After 34 years we decided to sell the old family home. We were tired of the drive and wanted to be closer to our jobs, and the kids. Houses are more expensive in Tacoma, but dad left us some money, and we were able to take what we got for our house, plus some of dad’s money and get a new place. I only looked for one day, and it was the seventh house we looked at.
I’ve never spent this much money on anything and was way out of my comfort zone. I probably never would have moved but one of my climbing friends became a realtor 6 months ago. She told me at guitarbcue in June, and I thought: why not? Her husband is also a climbing friend, and I have great respect for his time driving a boomer. Those brave people keep our country safe. She did a great job for a new realtor. I figured she would, as she is, like me, an artist, a musician, and a climber, plus a working mom with two young kids. You can’t do all that stuff well without being very smart.
So now I’m spending the first night in our new house. We decided to tear out the rugs because there is beautiful original wood flooring under the living room rug. I have to rent a sander to polish the floor, then stain it. Then we hope to move in, officially, this weekend.
I climbed at Index Sunday but I was not feeling bold. I think the stress of moving has worn me down. My shoulders feel terrible. I can climb fine, but simple things like lifting my hand to the top of the steering wheel can cause really bad pain. I’m hoping it will go away.
I did a great painting of the Sandman tugboat in Olympia a couple weeks ago, I will post pictures later.
I started my break in Squamish where we climbed to the top of the Cheif via Deidre to Butt Light. I wrote about that in my last post. I came home, hung out with Sue for a few days then went to Leavenworth with Vitaly and Christine. We each led Angel, though only Vitaly got it clean. I first saw Angel in 1978. I can’t remember if I ever got it clean. It was less polished, and I was stronger then…so maybe.
Next I led Damnation Crack cleanly. That thing is burly and requires a lot of different climbing skills from handjams to off hands to pure chimney. Vitaly led The Nose, and I got some great photos. The next day we climbed Bale Kramer. I led the crux pitch with one hang. I need to stay calmer low down so I have power at the finger lock crux. Vitaly led pitches 1,2 and 4. I think pitch 4 is the hardest. The face climbing up there is very thin.
I was home for a week with Sue, then I left for Smith with Chad, who I had met a few weeks earlier on Squamish Chief. We climbed Wherever I may Roam Friday, then did some of the usual warm up routes like Phone Call, Outsiders, Fridays Jinx, Spiderman, etc. My favorite route was the second pitch of Pack Animal. It’s vertical and bulging in places so the climbing is never boring.
Neither of us was consistently getting in the zone. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t feeling stronger. We’ve been doing a lot of stuff with the house, so perhaps that had me worn down. But the climbing was fun as usual. There was a lot of smoke in the air from all the fires.
On the way back it started raining at Mount Hood and it hasn’t stopped. I will be back at work Monday. I could go climbing this weekend…but I’d rather paint. Perhaps it will dry out.
We climbed the Squamish Chief in a day last Friday. Two weeks prior I was at Index with Christine and we met a friendly couple at Private Idaho. Torry said he had some time off. As we were leaving, I gave him my card and said that I was hoping for a long weekend at Squamish.
He texted me last weekend and said he was heading up with three friends and did I want to be the fourth? I said yes and we left Tacoma at 9AM. We climbed Star Chek Thursday afternoon, then got a dawn start on the Chief Friday morning. We started up Diedre at 7:30AM, topping out on the top of Squamish Buttress after 11 pitches at 9:30PM. I also led S&M Delight cleanly, and cruised up Skywalker again, but the highlight of the trip was our journey up the Chief.
I’ve been seriously trying to get up that thing ever since I first saw it in 1979. I have no idea why I finally got up it. I do have a lot of knowledge of the lower approaches now, plus we had a strong and confident team. There was a moment at the top of Boomstick where we gathered together and considered whether we should go up or retreat. Committing to the summit meant we might have to bivy on the cliff in our shirts. We didn’t even have matches…though with the fire ban that was a non-starter. But we all looked at each other and said: “Let’s do this thing!”
The trail was easy enough to find…you simply scramble up from the top of Boomstick along the cliff edge until the trail heads left, joining up with the trail from Memorial Crack. A 20 minute hike through forest leads to the base of Squamish Buttress and a slab with one bolt. It’s rated 5.8, but feels like a 10A. Though that might have just been my heavy full frame DSLR, and the full rack of offwidth gear I carried up it. I was so scared I hung two fours, two threes and the five on the bolt to shed some weight. I felt sorry for Jaclyn, but there was no way I could make it up that loaded down. She was game though, and followed it carrying our water, shoes and all that gear.
She swung through and led the next two seven-ish pitches. I arrived at the start of the Butt Light pitches, which are both 5.9. I was so tired I had to rest on both bolts. I need to remember to eat steak and potatoes the night before, along with a big breakfast. The chimney move on pitch two of Butt Light was easy. I had a #5 and it fit perfect, but there was some decent finger sized cams as well, along with a green camalot slightly higher. I had my left shoulder in and walked my feet up the outside arete edge of the chimney until I could reach the jug with my left hand. It felt delicate and barely possible…but worked great.
After that pitch it was two easy pitches to the walk off. We were all super stoked. For me it was a 40 year goal, but for Torrey and Jaclyn it was their first time on the Chief, and they got to the top.
And then we had to hike down the tourist trail for an hour, in the dark, with all that gear. There was definitely some drinking when we got back to the tents. Man, were were so happy to have that in the bag. The next day we slept in and sat around in the sun until noon before heading to the Smoke Bluffs for some cragging. This was one of my all time best climbing trips ever. It’s funny how you can start a trip with total strangers, but after an epic adventure like this we were a band of brothers (and one sister).
Sue has been after me to move closer to town for a decade. I was at guitarbecue at Fletches house 6 weeks ago drinking some beers with friends when Kristi mentioned that she had passed her realtor exam 6 months ago. Kristi and Alex have become good climbing friends over the last few years. She plays amazing violin when she accompanies us on our songs.
She has perfect pitch, and is able to simply “play along” without sheet music. I guess it’s called “jamming”. I do the same thing on my harmonica, and sometimes we play together. When the 8 of us are together (Fletch, me, Karen, Lee, Kristi, Craig, Brett and Alex on the bongo) we make a beautiful sound.
So there we were, standing in the kitchen:
Kristi: “I’m working as a realtor now!”
Me: “Sue wants me to move, could you sell our house?”
Kristi: “Heck yeah!”
She came out and told us what to clean up, replace, and how to stage the house for photos. That one sentence doesn’t begin to describe emptying out 34 years worth of accumulations in the house, the garage attic and the yard. Four dump runs begins to describe it. Tearing down the old metal shed was a 6 hour epic of dodging spiders and swinging axes and crowbars. I also replaced the toilet and bathroom sink…that was interesting.
She listed it and put the sign up on Thursday. We left for a painting trip to Cape Flattery Friday. I painted both Rialto Beach and the Cape.
No one came to the house all weekend, but as we got back from our trip and drove around the cul-de-sac there was a car in front of us going very slowly. It stopped at our driveway, blocking the road. Sue got out and asked them if they needed help. They had found our house using the realtors app. We took them down and gave them a tour. He even climbed into the crawl space. He said it had very good cement and beams….that they don’t even build houses that good any more. I think they are 4 x 12’s or something. Anyway, they loved the house. Next day we had an offer from them. It has now passed inspection and septic, so we are waiting out the closing process. You could say that Kristi sold it in 4 days, for a great price.
I wonder whether it was good that the buyers met us? We like to think we are good, honest people, and this house has been very good to us. I felt like we made some instant friends of the young couple who are buying it.
Speaking of new friends, I’ve been seeing a Ukrainian climber around our gym and the northwest for a few years now. We took a 4 day trip to Squamish this last weekend and had an awesome time. We got up Snake, Karen’s Math and Memorial crack, all cleanly. While I was doing that, Lisa was up climbing Mt. Olympus with some friends she met at work. Lisa and Clint (our kids) also skied down Glacier Peak in the last month. Both climbs had epic 45 mile round trip approaches with 50 pound packs.
The photos they are taking look just like the photos Sue and I used to take when we were mountaineers. Worrying about your children on mountains appears to be a rite of passage in this family. I certainly did it to my folks. What goes around comes around.
My son came out and we staged the house so I could take pictures for the listing. This has been a 6 week process cleaning out the debris from 34 years without a move. Tearing down the old metal shed and 4 dump runs were hard, but there were many obstacles beyond that. We also replaced the toilet, sink and shower stall in the bathroom. Working on the house is not my idea of fun.
My kids just skied down Glacier Peak. They were 12 hours overdue and had a lot of people very worried. I could have slept through it but my (future) son-in-law texted my wife at 2AM asking whether to call Search and Rescue.
35 years ago I was climbing a similar mountain with my wife, long before they were born. We were supposed to be back in town at 7PM Sunday night. We didn’t get out to a phone until 3PM Monday. The conversation went something like this:
“J L Darling Corporation, how can I help you?”
“Ah, yeah, hi Boss. Sorry I missed work today, we ran into some difficulties on Forbidden Peak. I just got out to a phone and I won’t be coming into work today.”
“Oh Mark, I’m so glad to hear from you and that you’re ok! We knew you were probably stuck on a mountain…you never miss work so we knew it was something serious. We will see you tomorrow, get some rest.”
I was complaining to my son’s girlfriend about how my kids had dangerous hobbies. Her response was telling: “Look who their parents are!”
In other news, Chris and I have been climbing a lot. We did Plum Pudding and GM to Heart of the Country recently. I had never led HOTC before. When I followed Alex up it I thought I would never be able to lead it. But with Chris cheering me on I got it clean. There are bad red jams, but just enough yellow jams for me to get rests and place gear. I need to remember to nail the blue fist jam at the top while keeping my feet high to the rest ledge.
I just took 6 paintings to my Olympia Gallery. http://www.thestateofthearts.com/ They have never taken any of my oils, but there is a new owner and he was welling to take a chance on them. I have a good feeling that at least two of them will sell. He has sold two pastels recently for $400, so he is moving paintings.
Beyond all this painting, climbing and house stuff I still have three cars to maintain. Well, four if you count my daughters. She came out yesterday with mice in the car. We spent half a day sealing all ingress points in her Corolla with bailing wire, aluminum plates and metal screens. I had to do that to my RAV4 not long ago and it worked. Toyota is famous for building mouse friendly cars. It’s a fixable problem, but jeez, don’t they have mice in Japan?
I started my vacation in Squish climbing with Marty who only lasted two days. We did Jaberwocky and Octopus Garden well, but not much else. Chris showed up as he left and we did St. Vitus Dance and Exasperator, plus a 10b on Malemute. On Chis’s advice, I drove home on Sunday, rather than climbing with strangers. Sue and I stayed at the ocean for two days where I did two paintings. She loves it out there, and both paintings turned out ok.
I spent one day tearing down our old shed, then I drove to Leavenworth where I led Kristi up Canary. I should have been warmed up but I was climbing like a timid old man…though I didn’t hang. The next day I continued climbing badly up Heart of Gold with Aaron. I backed off pitch 4, though in my defense I will say it was under bolted with rather old 5/16″ bolts.
Sunday we discovered the Mid Wall at Index, and I climbed OK. Not great, but OK. I went back with Chris on Tuesday and climbed great, leading plum pudding and the hips route. Thursday I tried to paint the mountain, but my painting failed. All I got out of it was a swollen hand from a bug bite…that lasted 3 days.
Saturday I wrote a new lesson in WordPress that might be awesome. And Sunday I did two 35 dollar dump runs, clearing out the remains of the bathroom remodel and the old metal shed. It doesn’t sound like much of a vacation…but it was the best I could do. I had a lot of fun, spent some time with some good friends and family…and got two good paintings out of the deal. Oh, and I got a check from my gallery. They sold another painting and want to see some more work. Summer quarter has already started. I’m looking forward to it. Vacations can be a lot of work. I’ve got pictures of all this stuff, but I don’t have time to post them right now, maybe later.
I wonder sometimes why I bother to write in this blog. I think it’s mostly for the memories. Time flies by so fast I forget where it all went. It’s nice to be able to look back occasionally and read what I was doing.
I’ve been hearing about a famous route at Darrington for decades. It is called Silent Running and it’s rated 5.9. I’ve avoided it up until now because I heard it was runnout. After leading the two crux pitches, and following 3 of the others, I have a much better understanding of it. Yes, after one of the nicely bolted 5.9 cruxes, it does have a 40 foot runnout. But if you go left instead of following the seam there are a decent number of normal holds. And if you led the 9 section you won’t fall on the runnout 5.7. And that is the only dangerous section.
The true cruxes are beautifully bolted with nice new shiny 3/8″ inch stainless steel. The bolting was done by our new friend David, and his friend Matt. David followed me and Aaron up the climb, and even led a few of the pitches. We were moving fast with simul belaying. We were in high spirits.
The climbing was as good as it gets. The moves seemed impossibly hard. There were times when I didn’t have a plan at all. I simply placed my feet on imaginary holds and kept moving up.
My fingers were pretty much useless. There was nothing to grab at all. You could step high, you could step low, you could move right or left, none of it mattered. The only plan was to keep moving up.
L. decided to start leading this last Memorial day weekend. Her first lead was up above Penny Lane where she led a short 5.8 crack left of the long 5.8, to the right of Split B. Next she led a 5.6 down to the right of Neat and Cool.
Next morning she led Laughing Crack. It is a long and lovely 5.7 finger crack on a leaning over slab.
Twenty feet up she realized she wasn’t in the mood and started complaining about how her gear was bad. I had been teaching her what a good cam looked like for the last couple days. We had been placing and replacing cams on the ground while I explained the correct lobe angles.
So there she was, 20 feet up up the cliff. It was difficult to climb back down. She was like the proverbial cat stuck in the tree. It’s easy to climb up, not so easy to come down. She had pretty much mastered cleaning anchors…I’d taught her that 6 times over the previous two days. Her thinking was that she could simply keep going up to the good steel anchor bolts and lower off.
Instead of coming down, which would have been relatively safe, she placed more gear, swore it sucked and climbed higher. At about 60 feet up she was still cursing her gear but by that point her hands were sweating in the 84 degree heat. She was frazzled, out of power, and in panic mode. Sue and I were sweating bullets and thinking worst case scenarios.
The rock always wins when you head up a cliff under prepared. She peeled off and took a whipper. As she fell, I had enough time to think that this might be the last time I ever saw her in one piece. My wife started crying. However, I’ve caught a lot of falls over the decades and simply locked off my GriGri + belay device, waiting for a piece to stop her. A Metolius yellow 4 cam TCU caught her fall.
She had slid down on her hip, which wouldn’t have been bad. But because she was wearing running shorts she got an ugly road rash. We call that kind of fall a “cheese grater”. More cursing ensued, but she eventually calmed down. After realizing she was perfectly safe, and the gear was good, she got back on the lead and finished out the route. She threaded the anchor and lowered down.
When I cleaned the route, I was surprised to see that 90 percent of her cams were perfectly placed. She had mastered the art of cam placements in the nick of time. I think her trash talk about their quality was simply her tendency toward perfectionism…which she got from me.
My last post was written shortly after I got off Facebook. It’s been a month now. I get on about once a day, but only toward the end of the week when I’m communicating with climbing partners. When I’m on it’s just to check messenger, I never look at pictures anymore, or scroll down to look at the feeds of my virtual friends.
I have another friend who did the exact same thing. His work got busy, and he dumped Facebook. I stopped off after work to see him today. It was so refreshing to communicate with a real friend face to face. We used to talk on facebook, or via messenger, or phone. But face to face feels so right.
His girlfriend was there for part of the time and we talked about how humans evolved to need face to face communication. We are still wired that way. It’s not like we’ve evolved past it. Communicating on facebook over pictures, and status updates seems sort of like real life, but it pales in comparison to the real thing.
We spend all those hours peering at these little glass screens, typing cute remarks about photos or politics. And it feels like human communication…but really all you are doing is typing while starting at glass. You don’t get to hear their voices, smell their scent, see the real colors of their eyes, and there expressions as you talk. At the end of the day, it doesn’t work for me. I prefer to have a few real friends, who actually like me enough to see me in person, than 100 facebook ghosts seen on a glass screen.
Despite my avoidance of facebook, I do like to write, mostly to clear my head, but also as a way to have a record of what I was doing, long after I forget about the little day to day details.
I went to Vantage and met Dave D, Roy, JoJo, Ingrid, Vlad and Des. Dave, Roy and I climbed all the moderate cracks, including Pony Keg, Air Guitar, Crossing the threshold, Whipsaw and Tangled up in Blue. I led everything but crossing. Dave was warming up after some time off, and Roy is still learning crack climbing. Sunday I led Steel Grill after following Ride ’em cowboy. Steel Grill wore me out. I had to pull on a cam at the crux. After that I was weak as a puppy. But it was a super fun weekend. At one point I was sitting on the ledge looking out over the lovely afternoon light on the valley down below.
When I was on vacation last month I enjoyed being off the grid. It was super nice to live in the moment and forget about the world outside our little climbing and painting bubble down in Utah.
After I returned, I tried to improve the paintings I did down there. But it turns out I couldn’t do much for them in the studio. I seem to be an on location painter, period. I tried to breath more life into them…but the oxygen they need is down in Moab, not in my studio. I did at least try not to make them worse. And I only worked on one of them, but eventually gave it up as a lost cause. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the painting, I tend to do that. I’ve had paintings sell that I thought were broken.
But finally I posted them up to Facebook to see what my friends thought of my work. But after posting them, I got to thinking about why it even mattered to me what my friends thought. And that made me realize I needed a break from Facebook. I haven’t been on for a week, and intend to stay off for a while.
I like to thing that my art is an activity that transcends time. One of the reasons I love making art is that I am creating something that lives all on it’s own. A good piece of art, whether it is a book, a song, or a painting, has a life of it’s own. We are creating beauty where beauty did not exist before.
There is a reason why drawings still survive from the 1500’s and earlier. Everyone who sees them recognizes the beauty, and treasures them. Now this is not to say my art is that good. But perhaps someday it will be, if I keep learning and improving.
I have one of my great aunts paintings on my mantel. She painted it around 1910, and it has been handed down through the family. I love the way art lives on it’s own merits. If it’s pretty, people will hang onto it because it adds beauty to their lives. If the art is bad, it gets thrown away, and that is as it should be.
I also have tons of old photos that have come down through the family, including some of my great aunt, the painter. But the funny thing is, I have no use for them. They don’t add any beauty to my life. Her painting however is lovely. Art is cool, and I feel very lucky to be a painter.
I have a lot of administrative work to do this quarter. We are planning more changes in our program. They will be good changes, and will help our students get jobs, but it’s a lot of extra work above and beyond my normal full time teaching job. Still, I shouldn’t complain, I’m happy to be working. It’s fun learning new things.