Just Have Fun
The Pacific Northwest got quite the streak of sunshine this October, pushing two solid weeks of blue skies and comfy high temps. It's likely that as you're reading this blog now, that sunshine is long gone and it's raining outside in Portland. However, the sunny span made for a perfect first trip to wild walls since I moved to Portland. As much as I love living in the metro, this was a much needed escape into the wilderness.
We left PDX on Friday and as the car ride hit its third hour, the familiar craggy peaks of Smith Rock popped up in the distance. The fragrant scent of the dry climate and pine trees evoked a sense of comfort as I pitched my tent. The night became quiet and a crystal clear display of Mars and the Milky Way were just a quick glance above. Sleep came easy that night even with temperatures dropping to the 30s.
The next morning, we grilled up a breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and bacon, and hit the trails to a new climbing area called The Marsupials. Our seven person crew meandered through a valley of boulders and ponderosa pines. I stopped to graze through the selection of massive pine cones. As my eyes wandered around and up the stone walls, I could see tiny neon green and orange specks. The occasional clank of gear and hushed laughter echoed off the rock. I wondered what each of those climbers was working on and how long they'd been there working on it.
The climbing spot we aimed for was in an isolated area about 45 minutes from camp. We plotted our target routes while we ascended a beastly scree field to the top. After a good huffing and puffing, we arrived in a flat and shaded area with a couple of 5.10s nearby. The valley below was lit up by the sun with clear views of the Three Sisters, Bachelor, and Broken Top. (See top photo.) We laughed, we climbed, and we ate. The vibes were good.
I had no climbing goals or projects going into this trip, unlike last season, when I attempted the illustrious "Toxic" 5.11b route (and got my butt kicked). And I have to admit, I felt a bit adrift at times. I tend to consume myself with goals. My happiness and satisfaction are directly related to my progress reaching those goals. It's now easy to see how carrying that mindset can stop someone from fully enjoying the moment. That was my issue that day. I had lost touch with my training over the past six months and had dreams of busting out the hardest routes right away. But I was still able to lead all of the 5.10s without any problems. I also climbed an exposed 5.11a and flashed a 5.10c that day. That was success right there. Even sending the "easy" routes is still part of my process to become a stronger climber. I can't forget that.
Half of the crew headed home later that night, but a few of us climbed again on Sunday. I remember standing on the dirt trail overlooking the Crooked River as it wound its way between the spires. It was another warm day and I was pondering how I would write about the trip. As my best friend Elise geared up to send a route, I asked her, "Elise, what should I title my blog?" Without any pause, she blurted, "Just have fun." She couldn't have been more spot on. She was also wearing a baseball cap that said that phrase on it, so I won't give her all the credit. But the message was literally in front of me the entire time. Progress comes in all forms and if you focus too hard, you might forget to have fun. What a thing to remember. That's probably why Elise bought the hat in the first place.