Monday, 20 May 2013

The 5.14 Family, and the Babysitter's Club.

Back in September 2012, Colin and I had made a trip to the Canadian Rockies on relatively short notice. Colin wanted to do some alpine climbing with local Rockies bad ass Jon Walsh on the weekends, and I wanted to go sport climbing during the week days. We spent 2 weeks in September climbing in perfect weather.

So naturally, when we were making plans for our return to North America after wintering in Patagonia, we decided to try out a season in the Rockies. It helped too that our good buddies Ken and Laurie who live in Canmore, had offered us a place to stay in their giant house. No true dirt-bag would refuse free accommodations for a month.

Allow me to introduce Ken, Laurie, and one and a half year old Rhys -- the 5.14 Family! Seriously, most people flounder in life with a full-time job, a baby, a spouse, and a hobby. Not these guys. Both Ken and Laurie crush it at work, then come home and crush it as parents, and then go out on the weekend to crush it as, well, crushers! Amazing.

On April 27, Colin and I arrived to Canmore and began settling into life with our new, incredibly gracious, roommates.

Living with a Toddler Lesson # 1 -- lock the door of your room before going to bed because the toddler will soon learn where the new visitors are staying, and that they are fun to visit at 6:30 am when he is in full play mode!

The weather was in top form when we arrived, so we managed to get in an awesome day of skiing near Lake Louise. Then, Colin did some more skiing with Jon Walsh, and I went mixed climbing with my new buddy John Freeman. I intended to take my beloved brand knew Nomics for their inaugural lap on, are you ready for it...Musashi. Having never really mixed climbed before, this route, rated M12, was completely beyond my comprehension! I could not really do a single move, and I scratched up my new tools. Crap! John on the other hand, got painfully close to sending. Next year John, for sure!

Finally, Colin and I conceded that the weather really was perfect for sport climbing. When in Canmore, do as the Canmorians, and go sport climbing. In fact, in the last twelve days, I have climbed ten of those! And, at this very moment, I am putting heat rub on my aching biceps about every hour.

For good measure, I've gotten the chance to relive my pre-teen dreams and play babysitter to Rhys  -- did anyone else out there obsess over the Babysitters Club series -- while Ken and Laurie got out for some much needed freedom. I changed a diaper for maybe the second time in my life -- it was a horrifying experience. I also surprised myself at how easily those nursery rhymes like "The Old Lady that Lived in a Shoe" came back to me? Some how, when you are desperately trying to put a small child down for their afternoon nap, your flight or fight response is to start gargling forth every cutesy nursery rhyme you never thought you knew -- just hoping and praying that small child will fall asleep like they're supposed to.

Living with a Toddler Lesson # 2 -- don't worry, in the heat of the moment, when you're freaking out because the toddler has tears welling up in his eyes, you will be able to easily regurgitate every nursery rhyme your mother ever told you.

I can confirm that after two days spent alone with this little boy, no harm came to him! And, I think, he even had a little fun. At least, from his incomprehensible toddler language, I think that's what he told me?

For the remainder of our time here, while the 5.14 family went about their lives at full tilt, Colin and I got comfortable with the hour long sport crag approaches. We also made some great new buddies, and reunited with some old ones. Get this, I finally got the chance to hangout with one of my heroes, Will Gadd. He even offered me a Red Bull! How cool is that?

And now, for the best part -- the photos. Enjoy...

Colin embracing the Rockies ethos by riding a mountain goat -- doesn't everyone in the Rockies ride a mountain goat at one time or another?

Colin and Rhys getting to know each other. Well, maybe Colin just getting to know Rhys.

The 5.14 mom, Laurie.

He looks like he's having fun, right? Rhys and I hanging out at the park during our day together.

Me skinning to the top of Mt. Fairview above Lake Louise.

Me on the summit of Mt. Fairview.

Colin on the summit of Mt. Fairview.

Colin on our boot pack to the top of Surprise Pass.

Me about to ski down the other side of the pass to Lake Louise.

Me ripping it up like I was a "powder gangster".

Skating across a frozen Lake Louise to the Chateau. Believe me, the tourists sure loved that one!

Now for something completely different! The ice that guards the entrance to the Cineplex, home of one of the most famous mixed climbs in the world, Musashi, M12.

Melon the dog, joined us on this adventure.

Here's John trying to send on Musashi. He got painfully close  this go!  This is pretty much the craziest climbing I've ever witnessed.

And now for some "sports action".

Amelie climbing perfect limestone on the upper walls of Bataan.

Colin lost in a sea of pockets.

Your's truly trying to send one of her projects. She fell on the last moves before the chains. Jeez...

...right before that dang blasted fall!

Colin climbing at the Lookout.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

My guest blog post for Innate Gear...

Vancouver is headquarters to many great outdoor gear producers; MEC, Arcteryx, G3, and old-school-Squamish hard man, Greg Foweraker's creation, Innate Gear. Over the last few months, Greg and his team have been hooking me up with some of their gear storage pieces. As you can imagine, they've come in very handy since I've been living out of a few duffel bags for the last half a year! 

Ah, the Caravan Compartment. My life fits neatly in a few of these guys...

And, the Innate Doppio. The keeper of the coffee!

Greg recently asked me if I'd be a guest blogger for their Innate DNA Blog. He asked if I could write a piece catching everybody up on my experiences over the last nine months as a full-time rock climber. I naturally obliged, but surprised myself a little with how much I had to say. 

Here is a link to my post on the Innate DNA Blog. For those of you who don't like to make too many clicks of the mouse, I've also pasted it below. Though, if you want to see the pictures, you're going to have to follow the link!

Surrounded by Friends...

I quit my job. Then I put everything I owned into a 5X5 metre storage locker, took out a hefty line of credit to…uh, “to go back to school”, and began what I hoped would be a very long climbing trip. I was working for Mountain Equipment Co-op as IT Coordinator, in their Vancouver head office, when I finally acknowledged to myself that my desire to climb outweighed my desire for a healthy RRSP, and stable job. This happened to coincide with a major paradigm shift for the Co-op and for the first time, MEC was looking to build its very own athlete program -- the MEC Envoy.

And so, plans were hatched for my absence from “the real world”; I signed on as one of MEC’s first Envoys! It felt like a dream come true to have the opportunity to pursue my climbing goals so entirely, and with the support of my beloved former employer.

Since learning to climb in a musty old grainery turned climbing gym in my hometown of Newmarket, Ontario, I’ve pursued climbing to the exclusion of almost everything else. I eat, sleep, exercise, and work all for the sole purpose of improving my climbing. The feeling of joy that climbing brought me back in 2001 when I was dragging my little brother to the climbing gym to belay me for hours, wavered little through my life as a climber.

But, somewhere in the last 9 months, I started to lose sight of the simple joy climbing brought me, and my pride at representing MEC wherever I went. I began, slowly at first, to turn myself into a little business, the business of “Sarah’s climbing”; my mind constantly racing with ways to expand my network, and achieve PR success. I’d have moments of panic fretting that my climbing goals wouldn’t be achieved if I couldn’t bag the right mix of sponsorship. I had after all spent the last 4 years as a paper-pushing commuter and so, perhaps it was only natural that my inclination was to work hard at everything – even in my role as a dirt bag climber.

It wasn’t long ago, that my boyfriend asked a simple question about how my pursuit of a hardware sponsor was going. I immediately burst into tears, mumbling something about pressure, alienating myself from my friends, and stress that I was loosing my authenticity – something I have always held in high regard.

Was my obsession with the sponsored lifestyle, the closest thing we have to Hollywood fame here in our little climbing microcosm, alienating me from the friends and community I loved so dearly? Was I losing sight of the point?

When Greg, Innate’s Managing Director, gave me this opportunity to write a blog post about my experience so far as a full-time climber, I initially started to jot down the typical climber rhetoric about “living the dream”, and travelling the world. But, after a few paragraphs, it just didn’t feel quite right. I was in the middle of a “dirt bag climber’s existential crisis” after all. It only seemed fitting that I share some of these thoughts and feelings here.

Today, I am sitting in a cozy little café in El Chalten, Argentina - my home for the last three months and the “main event” in my dirt bag itinerary this year. The granite spires surrounding this tiny Argentine town are some of the most beautiful in the world, and climbing on them is a unique and powerful experience.  

This morning, on a solo hike to a lookout above town, I made peace with my ghosts. Watching the clouds swirl around Fitz Roy, it occurred to me that I loved it here, and that no sponsorship deal or photographic spread would change that.

For years passionate dirt-bags have been wearing thread-bare polypropalene shirts, duck taping their climbing shoes together, and eating dehydrated potatoes for dinner. I was allowing myself to be consumed with building my “business”. Convinced I needed to secure the shoe sponsor, the hardware sponsor, and the gel sponsor in order to achieve my goals. But what I had failed to realize was that with the support of MEC and a few other folks, including  my amazing parents, my cup was full!

With their help, and I no small part, my own determination, I’ve spent a summer climbing in Squamish, two weeks frolicking among the massive peaks of the Waddington Range, a month in the boulders around Bishop, California, and now, three months living below Fitz Roy in southern Patagonia. I’ve experienced enough so far to satiate myself for a lifetime. What more could I ask for?

While I sat, with the warm Patagonian breezes licking at my face, I watched a Condor soaring high above me. Condors will soar for hours, riding the warm air masses as they rise to the summits of these peaks. This Condor was no different, she was not in search of food, or chasing prey. She was soaring, simply for the experience, for the goodness of flight. She’d need to go in search of food at some point, but for the time being, while the wind swirled about her, she was having some fun; Nothing more, nothing less.

That is exactly the point. Being in Patagonia brings me the simple joy that I felt in 2001, and that I still feel today. I am surrounded by friends, and sharing this experience with someone I love. And so, a small weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Like the condor, for the time being I’m going to have some fun, I can worry about how I’m going to eat later. Let’s just see where this warm air swirling about Fitz Roy propels me next. I have a sinking suspicion it may just blow me right back here again next year.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Remembering Waddington...

Since climbing in the Waddington Range last summer with Jasmin and Kinley, I've been dreaming and scheming about my return to those wonderful mountains. Well, dream and scheme no more. I'm headed back this summer with a some new buddies including Washington states own badasses, Dan Aylward, Chad Kellogg, and Steph Abegg.

Recently, Chris Christie, MEC Envoy and radical photographer, who joined us to the range last year as photographer, put together a short edit of some of the video and photos he captured from the trip.

So now, for your viewing pleasure, a little diddy about climbing on, and chillin' amongst, some big mountains not far from our homes in Squamish.

Waddington Region - Sunny Knob and Dirty High's- 2 day's of adventure in 6 min. from Chris Christie on Vimeo.