can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a day pass to Zion National Park, it can buy the energy it takes to get there too. It can buy a delicious turkey club on rye (with extra beacon) and all those red scrapes and cuts on the back of your hands. Effectively working hard means earning some clams, then we save those clams in a vault, until we feel that all our necessary needs are met, ourselves and our loved ones are clothed, fed and generally speaking happy and content people, there’s a roof overhead and an ipod in each hand, then (and only then) is it time to escape, to use some of those leftover bones and buy a ticket to a dirty place where children never grow up.
It doesn’t matter where your Neverland is, we all have a different island we like to visit, and more often then not it changes, but for the moment, Neverland for me, right now, is in southern Utah, a little place called Zion National Park.
Zion is essentially the worlds biggest and tallest sandbox, a place for the men and women of the world who never grew up much past the toilet training era, the ones who loved stomping back into the house with a plastic shovel stuffed into the back pocket of their adidas shorts. Of course, while gunning for the peanut butter and banana sandwich sitting atop the kitchen counter we’d track mud throughout the entire house, and slowly release tiny grains of sand which leak from our armpits and greasy hair. And while sucking back the last drop of cool-aid a big (purple stained) shit eating grin falls over our faces and we know for certain that life can’t get much better than this. The only one standing in the way of our castle outside and our monumental dreams is our MOM. With one swipe of a loving mothers towel she can bring a child to tears in mere seconds.
Here in Zion, my mother is miles and miles away, and the only thing that’s capable of wiping that smirk off my face now is a rainstorm, and even that could be fun. My plastic shovel is replaced with a rack of cams and a nut tool. But the dirt in my hair feels all too familiar and the peanut butter and banana sandwich tastes as good as the first time. I’ve replaced cool-aid with coffee, but my dreams are still monumental, at least for me they are.
Two days ago my friend Mike and I drove into the magnificent canyons of Zion and tried to climb a crack that at first glance looks and feels perfectly impossible. It’s 70 feet of tight hands and rattling fingers until you reach the roof. The crux. Which is 10 feet of the most ridiculous and insecure ring locks in the world ends with a giant dyno for a sandy ledge. Check out this Beat Kammerlander pic of Dedier, I’m not sure, I’ve ever seen anyone try this hard before.
It’s completely absurd that I actually enjoy this. It’s called Master Blaster, an old aid pitch which has seen attempts by Beat Kammerlander, Dedier Berthod, Will Stanhope, Jeremy Blummel, not to mention a host of other interested parties that I don’t know of. Only the tiny hands of Seattle powerhouse Ben Gilkison could unlock the routes mysterious ways. Now rated 5.13c. But depending on the size of your hands or fingers could be easier or much much harder. The best part is that the final jug is so loose and sandy that it will likely never feel the same way twice, in fact in 10 years it may not even exist at all. The width of the crack will likely widen over time as well, with more placements and traffic and gear grinding away all the crystals, and all we’ll have left is the memory of what it was. But for the climbers in ten years time, they won’t have that, the same way as I don’t have a memory of what it was the first time it was aided, likely in the 70’s or 80’s, but what I do have is the experience right here and right now. And I’m loving it. Here in the desert, it’s not about the guy or girl that came before, or the guy or girl who may come after, it’s about the moment you leap for that final hold and your body swings into a shaft of sunlight and every cell of your being tells you you’re falling off. Except you don’t. You swing back into the rock, kicking your feet up and over the ledge hooking your heels and laughing so hard that you forget which peice of gear goes next. It’s about being in the dirty desert, up high on a wall with a wild wind encompassing your soul. There’s no room for thinking, no deadlines, no meetings, no people at all, just you and the natural world, sharing an experience with the power of the universe, opening up to it and letting it in, and it opening up to you embracing you into a moment of pure truth, pure awarenss where nothing else matters.
I’m going back today to see how much pain I can endure, I’m bringing up Mike Doyle and Alex Honnold, we’re going to be like three big kids playing in a sandbox. Ha ha ha. A very cold sandbox.