that day would come in handy during the attempt. Carefully and cautiously, four hours and 46 minutes from the summit of Harvard, we managed to emerge out of the mountains in the bed of a black truck that let us hitch a ride into the valley after coming in four hours after our expected exit. We had descended cold and damp from two more summits — a 13,506′ peak and our final objective — 14,073′ Mt Columbia totaling 11,600′ of vertical gain for the day and soaked by a second storm on Columbia that reduced us to walking with great hesitation through muck and mire, sharpened stone and roots before running 3.7 miles out to a trailhead. This was August 8th, my last long training day on Nolan’s 14. I’m happy we stayed committed to grabbing the final summit, we’ll have to do the whole thing over again in the dark in a few weeks!
Since June 25th, I have explored the informal race course of Nolan’s 14 first hand, peice by peice in 5 “20 mile”sections and several smaller ones. Following pre-established routes set when up to 15 people at at time attempted this path from 1999-2001 in an unofficial race, I discovered a roughly 86 mile route with 44,000 vertical gain and some room for the unavoidable errors that will occur to finish in under the 60 hour cutoff time. All in, my “moving time only” projections are that it can be done in 41 hours, but not by this guy. I have put in eight days this year, five with over 6:30 hours of run time, and 29 more since 1999 when I discovered my first 14’ers in this range — starting with the formidable Mt. Princeton and wandering onto the 13’ers before attempting this. In 37 days on and around these peaks, I hope that with a few more, I can tell you that this line is possible to do safely in an amount of time closer to 60 hours.
I want to complete the course and observe the rules of the former race concept even though it is a daunting logistical support effort for one person running, hiking and climbing a continuous line up and down 14,000′ mountains that spans a highway that starts in Leadville, Co. and takes vehicles an hour and half to drive to Poncha Springs. I want to do it because far from that highway and far from any elevation profiles or historical stipulations, Nolan’s 14 is a journey that explores the heart of Colorado’s fourteeners and pushes an individual backed by a support team to meet the odds. Unlike the unofficial runs from 1999-2001, while the remoteness and fatigue set in, the runner must also be directing a moveable expedition. It is here that a group of friends will meet me in valleys and high summits and help me along the way as I wind my way North to South on a journey unlike any I’ve taken.
On August 25th, 2013 I plan to begin running from Leadville, Co. and to head south on foot only for two and half days with rest if the weather is good. If there is bad weather, I’ll adjust expectations accordingly. I’m not doing it to prove anything, raise money for charity or set the world on fire with an amazing time under 60 hours (who knows if I’ll even come close). I’m doing it because I’m curious If I can, if luck will be my side. I did the training and I learned that if I found time to visit so many places in the high mountains I otherwise would never have gone, then I’d be a fool not to take a look and at least see what I might learn from the last step. I’m 34 years old today and it has been a privilege, I may not have a chance like this again. I look forward to the attempt because I have truly enjoyed seeing what is out there and believe it is possible, and that the guys who finish might be nuts, a claim I may not be able to back if I haven’t been there myself! Either way, a whole group of us will be getting outside and enjoying Colorado’s 14’ers for a few days!
All of this couch and recovery time makes you reflect on the past a bit. Just recently I had to fly down to Colorado for a meeting with Osprey Packs and my three month post operation visit with my knee surgeon. After a few tugs and pulls, the doc, ironically named “Hackett,” said pretty casually that it was looking tight, and to keep it up, but not to try climbing on it too hard in any tweaking kind of way. The rest of my week was spent driving across Colorado visiting with old friends, with whom it has been too long since I have crossed paths. Visiting one friend in Carbondale and meeting his new girlfriend, I was egged on to talk about how I met my wife, and the story of our ‘first date’. I feel like it is a good one to recount here…
This story takes place in 2002. All spring my friend Jon and I had been on the Astroman Training Program, (ATP), which in Indian Creek consisted of doing an Astroman style day at the crags every day – this translated to 6 pitches of 5.10 and 5 of 5.11. This was our dream route and we wanted to send. Needless to say we got fit. We hit the valley and quickly dispatched of our goal. And then of course I was fired up to climb as much stuff as possible, especially considering I had a big wall trip to Greenland coming up that summer.
In total I spent about six weeks in the valley that spring. While hanging out in Camp 4, single, you are constantly scanning the campground for any and all available ladies. Trust me, the odds are not in your favor as a single guy, but as a single girl they say the odds are good, but sometimes the goods are odd. I often think of a scene where there is some roadkill and a few dozen vultures are circling overhead waiting to swoop in for their opportunity. So the scene is set for dating and meeting ladies in Yosemite. This fateful summer though, the odds might have been in my favor.
Jasmin was a cute climber/skier from British Columbia. I had met her in the spring of 2001 in Camp 4, but we were both dating other people. I quickly learned that her parents owned and operated a backcountry ski lodge in BC. “What?” I thought; “a cute girl who climbs hard, skis hard and whose family owns a lodge in BC? Was this too good to be true?” The next summer we would hang out and run into each other climbing in Squamish, and again the next spring we crossed paths in Indian Creek. Here she literally caught me with my pants down. I was changed to shorts for an approach to an out of the way cliff in the creek, thinking no one would drive up and of course, with pants around my ankles, she drives up. She was in the car with some other guys she had met, but I had convinced her to come cragging with me that day. It was the only day we shared in Indian Creek, and who knew if we would ever see each other again.
But as is common with the travelling dirtbag climber show, we all end up in the same places. A week or so later, she strolled into camp 4 and it was then that I knew I had a chance. What else does a climber do for a ‘date’ than say, “Hey, let’s go climbing!” So we made plans for tackling the classic NE Buttress of Higher Cathedral Spire, a long 5.9+ that we could both easily do but had never done. Thinking we had it in the bag, we started casually around 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning. Thinking retreat was not even a possibility in our young cocky minds (maybe it was just my young cocky mind?) we didn’t bring a second rope. Of course arriving at the base we counted at least five or six teams ahead of us. But we started up anyway. We were cruising along, having fun, and halfway up we caught up to everyone. There was no passing on this route, too many chimneys and small belays with parties stacked up one after the other. So we sat on a ledge, shot the shit, and enjoyed the valley, the views and each other’s company. After a half hour or so, we gave up. There was no summiting before darkness and neither of us had a headlamp. So we bailed. Rapping down we only had to leave one or two pieces behind for anchors on this fifty crowded classic.
But halfway down on the rappels, something hit my bowels in a major way. There was no making it back to the base, I had to take a dump NOW! I quickly rapped down to the next small stance two pitches above the ground and yelled back up to Jasmin to wait for a few minutes. She was puzzled. I was mortified. Here I am, no TP, on a small ledge on one of the most classic routes in Yosemite and I was going to defile it. So I did the best I could, wiping with small rocks and strategically squatting over a small flat rock. Upon finishing my movement, I took the flat poo-laden rock and played ‘shit frisbee’ so that I would leave no poo behind on the route. Leave no trace they say. After releasing the identified stinky flying object I realized that I didn’t get the toss as far away from the wall as I had hoped. Instantly fear came over me that I had just tossed my poo on my dates’ back pack at the base of the wall. Oh shit, pun intended. Jas, wondering what was going on, and the lingering aromas letting her know, didn’t say anything and we rapped to the ground. Sweating and nervous that I had just ruined all of my chances, I rapped down to the ground first and ran over to the packs. In some weird twist of fate, my pack was conveniently covering over Jasmin’s, meaning only my gear was coated in specs of poo from the impact of the shit Frisbee. It didn’t take long for laughs to come out and jokes to flow freely, letting me know I still had a chance to make this all work. And now 11 years later, we are still going strong, having adventures, climbing and skiing all over the world. I must have known that I had a keeper after a date like that.
Expedition Denali is history in the making, another first for the books and a step in the direction of changing the world we live in. This National Outdoor Leadership School expedition will take nine mountaineers to the top of Mount McKinley this June, making them the first all-African-American group to summit Denali. Of course, reaching the top of North America’s largest peak is not the ultimate endeavor; Expedition Denali’s most significant objective is to inspire people of all colors to experience the outdoors. This statement from Expedition Denali’s Kickstarter Campaign gets to the root of the ascent:
By 2019, it is estimated that minority children will become the majority in the U.S. These kids will become the leaders of this country and the world, and a staggering majority of them don’t feel the outdoors is a place for them.
In an effort to connect as many people as possible and inspire diversity in the outdoors, a documentary film will be made telling the story of the summit. Here’s just part of what the film itself will capture, from Kickstarter:
This group of climbers will do more than climb a mountain. At an elevation of 20,320 feet, extreme altitude and harsh weather aren’t the only barriers Expedition Denali is determined to break through. On the 100th anniversary of the first Denali summit, Expedition Denali is a symbolic step forward, encouraging people of color—and particularly African American youth—to participate in and become inspired by the vastness and beauty of nature.
The good news is that Expedition Denali, with support from The North Face, REI, and the Foundation for Youth Investment, has actually exceeded its Kickstarter Campaign Pledge, thanks to donations from people all over the world. Of course, we can all help by spreading the word about what an amazing, inspiring and world-changing expedition this is. Be sure to follow Expedition Denali on Facebook for updates, news and information and to share the updates that inspire you.