• laura panama

    Is The Dirtbag Dead?

    Jul 24 • Locations • 537 Views

    “I was crazy and I was wild and I have seen the tiger smile.”

    Drive On by Johnny Cash

    This zine has come a long way from our humble roots of a stapled together black and white publication with a skate, punk rock feel. The latest result is Volume 7: dirtbags, crag dogs, hyenas, free solos, our crown jewel. It’s no coincidence that as a publishing company (Benighted Publications) we spend the majority of our time and energy on our printed version. We love print.

    by Luke Mehall, publisher of The Zine (note this piece is the introduction from Volume 7, now available in print and on Kindle.) Banner photo of Laura Chase by Braden Gunem

    Our journey has been a serendipitous one. When we started it seemed like everyone was shying away from print. Start a website everyone said. Digital is the future. But we didn’t care about what everyone else was doing; we just wanted to start something unique that highlighted climbing and our culture, a venue for wild stories full of adventure and rich prose. So we did. We printed a hundred or so of our first couple issues, and handed them out, occasionally selling them for a buck or two.

    Then, like everything, we had to evolve, the state of the zine depended on it. Several of our readers suggested we switch to an all color format, so we did. Our printing costs shot through the roof. We improvised and got sponsors on board. The climbing industry rallied to our support (evident by the many stellar sponsors who are on board with this issue). Five years after we started this zine on a whim, we’ve got something unique that people really appreciate and keep on their bookshelves, not merely here today, gone tomorrow.

    I think starting something tangible, something you could feel, proved to work to our advantage. Everything comes back around. Trends come and go; timeless, genuine work lives longer. We want to sustain and bring back the romance of reading, like how a record player slows time and makes you pay attention to each note, each lyric, each song.

    In a culture where everything’s moving so fast, so catered to the short attention span, we are taking an artisan, small craft, simple is beautiful approach. We also know we’re not the only business out there with this philosophy. It’s a movement.

    For us, our role in this movement is doing our part to show that the dirtbag lifestyle is still possible, and, not only that, it’s still alive and thriving. Which is why I want to offer up some thoughts on last year’s “Dirtbagging is Dead” article, published in Climbing magazine by Cedar Wright.

    Wright’s title was very clever, because it was engaging. He has his “rant” on the death of dirtbagging, but then offers up a challenge to the next generation: to continue the dirtbag lifestyle as the generations before us did. I don’t want to challenge anything Mr. Wright wrote about, because he was right on: climbing is growing and changing, and many young climbers don’t know a thing about dirtbagging. I did want to follow up with some thoughts of my own though.

    Climbing is more than climbing; it has been and always will be. When you truly fall in love with climbing, it’s impossible to sustain the love without a community. And, to dirtbag, to live simply, out of a bag, in the dirt, your existence has to be sustained with a community.

    Yes, it has gotten more and more difficult to “dirtbag it” in certain places, particularly Yosemite and Joshua Tree, but it is simply false that “dirtbagging is dead”. Quite the opposite, the dirtbag is alive, and it is more important than ever that climbers live as dirtbags.

    Yet as I write that, it seems so silly to compose those words, like I’m an old man talking about my glory days and how the kids should live now. People are going to figure it out on their own, the importance of living a simple life, and the rewards of such an existence. Everything comes back around, and the dirtbag existence happens naturally to people. If The Climbing Zine ever becomes a eulogy to the glory days, burn it to start your campfire. In climbing, the golden age is always at hand if you know where to look.

    That said, there are legitimate reasons for defense of the ongoing existence of the dirtbag. Living like a dirtbag is the centerpiece for the American climbing culture. Originally, the inspiration came from the Beatniks, their prose, written in the fifties and early sixties fueled the Yosemite climbing revolution, which still inspires us as a culture. Their rambling, free spirited way of living also inspired the Original Dirtbags. I think as climbers we admire Yvon Chouinard for his first ascents on El Capitan, famously fueled by meager rations for days, more than the fact that he founded two wildly successful companies. That says a lot about our culture, and what success means to us.

    The climbing generation that I am a part of is the same era that Mr. Wright is a part of. We started in the 1990s, and have been witness to an exponential growth in the sport. Tighter camping restrictions have been implemented in many areas, and technology has taken away some of the romance of dirtbagging. Climbing gyms have created a culture of their own as well. I personally started climbing in a gym in the Midwest. Luckily, shortly thereafter I moved to Gunnison, Colorado, and met a bunch of dirtbag climbers, forever changing the course of my life.

    It is our view at The Climbing Zine that this generation has to pass the torch to the next generation. As I approach my late thirties I know my hardcore dirtbag days are done. The climbers from my generation are getting married, and having kids. So, it is the younger generation, bound to be stronger and more impressive than us, who are coming up in the game.

    And I have complete faith that this generation will continue to dirtbag, and find the magic that this lifestyle provides. You will seek out the places to climb where there is no cell phone signal, and you can camp for free for weeks on end. You will climb new routes where our generation did not think to look. You will see the open road as the Beatniks did, a blank canvas leading you to the mountains of your dreams where you’ll experience more fear, inspiration, and beauty than you’ll know what to do with. You will come back and inspire us with the stories you’ll tell.

    So, this issue is dedicated to all the aspiring young dirtbags of the world. The dream is still possible, and it is up to the younger generation to sustain the culture.

    The dirtbag is dead? Hell no. The dirtbag is alive! Long live the dirtbag!

    Read more from The Climbing Zine Volume 7 in print and on Kindle

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • zine_cover7 (4)

    Volume 7 Get It Now on Print and Kindle

    Jul 22 • Dirtbagging • 470 Views

    The long awaited next issue of The Climbing Zine is now available on Kindle and in print. Volume 7: dirtbags, crag dogs, hyenas, and free solos features a line up of some of the best voices in rock climbing culture.

    Here’s a look at our authors this time: Gaelen Engler, Chris Kalman, Brendan Leonard, Becca Skinner, Jason Haas, Courtney Ott, D Scott Borden, Alexa Flower, Drew Thayer, Al Smith III, and Luke Mehall.

    Becca Skinner's grandfather, Bob Skinner climbing in the Cathedrals in Yosemite in the 1950s. Becca writes about life in a climbing family, in her essay, "Growing Up Skinner". Photo: Skinner Family Collection

    Becca Skinner’s grandfather, Bob Skinner climbing in the Cathedrals in Yosemite in the 1950s. Becca writes about life in a climbing family, in her essay, “Growing Up Skinner”. Photo: Skinner Family Collection

    The Climbing Zine, Volume 7, full color with art print version, $9.99.

    The Climbing Zine, Volume 7 on Kindle for $2.99.

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle. You can now subscribe to The Climbing Zine as well!  We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • Rewilding - Season 1, Episode 1 - Pilot from Rewilding, The Film on Vimeo.

    Rewilding – After Prison, Adventures in The Wild

    Jul 18 • Locations • 555 Views

    editor’s note: Last month we got word of a very inspiring project called Rewilding. The project is centered around Anthony DeJesus, a formerly incarcerated young man from the Bronx, who has never left New York City. This summer he’s joining filmmakers and climbers Jesse Spiegel and Vitek Linhart, on an adventure across the West, which starts this Wednesday, July 22nd. This is their pilot episode, in what is truly a unique and inspiring endeavor.

    Anthony high five

    Here’s more from the words of the filmmakers:

    Through their experiences traveling the country in a van, rock climbing, farming, backpacking, practicing yoga, and connecting with people from different walks of life, the three will explore leadership, health, adventure, happiness, and sustainability.
    This web series and documentary are the stepping stone toward the creation of Rewilding’s Alternative Adventure Retreat (RAAR) for formerly incarcerated young adults: A place for wilderness immersion, self-discovery, adventure, and sustainability education. RAAR has already partnered with seven transition programs in the Bronx and Harlem that assists young men as they transition back into their communities after incarceration.
    RAAR will offer these men an opportunity to leave the city and head west where they will participate in a variety of hands-on activities that are aimed at developing leadership skills and promoting growth and healing.
    ”Rewilding is about returning to one’s natural state of existence and being true to one’s self!” Spiegel said. “We encourage everyone to step outside of the box of how we have been told to be and what we have been told is possible. In every living thing there is the desire and potential to grow when the conditions are right. Our goal is to help create the right space and conditions for individuals to reflect upon what inspires them, and to provide tools that help move them in that direction.”
    For media inquiries about Rewilding please contact Suzanne Spiegel at suzanne@rewildingthefilm.com. 

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • The Great American Dirtbags by Luke Mehall

    Jul 18 • Books, Climbing Culture, Dirtbagging • 3863 Views

    It’s about that time to officially announce that my second book, The Great American Dirtbags is printed and a real thing instead of this vision inside my mind.

    TGAD.inhand

    by Luke Mehall, publisher of The Climbing Zine

    This book, which I am proud of, is a collection of eighteen stories and a couple poems, and the pieces range from my depressed teenage years to my current happy mid-thirty-something “born again dirtbag” days.

    As a self published author you learn to hate your words, and love them again. You spend so much time editing and revising them they take on a life of their own. The only real thing that truly keeps me going are my friends, my community, the climbing and greater outdoors community. It’s a crazy realization to have, but all I ever need in life is under the sun and stars. Sure, there are times to have a roof over your head, to shower, to write, to make love, to eat, to rest, but in the end I would not want to live a life without adventures in the outdoors.

    So many people have supported this project, and I promise to pay it back in karma points, but maybe that’s not how this whole thing works. Some people just send their time and energy and love without asking for anything return, and that’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned through this process. And now there is this book of dirtbag stories, for you, because they happened to me, but the stories themselves are nothing without someone reading them, then they take on a life of their own, they are yours.

    The Great American Dirtbags was published by Benighted Publications, and retails at $13.99. 

    It is now also available on Kindle for $6.99

    For media review copies please contact me directly at luke@climbingzine.com. word!

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle. You can now subscribe to The Climbing Zine as well! 

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • AR-395a-Harness-M-Poseidon-93

    Review: Arc’teryx AR-395a Harness

    Jul 10 • Gear • 1040 Views

    Canadian ingenuity re-born: an elite all-around harness

    Let’s cut right to the chase: climbing harnesses range in price from $50 to $180, and they all offer a secure fit, provide easy access to gear, and are reasonably comfortable to hang in for short amounts of time. What makes a high-end harness worth it? An expensive harness isn’t the appropriate choice for every climber, but if you spend a lot of time climbing tall, steep walls, make long approaches, and chase mixed terrain and waterfall ice when the seasons change, an elite-level harness might be a reasonable choice.

    Reviewed by: Drew Thayer, Senior Contributor

    Retail: $160

    S15-AR-395a-Harness-Poseidon (1)

    For climbers that branch beyond single-pitch climbing into longer alpine routes, big walls, and winter climbing, it can be tempting to invest in niche harnesses that are specifically adapted to each discipline. This can really start to get expensive, but it’s hard to find a harness that performs just as well shirtless in a limestone cave as it does over three layers of jackets on a frozen waterfall while you’re groping for an ice screw with gloved hands.

    Arc’teryx harnesses are unique: if you’ve never worn one before, the first thing you’ll notice is that there seems to be no padding whatsoever. How could it possibly be comfortable? Instead of relying on padding to provide comfort, as virtually every other modern harness* does, the Canadian engineers developed a technology they call “Warp Strength” which uses thin, flat webbing without large bar-tack stitches. The result is a light, packable harness which is very comfortable to hang in because the broad webbing distributes weight evenly without pressure points.

    *(Black Diamond has recently developed “Kinetic Core” harness technology which uses flat webbing plus a bit of padding; it’s similarly comfortable and a bit more bulky.)

    Arc’teryx re-designed their full line of harnesses this year, and the AR (All-Rounder) stands out as comfortable and streamlined while including simple features that adapt it well to multi-pitch and alpine climbing. This harness offers large carrying capacity with two oversized front gear loops (larger than loops on Black Diamond and Petzl models), two rear gear loops, and a 5th expanded ‘haul loop’ that’s wide enough to fit several carabiners. I like to clip peripherals like shoes, jacket, and cordalette back there and keep my gear loops from getting crowded. It’s worth noting that the gear loops are built with molded plastic inserts that hug a sewn webbing loop. This design is more robust than many, since the actual weight-bearing member isn’t vulnerable to abrasion. This may seem trivial, but I’ve seen gear loops break and drop their contents, and the consequences could be bad (or dire?) depending on where you are. The molded inserts can be reversed direction or even removed if one wanted an ultra-light harness; I find them very useful the way they are and will likely leave them be. The oversized loops can handily carry a double rack of cams plus extra pieces without crowding.

    Arc’teryx designers listened to climbers’ gripes about previous models, and the 2015 harnesses are improved with an upgraded Warp Strength weave which prevents ‘roping’, or bunching, in the webbing material, and a more supple webbing connection under the lower tie-in that doesn’t come un-done like older models did. The new, wider haul loop doesn’t form a pressure point under a pack, and the hook that secures the rear elastic ‘drop seat’ is less aggressive and easier to remove with one hand.

    The AR-395a harness adapts well to winter climbing with adjustable leg loops that expand over extra layers and four ice clipper slots. The slots between gear loops are a great position to reach screws and keep the teeth pointed safely behind. The forward slots are basically over the thigh so any screw longer than a stubby will likely snag on your pants while lifting your knee. Still, it will be useful to have a third (or fourth) ice clipper reserved for stubbies.

    The AR-395a harness is light for an all-around harness that includes ice clipper slots. At 13.9 oz for size medium, it’s similar in weight to Black Diamond’s all-around Aspect (14.5 oz) and a good bit lighter than Petzl’s Corax (17.3 oz), Edelrid’s Jay (17.6 oz) or BD’s ice-specific Xenos (18.0 oz). Many harnesses designed for rock climbing are lighter (BD Chaos at 12.6 oz, Petzl Sama at 13.0 oz) and there are some really light sport-climbing harnesses (BD Ozone at 10.5 oz, Mammut Zephyr a mere 8.8 oz!), but none of these are equipped with ice clipper slots or a 5th gear loop, and many aren’t as comfortable to hang in.

    Arc’teryx harnesses are the most expensive, and not just because they’re sexy. While the cost seems a bit extravagant, only entry-level harnesses cost $50 anymore, and competitors are starting to catch up (BD Chaos will run you $125). These harnesses are still actually manufactured in Canada, so you can rest assured that the price tag supports North American workers. For sizing, the sizing chart on the Arc’teryx website seems spot-on.

    Bottom line: The division between those willing to spend top-dollar on a climbing harness and those who aren’t should be pretty self-evident: if you are, you probably know it already. There are many cheaper options, and lighter options if the most you carry is 16 quickdraws, but if you regularly find yourself on long routes with a rack of cams, jacket, shoes, etc. clipped around your waist, AND want a harness that performs for winter climbing too, the AR-395a harness is a great, versatile tool. These unique harnesses are light, simple, and really comfortable to hang in. Considering the longevity of the new models and a great warrantee program (I had a harness replaced once after one phone call, no hassle), it could be a worthy investment for the dedicated multi-sport climber.

    Arc’teryx AR-395a Harness

    Female equivalent: AR-385a Harness

    Drew Thayer blogs at Carrots and Peanut Butter. He is a Senior Contributor to The Climbing Zine.

    In the vertical world, quality gear is as important as good weather or the right partner.  At the Climbing Zine, we review gear that we put to the test in our personal climbing pursuits, over months of use. If we like it we’ll tell you, and if we don’t we’ll tell you. That’s our policy…If you have gear for us to consider for a review please contact us at luke@climbingzine.com. 

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle. You can now subscribe to The Climbing Zine as well! 

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • Alpha Sport QDs

    Review: DMM Alpha Sport Quickdraws

    Jul 10 • Gear • 137 Views

    With rock climbing gear we are living in the days of refinement, over pure innovation. Most of the gear is quite similar to what was being used 15 to 20 years ago, but its just simply lighter, and easier to use.

    Retail: starting at $25.95

    Alpha Sport QDs

    This is certainly the case with quickdraws, they are simple and there’s not much you can do with them. In the last few years, companies have trimmed them down with light biners and even lighter dog bones (the nylon that connects the two biners). Sure they are light but how necessary is it for quickdraws to be ultralight? Personally, I’d rather have draws that clip and handle well, that might weigh a little bit more.

    Which is why I’m a huge fan of the DMM Alpha Sport Draw. These quickdraws seem to be created for ease of use and a luxurious clip. “They clip themselves”, a climber partner of mine said after using mine. The dog bone is also a healthy size (26mm) for picking it off your harness and clipping in, or at a last resort grabbing the draw at a bolt to clip in and avoid taking the whipper.

    The Alpha’s come in three different sizes: 12cm, 18cm, and 25cm. I prefer the “normal” 12cm size for day-to-day sport climbing, but surely the longer sizes would come in handy on overhanging projects, or on a trad climb. Each draw is equipped with an Alpha clip and Alpha pro biner, the “pro” to clip into the bolt, and the “clip” for the rope. The “clip” is the biner you really notice the refinement in: the bent gate with the flared out barrel shape is what really makes it feel like it clips itself. On the opposite spine of the biner is a kinked and groove pattern.

    the "clip" biner

    the “clip” biner

    Bottom line: This is my favorite on my rack of quickdraws and the first ones I reach for when I’m cruxing out on a clip. I like how it handles, and it doesn’t have a flimsy feel like so many of the lighter, refined draws out there these days. You definitely pay for it, with a retail price starting at $25.95 (for the 12cm version), but it’s surely worth the extra cash for the ease of clip.

    The DMM Alpha Sport Draw

    -LM

    In the vertical world, quality gear is as important as good weather or the right partner.  At the Climbing Zine, we review gear that we put to the test in our personal climbing pursuits, over months of use. If we like it we’ll tell you, and if we don’t we’ll tell you. That’s our policy…If you have gear for us to consider for a review please contact us at luke@climbingzine.com. 

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle. You can now subscribe to The Climbing Zine as well! 

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • IMG_6430

    Visions of Clark Mountain by Georgie Abel

    Jul 8 • Locations • 197 Views

    I wish I could tell you all about Clark in the exact way that my brain experiences it. But that has proven to be very hard to do, because there is something about that mountain that is so far from tangible, so far from words, so far from emotion, so far from human. I don’t even really understand what happens up there. It’s the most subtle of all feelings, something that glimmers into my consciousness and then, in the instant, it’s gone. And I’m left wondering–what is that?

    by Georgie Abel 

    I’ve been trying to answer that question for the entire five weeks we’ve been in Vegas without much luck. Every attempt to write about it goes like this: I stare at a blank word document for an hour or so. I check the weather forecast. I go pee. I eat some chocolate. I convince myself I haven’t had nearly enough vitamin C recently. I eat a grapefruit. I sit down again, the cursor blinks back at me. I notice it blinks in rhythm with the song that I’ve put on. I get annoyed of the song. I get annoyed of the quiet. There is a fly somewhere in the house. My shirt feels itchy. I write three words and immediately delete them. One single strand of hair has escaped from my ponytail. I braid my hair. I get too hot. I change shirts. I google “writing inspiration”. Somehow I end up reading an article about how it’s possible to eat too much kale. I worry about my kale intake. I write a paragraph. I delete it because I used the word “magical” three different times. I file my fingernails. I read a poem by some woman I follow on Facebook. It’s good. I tell myself that she would probably be able to write about Clark without any trouble. I google “how to have more self-compassion”. I write a few sentences but they sound exactly like the passage I just read about self-compassion. I delete the sentences. I make tea. I take an online personality test. I get through about half of the questions. I Snapchat a really close up picture of my eyeball. I notice a small bird that’s perched on our clothesline in the backyard.

    Okay wait. Birds? Birds. That’s bringing up something for me. Bird by bird. Anne Lammot, is that you?

    Just take it bird by bird, Georgie.

    Okay. I can do that. Or at least, I can try.

    When I was young, my grandparents owned a cattle ranch in Northern California. It was there that my life-long love affair with places began. The ranch was the first place I learned to love, aside from my own house, but I’m not sure that counts. It’s different. Even with the things that scared me about the ranch–the scorpions, the pool cleaner, the snakes, getting bucked off a horse, having to talk to the grown-ups–I still loved it, because I knew it.

    The ranch taught me that we fall in love with places not for their ease or even their beauty, but for the ways in which they allow us to know them.

    I think that’s why we fall in love with people, too.

    IMG_6524

    We’ve been going up to Clark so Ethan can try Jumbo Love–the hardest route in North America. I’ve found a project up there too, and so has Spenser. Update: we are all getting our asses kicked.

    Clark is difficult. Everything on that mountain is abrasive, and will cut you. But sure enough, I fell in love with it this spring. Every day we spend hiking and climbing up there, some new piece of Clark Mountain reveals itself. It does this in ways that always feel like a gift, an offering, a confession, a show. The wildlife that calls the mountain home especially behave in this way: the two falcons that nest on the third tier with their chicks soar out in front of the cave, twist and dive through the air currents, and pass in midair what looks like a small mouse from one of their beaks to the other. A family of big horned sheep stand motionless in front of us as we round a corner. A hummingbird dips her beak into the blood red blossom of a flowering cactus. A single cow stands in the middle of the road on our drive back to the highway. My shoulder brushes up against a small sage bush and hundreds of moths are released and flutter from its branches. The green, blinking eyes of a poorwill catch the headlight and glow in the dark desert. Four baby rabbits huddle together for warmth and form a single ball of soft fur. It’s even cuter than you’re imagining it to be. Lizards tuck under rocks as I hike by their sunbathing spots. A snake with dramatic black and white stripes stretches itself long in the evening, its cold belly sliding across the desert.

    IMG_6627

    The whole thing feels so special and rare, like a meteor shower, but instead of being some unfathomable distance away, the magic is right there in front of me.

    It’s so close I could touch it.

    Of course, there are things at Clark that scare me. However, now that I’m grown, the things I’m afraid of have become a little more complicated than scorpions and pool cleaners. I’m afraid of Clark for how glaringly obvious it makes my imperfections. I get mad. I’m shy. I tell myself I can’t send a rock climb, or write a book. Sometimes I say the most wrong thing. I am perpetually hungry. I am a slave to my ego. Sometimes I don’t feel like smiling.

    My grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. The day after she passed, I wasn’t sure if I could go up there. I wasn’t sure if I could do much of anything. But somehow, with the support of my friends and boyfriend, I got myself up to the third tier. I didn’t climb, but I leaned against a slab of limestone and shaded my eyes from the sun with the back of my forearm. I looked down the mountain, across the desert, up at the sky. She was everywhere. She was every wildflower, every wisp of cloud, every animal. I missed her. I missed the ranch. I missed being young. And even though as I got older I saw her less and less, I had never pictured my life without her in it. And suddenly she was gone.

    IMG_6458

    The thing about Clark is that it doesn’t sugar coat anything, but it’s in no way pessimistic. It is so balanced I can’t even think of anything to say about it. That’s why I can’t hardly write about it. What is that, I ask. Over and over. I think it’s just all so real. Clark, the ranch, my grandma, every last one of us…it is all just so annoyingly realistic. There is nothing dishonest about living and dying. It’s not happy but it’s not sad. It’s precious but in no way rare.

    I don’t know. I don’t know how to write about something so natural. All I know for sure is what I miss, and that I’m glad to have been where I’ve been.

    This is Georgie Abel’s first of hopefully many more pieces for the Zine. You can read more of her thoughtful prose and poetry at her blog

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • rasta wig

    Rasta, A Wise and Crafty Crag Dog by D Scott Borden

    Jul 6 • Locations • 254 Views

    Editor’s note: Longtime Climbing Zine contributor D Scott Borden wrote this piece for Volume 7, and sadly as the Zine was going to press Rasta passed away. Our thoughts are with you and your family at this time Scott. Thanks for such an inspiring piece! -LM

    We have all seen some cray-cray stuff when it comes to pets at the climbing crag. Like the time I was passed on the seventh pitch of Half Dome’s Snake Dike by Dean Potter short roping his little dog behind him as he soloed the route. Or the lady that brings her cat on a leash to the boulders and sends V7 while that fur ball watches disapprovingly. (Why are they always so hard to please?) Or the dog that ran off in Utah’s deserts and when hope was lost she returned 12 days later without a scratch. Or the time I saw a guy with an eye patch and a parrot on his shoulder crushing 5.13 cracks in Indian Creek. (Though come to think of it, it may have been Halloween.) However, none tickle my biscuit better than the story of Rasta Dog. Of course, being my dog, I may be a little biased.

    by D Scott Borden, Senior Contributor

    Looking to keep my relationship intact with my high school girlfriend, we decided to adopt a puppy at the local grocery store. Adopting that puppy turned out to be one of my better mistakes. A hippy with long flowing dreads had a litter of puppies and a sign that read ‘to a real home’. He had hitchhiked through the Colorado Rockies when his dog gave birth to this litter. When I first saw him, he was sitting on the local corner with a guitar singing a song that went, “They won’t let me sing my song, they won’t let me smoke my bong. They won’t let me sing my song, they won’t let me smoke my bong…”

    After the third excruciating and ear numbing time I heard this line I snatched up a puppy from the young man figuring I was saving it from the danger of dying of a patchouli oil and weed smoke overdose. The puppy was only four weeks old and fit in the palm of my hand. He was completely reliant on me for everything. Being in college and climbing every possible second, like so many young men with too much responsibility, I was in way over my head. Just for perspective: I ate a strictly vegetarian diet mostly from dumpsters around town, lived in my truck, refused to wear shoes to class, owned one pair of pants and showered once a week. I could barely take care of myself, what the heck was I going to do with this adorable dog?

    I would venture to say that thus far, this story is probably a dime a dozen. How many lost climbing dirtbags do you know that live in the back of their car and have a dog?

    Rasta Dog would go through the inevitable stages of a crag dog. Young puppy stage: where he would bark uncontrollably and annoy everyone not matter how much attention you gave him. Middle aged stage: where he would demand a good hour of stick throwing and then wander around the crag for hours alone but always end up back at the car at the end of the day just in time to head off. Old man stage: where he would be happy just to get to the crag and chill out. “What a good, cute crag dog,” everyone would say. Well, they didn’t put up with his crap for 13 years prior did they?

    I guess it wasn’t what Rasta Dog did that was story worthy, but perhaps more what he created. When I finished college I wanted to travel. So I left Rasta in the capable hands of my most responsible friend, Taryn. Now Taryn wasn’t just responsible, she was the president of the student government at our college. We had co-founded (with several other friends) an environmental group. She was an ass-kicking environmental activist with the looks to match.

    Of course, I wanted nothing to do with her romantically. She was the type of girl you take home to Mom and I was looking for the type of girl you snuggle with in the back of your truck. You know, the truck you’re living in. She was too serious for this man on the run, but she sure would take good care of the Rasta Dog.

    And so it went, she took Rasta while I travelled the world climbing and after a while I came back to the same town. Rasta and I were reunited and she noticed how happy he was to see me. She asked if I would take him back since we seemed so content. So I did and after a while I got that wandering itch again and pleaded to give him back. She obliged and I headed to climb internationally again. It was then that we made an agreement that whoever was most stable would take the dog. At that pivotal moment the three of us became a pack, separated only by distance.

    Four years later, Taryn called me on the verge of tears. I was living and working in Yosemite National Park and she needed to give Rasta up because her work required her to travel constantly. I agreed and we made plans to exchange him. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, she changed her mind. She decided her lifestyle was unsustainable and that Rasta was the only thing stable. I knew that feeling all too well and could appreciate her reluctance. In the meantime, she needed to go to Saudi Arabia for some work and needed someone to watch him, so I happily volunteered.

    She came to drop him off and we talked about times of old and new. We walked in the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias and when we got to the Kissing Trees (two trees that intertwine to unimaginable heights) I leaned in and kissed her.

    I wasn’t sure what I was doing but I knew I was no longer afraid of her grown up demeanor. I knew she was everything right in the world and I wanted to be a part of it. I was no longer the young dirtbag and Rasta was no longer the young puppy. Our pack had grown up.

    Rasta's dream come true.

    Rasta’s dream come true.

    Two years later we were wed in the Big Meadow of Yosemite National Park. The story of how Rasta created a perfect ‘parent trap’ was told during the ceremony and he was the official ring bearer. When Taryn and I were announced as partners he barked loudly as everyone clapped and laughed at what could only be described as Rasta’s abundant joy. We have since moved to the United Kingdom, and of course Rasta flew here with us. As we anticipate the birth of our first child, Rasta sits at our feet (now 14) and seems very content with the new addition to our pack. Since the pack was reunited, whenever we go climbing he sits quietly at the crag with an odd look of contentment.

    As if……maybe……just maybe, he was planning this union the whole time. While we will never know his true intentions, one thing I am sure of is that he is truly a wise and crafty crag dog, if I’ve ever met one.

    The Climbing Zine Volume 7, (Dirtbags, Crag Dogs, Hyenas, and Free Solos) is available on Kindle and in print.

     Scott Borden lives in South West England with his wife Taryn (and newborn Makai). He is currently working towards his PhD studying eco-tourism and water conservation at The University of Exeter, School of Business in London, England. He has been contributing to The Climbing Zine since our very first issue. Since moving to England he now uses phrases like “tickle my biscuit”.

    About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

    We have also published two books: The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, both written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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