Bishop blogging round two.
After a frigid nights the morning were always welcome. Warming up and getting a good hot breakfast, discussing the days endeavors and witness plenty of shenanigans was the best way to start the days. Our first few climbs were in Buttermilks and exploring these new zones and to me, completely new places, is something I will never forget.
The Happy's, the Sads, The Buttermilks
We spent the first day exploring the Buttermilks, the area renowned for its highballs and views. Arriving with a book of trails and routes and a mountain in front of us, we started up the hill but didn't get far before the 'toast people' started appearing below us.
'Toast people,' are the namesake Rachel explains, of climbers hiking in between routes, carrying their large square crash-pads upright with straps across their backs, the only thing you can make out of their huge rectangular forms are usually two little stick-like legs comically protruding and propelling the large toast looking creature up or down the terrain. Toast people have a difficult time hearing anything behind them, with basically a soundproofing wall on their backs. This makes conversations between Toast People or among Toast People pretty funny. Toast people are also victimized often by each other, in part of a game of sneak-up-and-yank-you-down-from-behind based on their turtle-like vulnerability.
Toast people are also often accompanied by dogs, packs, jackets, chalk-bags and all manners of nalgenes and other accessories necessary for bouldering.
Anyways these toast people had some familiar voices and some familiar faces and our groups were finally officially united. Introductions were made as informally as possible, with conversations being first and names occurring somewhere in between cheering for members attempting routes and discussing the next destinations in the area.
The fading light only made that place more beautiful by the minute. The high rising jagged peaks of the Sierras cutting into the sky were dramatized but the sun's rays as it fell below the horizon behind them. The first star of the evening appearing in the space impossible to discern where the colors of dusk end and the night sky begins. Had the temperature not coincided with the rapidly diminishing light I'm sure we would have stayed out every night as late as we could.
With a strobe and a few willing climbers I had a blast capturing the feel of a low light boulder session; As droves of other climbers slowly made their way out of the cracks and crevices of all the boulders and walls in the terrain around us. They start their engines and the ambiance hangs in the air as their headlights bob up and down illuminating the dust clouds kicked up on the narrow primitive road.
Night comes and setting up dinner in the dark is made interesting by the 5 or 6 fearless kangaroo rats that accost us for crumbs falling from our makeshift pallet table.
Beers are shared and the Sierra Nevadas become an entire horizon size wall paper, lit by the brightest moon I have ever seen in my life, making the fire seem almost dim as I stand at a distance and shoot photos and watch and wonder if it all is really happening.
The next several days were spent rolling in the dirt, comparing onesies and/or footy pajama outfits, discussing the best areas of climbing for the day, hiking to said climbing areas and playing with Tikka, Will Moore's crag dog.
The best part of Bishop I personally experienced was the community vibe. I am in no way experienced in bouldering but was overwhelmed by the amount of support and stoke everyone expressed at just extending the friendships and connections to mountain life. So many sincerely talented and even more sincerely humble people I have never encountered and it left all of us not wanting to leave, and planning our next trip before we even broke camp.
Shooting photos of climbers and bouldering left me with a new normal for ways to interact with athletes, how it really feels to be a part of a trip, and how the measure of accomplishment lies in so many more ways than whether or not I make images worthy of publishing.
A good trip changes you and stays with you in ways that remind us why we are inspired, and why we want to make sure not to miss the next one.
In December I set out on a life changing trip with three friends to Bishop, California; A place I had never been to do something I had never really tried. Bishop is one of the premiere destinations for Bouldering in the world and one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in the U.S.
Sentinmental moment spoiler alert: What was more beautiful was the community and culture I experienced there. Making more new friends than I could have expected and really finding out what living your dream and adventuring with your friends looks like in the best kind of ways.
My next few blog posts will be dedicated to showing some of the images and video episodes of our trip.
Thanks to Rachel Bellamy for being our killer guide and pro adventurer, to Zach Schaarschmidt for jumping in a complete strangers car (mine) at a park n' ride in Burlington and being one of the coolest people I know on a 20 hour car ride with Adam Basse and thanks Adam for keeping us ever entertained in life in general
And to everyone we met in Bishop, for opening up dinners, campfires, climbing tips, your passion for climbing and memories that I will hold onto for the rest of my life!
I love you all!
Thanks for looking
If you really want to get to know somebody, spend 19 hours in a car with them.
Better yet, spend 19 hours in a car with them, then 6 days in the desert, 5 frigid nights in the dirt, roughly 4 hours naked in a hot spring, 2 meals at In-n-Out Burger, taking in more blood caked finger tips, crash pad impacts and rocks, caves, walls and routes than you can begin to count, and after all that you will realize you've experienced one crazy road trip to one of the premiere bouldering destinations in the world;
Or so it seems that these are the immediate highlights at the forefront of my thoughts from such a journey this past December with a gang of three now good friends.
What I believed to be an ideal mix or goof, experience, rookie and stoke, our crew was assembled on the whims of a lifestyle based around the idea of 'why not?'
Out of this question of 'why not' I truly believe some of the greatest feats of adventuresome destiny have been born. Ok I'm not directly comparing myself to our trip to being one of the world's greatest feats, but for MY world, it was a great feat. Within MY world, it was a pretty grand adventure.
And thus the Sharkfin gang was born. Almost immediately upon seeing that our sole crash-pad, a well loved folded Metolius with a beveled end that perfectly resembled the dorsal of said predator, strapped upright instead of flat on the top of my sleek deep blue 2005 Hyundai Tucson looked like the perfect hunter of shenanigans, we came up with Sharkfin gang as a joke, but obviously after the storm of instagrams and social media posts, images and hashtags ensued, we were happily stuck with the name.
We were also stuck right off the bat however, in traffic. After a brief, albeit beautiful, rendezvous in Tacoma with Moose, Sharkfin gang member Rachel Bellamy's fuzzy pet bunny, we were met outside Olympia with a complete standstill of traffic. After a bad a I-5 wreck, we were seeking an alternate route in what apparently is the most non-navigable space on the planet. Somewhere between Fort Lewis and a suburban nightmare maze that makes the Labyrinth look like a zen rock garden we eventually found a single lane road that was actually a golf cart path for a course that crossed the freeway but it was behind a locked D.O.T. gate.
Just as we were cursing our iPhones and lack of navigational skills, a D.O.T. guy rolls up in his truck. Spying a single earring and a mustache, I really thought we had hope.
Withholding names at his request, we were snuck through the gate with many thanks and high fives after some candid conversation about how four of us were driving 20-ish hours to central California to climb some rocks. He approved of our 'sick trip' and assured us that, 'man back in the 70s you wouldn't believe some of the stuff I'd do.'
With 4 lanes of I-5 shut down it was actually erie to be the only vehicle on the freeway 2 exits past the worst traffic ever, and in the middle of the rush hour morning.
All that stood in our way now was Eugene, Cafe-Yum, Klamath Falls, a mountain pass or two, In-n-Out Burger, Reno, some fog so thick I expected a dementor to splatter on my windshield at any moment and finally one right turn in the middle of nowhere to find a camp spot.
We were searching for a veritable army of already camped. Friends and cohorts of Rachel's, many of whom were also from Bellingham. Such was the size of our group that it would be an assumed fact throughout the trip that, had you just arrived, it was most likely that you were coming from Bellingham, or were part of the Bellingham crew. I thought it awesome and sort of comical that so many people from the same place ought to meet each other in such a far off land. It is a situation I have often come across while traveling and has made me firmly believe that people in the Northwest just get out and do so much cool stuff that they are bound to run into each other eventually, just based on the odds.
But find them we did, and no time was taken before I realized the type of community that was formed in that place, and it made sense quickly that the group was ever increasing.
...Story continued next post!
thanks for reading!