• Creek Jane Rhiannon and Amy

    Old School Issue, Volume 8 Now Available – FREE SHIPPING

    Apr 16 • Climbing Culture • 438 Views

    The Climbing Zine Volume 8, “The Old School Issue” is now available on Kindle, and for in print.

    Art and stories from the sharpest writers in the climbing world right now: Georgie Abel, Chris Schulte, Joy Martin, Drew Thayer, Hilary Lempit, Jason Haas, Luke Mehall, Tim Rogers, Brooke Sandahl, Alexa Flower, Rhiannon Williams, Amy Lipschultz, Monika Leopold, Tristan Greszko, and Greg Cairns.

    Plus, we added 16 pages of content, and kept the price at $9.99, with FREE shipping. 

    Here’s some words from the introduction by Luke Mehall:

    Introduction—Last Thoughts on the Dirtbag

    So where do you look for this hope that you’re seeking?

    Where do find that campfire that’s a burnin’

    That will light your life for the rest of its days?

     Last year, my buddy Greg Cairns and I spent a handful of sessions creating a short film, set in my favorite cragging area on the planet: Indian Creek.

    I’d pitched Greg on the idea shortly after meeting him. He’d just graduated from college here in Durango, and I’d sensed his hunger and enthusiasm to make something of himself as a filmmaker in this world. I’d never been part of creating a film before, but I had a vision: write a simple poem that really articulated what climbing and the dirtbag lifestyle meant to me.

    zine_cover8 (5)

    I shaped the structure of the piece very similarly to how Bob Dylan wrote “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie,” his epic stream-of-consciousness poem he penned as a dedication to Mr. Guthrie, who inspired him so much as a singer-songwriter. Dylan takes us all on a ride that could very much be the journey of the American on the road, looking for something. As I wrote, I decided the piece would be my own tribute to Dylan, as well as all the climbers over the years that I’ve shared a rope with.

    Greg really had to push me on this one, and I’ll forever be grateful for his hounding e-mails. Any creative person knows that you can’t just turn up the inspiration whenever—it has to strike you. There also has to be some work involved. A willingness to sit at your desk and write out words that you’ll erase. Shit, climbing is the same way; any true project has to build the foundation upon failure after failure. That’s why it’s so great when we send in the end, right?

    Eventually we had a script, and we started filming. We dialed in the rigging techniques, and immediately I had a profound respect for those big dogs that create films on the big walls and big mountains of the world. Greg shot me and several others on various Indian Creek classics and some new routes we’d been working on out there, and we thought we had a solid draft.

    Then something happened. Greg and I both saw “Denali” by Ben Moon, Ben Knight, and Skip Armstrong—one of the most moving short films of the year about a man and his dying dog. Greg was immediately inspired and became convinced that we had to elevate our film and do some more shooting.

    So we did. We went back to Indian Creek, and during our first day at the 4×4 Wall, we ran into an older gentlemen named Alan Carne. He was alone at the wall and began talking us up. He was clearly super psyched, and as it often is in the world of climbing, we immediately all became friends. Then we saw him climb. He was simply the most efficient and technically proficient crack climber I’d ever seen. Then we found out his age: fifty-five.

    Carne on Superette Crack, Dove Creek Wall, Indian Creek. Photo: Greg Cairns

    Carne on Superette Crack, Dove Creek Wall, Indian Creek. Photo: Greg Cairns

    We camped with Alan that night. Where else but the climbing world do you meet a stranger and then immediately bring him into your close circle of friends? His energy was infectious, almost like that of a young twenty-something, but his energy is coupled with the wisdom of age and time. I told Alan all about the film project, how the words were inspired by Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and even some of the modern-day rappers like Andre 3000. We discussed the dirtbag existence and how it intertwines with the beatnik existence.

    Alan listened carefully and reflected on his early days of dirtbagging. He grew up poor in Manchester, England, and started climbing at fifteen with old twine ropes and hip belays. He told us of sleeping in bathroom shelters and sneaking into taverns at night just to stay warm. He and his compadres lived on the doll (their version of unemployment) at a time when work was scarce in England, truly living hand to mouth, surviving day to day.

    His passion for climbing kept burning throughout those dark years, and today he lives in the South of France near the Verdon Gorge and spends as much time on the road climbing as he does at home in France.

    After we finished filming, I kept in touch with Alan. I later learned he’d flashed the famous Tague Yer Time, a 5.12+ Grade V in the Black Canyon, and after that made his way to Yosemite and spent three weeks working to free the Muir Wall on El Capitan, climbing 5.13 pitches with partners who were less than half his age.

    A couple weeks after his time in Yosemite, I e-mailed Alan and asked if I could write an article about him. He obliged, and we spent a couple hours talking about his past, but more importantly, his present and future. He was so hungry for more free climbing on El Capitan, already contemplating working the 5.13c Pre Muir variation in the coming spring. I picked his brain about the old days, and he eloquently told me, “The good ol’ days weren’t always that good.”

    I’ll let the story speak for itself. This is the old school issue. We never force a theme with the Zine; we set the theme, accept submissions and art, and let the issue shape up naturally. Personally, (to borrow the words from a hook off an old 2 Pac track) I know we wouldn’t be here today if the old school didn’t pave the way.

    So cheers to you old school climbers, especially those like Alan, who are still getting better, still thriving for more out of life and climbing. You created the foundation we stand upon today.

    Word.

    Luke Mehall

    The Climbing Zine Volume 8, “The Old School Issue” is now available on Kindle, and for pre-order on print.

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover7 (4)

    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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  • Screen shot 2015-04-15 at 11.29.00 PM

    The Vulnerable Man — My experience writing American Climber

    Apr 15 • Locations • 402 Views

    Without climbing I’d be dead or in jail.

    This is not the first piece I’ve ever started off with those words. But in the past I never really elaborated, until this week, when my memoir, American Climber was released.

    by Luke Mehall (banner photo by James Q Martin)

    It has been 17 years since I’ve contemplated suicide. For a long time I hid that—and to be honest, most people who are very close to me never knew that I was so close to wanting to kill myself. Until now when they pick up this book.

    AmericanClimber_Cover (1)

    I started writing shortly after that deep existential depression that lasted for a full year. Mostly I started with poetry, those sort of poems that wrote themselves after meaningful experiences in nature, scraping up rocks and finally feeling some happiness after being in such a dark cloud of depression for so long.

    Only in the last year or so have I started writing the honest truth about those times when I was suicidal. I was scared to write about them. I felt ashamed that I wanted to die when I was so blessed to be living a middle class existence in the richest country in the world. I didn’t feel comfortable writing about my vulnerabilities. I am a man, and men aren’t supposed to cry, right?

    When I started writing this book it didn’t feel like I was writing a book, it was like self-therapy. Like I was finally writing all my pain out, and the only way I was ever going to heal from it was by being completely honest with myself. There are passages about me running away from home, and not telling anyone where I was for a month. There are stories about me smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, alone, and repeatedly punching my dashboard in my car in a furious rage. There are times when I was too depressed to cry, and could only express my anger by breaking things.

    See why I was ashamed?

    The only people I’ve really ever opened up to about my deep depression were women that I’ve dated. It’s always been hard to talk about this stuff with friends and family members. I’ve only ever felt comfortable bearing my true soul to women who have been my lovers. But why?

    Why as men are we taught that we aren’t creatures that are driven by our emotions? We all are, as much as we don’t admit it. Why do we always have to be strong, and can’t admit when we are weak?

    Recently while hiking off a cliff in Indian Creek with a new friend she said something to me that really made me pause and think, “You know I think that being strong and being vulnerable are the same thing”.

    I started to think of all the ways in my life and in climbing where this rings true. As climbers we all know that deep fear that comes before an intimidating route. And in those moments we must recognize that fear and move with it, not against it. That’s why climbing is part art, and not just sport.

    American Climber came out on Monday. I’ve had some moments of panic and fear when handing copies to my best of friends that were about to learn my deepest truths. But something has happened over the course of this week—people have embraced this piece of work more than anything I’ve ever done. People crave truth and honesty more than I ever knew.

    The truth is setting me free. I hope it does for you as well.

    American Climber is now available in print, and on Kindle. 

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover8 (5)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 three books: American ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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  • American Climber – Kickstarter is FUNDED

    Mar 31 • Locations • 261 Views

    After a decade of writing, and re-writing, my memoir, American Climber is finally complete. It is a 75,000 word tale about my life experiences with climbing—a sport that saved my life—coupled with reflections on the dirtbag climbing lifestyle.

    AmericanClimber_Cover (1)

    The hard part—the writing—is done, and now the challenge is very simple: get the word out about my book. The best way any reader can help with that is by supporting the Kickstarter campaign. Rewards are affordable, starting at $10. An advance copy of the book is $25.

    The book is also now available in print. 

    Thanks in advance for your support, and I hope you’re living the dream.

    Watch the video on Kickstarter. 

    peace,
    Luke

    Can’t wait, get the book now on Kindle. 

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  • 16-50300-30-Mayhem45-Main-MoroccanBlue

    Review: Mountainsmith Mayhem 45

    Mar 30 • Gear • 364 Views

    The Mountainsmith Mayhem 45 is an innovative and creative backpack—perfect for certain uses, but hindering for others. Here’s what I liked about it, when I’ll use it, and when I’ll find another pack in the hopper to take up to the crag.

    Retail: $159.95

    Upon first glance this pack is different. Obviously different. The thing I like the most about this pack is the massive zipper opening. It’s easy to open, and it’s convenient to find what you want. If you packed something away at the bottom that you find yourself needing quickly, it’s not hard to find.

    There’s many other creative features, like several outside pockets that are useful for various items, ranging from an easy waist belt pocket for your phone, and a side pocket that I used for my belay glasses. Other features that I found unique were the pull forward waist belt, and the side panel mesh pocket. There’s also plenty of loops to clip extra items on to. (As an Indian Creek climber, I almost always end up clipping my big cams on the outside of my pack. No matter how big a pack is there never seems to be enough room for all the cams out there.) It’s also made of CORDURA fabric, touted for its durability.

    Note the side zipper which makes this pack super easy to find what you need quickly.

    Note the side zipper which makes this pack super easy to find what you need quickly.

    Speaking of The Creek, this pack simply didn’t have the features I needed for the heavy loads that place demands. There really isn’t a convenient way to strap the rope on the outside of the pack. When I did have a full Creek pack and I tried to affix the rope above the brain of the pack it slipped off and became a tangled mess. I suppose you could put a shorter rope in the mesh pocket in the front of the pack, but that simply wouldn’t work for a 70 or 80 meter rope; they are too bulky.

    That said, I think this pack is good for areas that just don’t require a massive amount of gear. In Joshua Tree, where you hike from formation to formation, and are constantly moving around, packing up and unpacking, the Mayhem was perfect. I liked how easy it was to get what I needed and how easy it was to pack up when I was done.

    This pack will stay in the “hopper”. I’ll be using it when the rack is light, and convenience is key. The “feel” of it is great, the back padding is comfortable, and the wireframe disperses the loads properly. Bring the Mayhem 45 for the casual cragging and travel, but leave it home when you’re bringing everything but the kitchen sink to the wall.

    -LM

    View the Mountainsmith Mayhem 45 on Backcountry.com

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover7 (4)

    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. 

    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. 

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  • Edelweiss curve

    Review: Edelweiss Curve 9.8mm

    Mar 30 • Gear • 164 Views

    It’s that time again when I need a new cragging rope. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or particularly light, just something durable that my partners and I can take a thousand falls on and never worry about it. There are lots of options out there, and the Curve 9.8 mm rope stands out as a good one.

    Reviewed by Drew Thayer, Senior Contributor to The Climbing Zine

    Retail: $250

    The first thing you’ll notice holding this rope is that it’s quite stiff. It reminds me of how the Maxim Glider feels: thick and pretty rigid. I like this style of rope; I find a stiff rope is easier to clip, and when I’m pulling ropes after rappelling, the stiff ropes seem catch less often because they don’t loop up as easily.

    The impressive thing about this rope is that it’s both thick and stiff, it’s VERY soft catching. Take a look at the impact force: only 7.8 kN — that’s incredibly low, most ropes in the 8.9 to 9.4 mm range are above 8.2 kN, and a comparable burly rope like the Glider is rated at 9.8 kN. Accordingly, dynamic elongation is quite high: 37%. This is one of the stretchiest ropes out there, comparable to skinny Beal ropes like 9.4 mm Stinger and 8.5 mm Opera.

    This rope is also STRONG. It’s rated to 9 UIAA falls, about as high as it gets. By comparison, most ropes skinnier than 9.4 mm are rated to 5-6 UIAA falls. Keep in mind this does not mean you can only fall on the rope 9 times, but rather it’s a good comparative statistic of rope strength and the resilience of the stretch modulus (the impact-absorbing part of the rope).

    [A UIAA test fall is fall factor 1.77 and 80 kg – this is really big fall! It would be quite… memorable. More info here: http://outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/508/climbing-rope-is-rated-to-x-uiaa-falls-what-is-a-uiaa-fall]

    I don’t know how Edelweiss pulled this off, but they managed to build a durable, 9.8 mm rope with a high fall rating that catches as softly as Beal’s super slinky Opera rope…that’s 8.5 mm thick. If you like soft falls, but are looking for a long-wearing workhorse, cragging with this rope is like cheating: you get both.

    The Curve is a great rope for cragging around Joshua Tree. Lilly Hancock starts the morning on Headstone Rock.

    The Curve is a great rope for cragging around Joshua Tree. Lilly Hancock starts the morning on Headstone Rock.

    Soft-catches are not great all the time. You will fall further. On rock where there are obstacles to hit (slabs, low-angle, large percentage of easy-moderate trad climbs) this adds to the hazard of falling, and needs to be considered. Also, the static elongation of the Curve rope is high: 9.4%. For comparison, the Glider stretches 4.5% under static load. What does this mean? If you are top-roping and belaying back on the ground (the common ‘yo-yo’ situation, rope used = twice the pitch length), a climber starting the pitch is quite likely to hit the ground if they fall in the first 10 feet or so. For this reason, I wouldn’t choose this rope if I did a lot of guiding or top-roping at crags.

    So far so good, are there any downsides to the Curve as a soft-catching lead rope? Some people are reporting that the sheath frays easily. I haven’t experienced this with mine after 3 months of cragging, but it’s a potential problem. On that note, take negative reviews on the internet with a grain of salt…there’s no way to know the percentage of users who report the problem, and some people report some normal sheath fraying as ‘damage’.

    Also, this rope is not light. At 64 g/m, it wouldn’t be my choice for hiking 8 miles into the backcountry. You can lose 10% by going with a rope in the 9.1 to 9.4 mm range. However, I’m looking for a long-lasting cragging rope here, not a slinky alpine rope.

    Of note: the middle mark on the single-color Curve is very thick. I mean so thick that it sticks a bit in an ATC while belaying and even rappelling. This has softened a bit over time, but remains stiffer than usual. While this is not necessarily a problem, if I were climbing with a novice I would tell them that the middle-mark will be difficult to pass through the belay device – surprises in rock climbing are generally not good. The bi-weave version does not have a middle mark.

    Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a workhorse crag rope for whipping all over your projects for a few years, look no further. This rope will provide soft catches well into the future. It’s not the best choice for new climbers or people who primarily top-rope. At a mid-range price, you get the stretchy behavior of a skinny rope the in a thick, burly package – not a bad deal at all.

    View the Edelweiss Curve on Backcountry.com

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

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover7 (4)

    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. 

    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. 

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  • down canyon (north chasm, home of the cruise on the right)

    Benighted in The Black Canyon – (excerpt from American Climber by Luke Mehall)

    Mar 29 • Locations • 1148 Views

    My path as a climber had to face a most real enemy: pure unadulterated fear. This fear manifested itself in the biggest baddest canyon, nearby, the most intimidating chasm in Colorado, and even the entire United States, The Black Canyon.

    Excerpt from American Climber, the upcoming memoir by Luke Mehall, now on Kickstarter

    “The Black” as we called it, was basically in our backyard. Had it been further away I could have never faced it, never seen the terror or transcendence it has to offer. Since it was close, only an hour and a half away, there was no other option to face it if you really wanted to call yourself a climber.

    My buddy Gene, 5.14 Gene we called him, after a Halloween outfit he wore so perfectly one year, an eighties brightly colored spandex get up, had the enthusiasm of ten climbers. He was the kind of guy who would be standing on a bar yelling, “Let’s get wild” at two in the morning, and then crush 5.12s the next day. One day, when I proposed we did a big climb in The Black, called The Cruise, he was on board with no hesitation.

    It could be the suicides. More people die from suicide than climbing, exponentially, in The Black. Was it their spirits that haunted the inside of this chasm, this giant gaping hole in the earth? Was that why I could never sleep properly in the campground before tomorrow’s climb? I’ve heard the ancient people, the Utes, the inhabitants of the land before the white man came along, believed the canyon was haunted as well. But, I am not a religious man, nor a superstitious man, and I don’t try to come up with answers to the big questions, I’m just here. And, when I was there, in the throes of the battle of mind and body, climbing a steep pitch of pegmatite split granite, I felt more alive, more in the moment, and clearer than at any point in my existence.

    We arrived at night, too late, drinking Red Bulls on our drive and smoking weed. We watched the World Series, Gene a child of the East Coast was rooting for his Red Sox, so I obliged and watched with him. I don’t recall if they won or lost. I do, however, remember this climb of The Cruise.

    We awoke with the darkness, after fitfully tossing and turning for a few hours, so basically there was no solid sleep. Sleep is the magic ingredient for life, as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t operate well without it. At this point in my climbing, I wanted to test myself. Sure I was a lifestyle climber, but I wanted to grow. I wanted to prove myself. Not for recognition, but for inner growth. The tests that the Black Canyon offered were more memorable and more valuable than anything higher education presented in the classroom.

    So Gene and I woke up, ate oatmeal, slammed coffee, pooped, and shouldered the ropes and gear as we slipped into a gully of poison ivy and fear. The sun came up as we found the base of the route. We were already fatigued and tired, and had we known the angle of repose that an experienced climber has we would have suggested something smaller, easier. That said, a climber can only gain experience through experiences. Everything else is just bullshit, talk, and the world has enough of that.

    We looked at each other with the eyes of eternity before we started up. Gene led the first part, a wandering fractured slab, that leads to the base of a giant wide crack. As I belayed and looked up the wall in front of us seemed infinite, that the top was so far away I couldn’t conceptualize an end in sight. And these are the greatest climbs, when one is fully engaged with the experience, having no idea how it will turn out.

    The off-width, wide crack was my lead. I wanted it, but only in the concept of an idea. The actual climbing of the crack was part horror, part beauty. The crack, wide enough to get my elbows and knees in, made me work for it. The Gunnison River slowly roared below, and soon my voice would be muffled, we would only communicate in the brotherhood of the rope, when I would pull up the rope to clip Gene would know exactly what I was doing. When I ran out of rope and pulled it tight to Gene he would have to start climbing. Two figure eight knots together, two knots of eternity on each end of a ropelegth.

    Jamming my elbows and knees in, in fear, a simple math equation, a puzzle that demanded athleticism and the management of the mind. I was also climbing like an amateur, even though I had some Black Canyon climbs under my belt, I still fumbled and made movements like a scared beginner. I wore a small pack, filled with a hydration bladder and snacks for the climb, pears and some lemon bars my girlfriend had made.

    As I was a hundred feet from Gene, my body slammed into the crack, I felt a sensation of water dripping down my back. The hydration bladder had leaked and it dripped all the way down to my feet. I tried to move upwards and my shoes were covered in water. I didn’t have a piece of gear in for twenty feet, and I panicked. My heart beat faster than it ever had in my entire life. Relax. Breathe. These are rarely followed but useful mantras in everyday life. In climbing a simple mantra can keep you alive. The fear is always greater than anything else, you tell yourself. Just breathe, you can get through this.

    I took my hand, put chalk on it, and rubbed the chalk on my feet. I prayed to God. I talked to myself like a drunken fool. I finally composed myself, continuing upward progress until the rope got tight. I was still thirty feet from the next belay ledge and had no more rope. Gene would be forced to start climbing, not knowing whether or not he was on belay. He wasn’t. I went into survival mode and moved, inch-by-inch, off-width climbing, one of the slowest forms of movement known to man.

    I pulled up to the belay ledge and felt like I was going to puke. It took me hours to climb that pitch, I was humbled, hungry, hobbled, a mess of a man, and we still had a thousand feet of granite above us.

    Dave led the crux pitch, a dihedral that lasted a ropelength, delicately dancing up on dime sized edges, placing gear when he could and running it out when he couldn’t. I was amazed at his skill, and didn’t know if I could have led that pitch. I climbed slow and desperately, already exhausted in the autumn sun.

    The next pitch was my lead. It was a gently overhanging dihedral with good holds. I grasped for them and my forearms failed me, cramping, unable to perform the basic task of holding on. I told Gene to lower me back to the belay. He did. I was wasting precious time, but to mention it would have been to waste more time. Gene was in better shape than I was and went up to take care of business. He did. The sun was fading.

    I led up and got off route, wandering up a granite slab to nowhere and then climbing back down. We were barely halfway up the wall, and had only an hour of daylight left. I finally got on route and made a belay at the base of a massive flake. When Gene reached my perch the sun had set. We had several pitches to go, probably seven hundred feet, and talked it out. We were both so exhausted we couldn’t bear to continue in the darkness. We didn’t want to go down because we would have to leave all our pieces as anchors, hundreds of dollars in gear, our most valuable and important possessions.

    So we hunkered down, our first benightment. Time stopped and a great darkness overcame us. It finally happened. An epic mistake of inefficiency. It was not like some climbing mistakes though, all we had to face was suffering at the moment, not injury or death. Sure, you could die in a benightment, if weather moved in and you or your partner became wet and hypothermic, but the stark clear sky suggested that would not happen. We just had to suffer.

    Luke's "benighted" face.

    Luke’s “benighted” face.

    And we did. We didn’t speak for a while, not out of anger towards one another, but for indifference at the situation. We were supposed to be celebrating on the rim, with the darkness below, instead we drank nothing, our water was gone, and we were one with the darkness.

    The ledge was just enough to sit upon, nothing else. We started to shiver and huddled together, wrapping the rope around us for some protection. We were too cold and uncomfortable to sleep. An eternity went by, and then another eternity. We checked our watch for time and were always disappointed.

    We talked about what we wanted. We wanted food and water, and a woman to hold for warmth. We rubbed each other’s shoulders, trying to keep warm. We were cold, on the verge of dangerous cold. I thought of my girlfriend, Christina. I longed to hold her tight.

    In the middle of the night Gene dropped his headlamp. It fell twenty feet down in the rock and we could see it, but there was no way we would get it. Somehow I’d packed an extra, tiny headlamp that he could use for the rest of the night.

    We waited and waited, and lifetimes seem to pass by. When that sun hit us it was the most glorious feeling in the world. We greeted the sun as our God. It blessed us with warmth, and we forced ourselves to soldier on. Climbing should be like this, I knew then and forever. For you should have to suffer for your dreams. You should have to prove to your dreams that you are worthy. Some dreams, like climbing dreams, often demand lives, they demand that young men or women are killed in their prime; such dangerous dreams do we have as climbers.

    On day one I was the weak link. I took too long on my leads and was unable to perform on others. On day two I had some chance at redemption. Gene was feeling extremely dehydrated and requested that I lead. I obliged, and I felt like I was climbing for the both of us, you always are in a partnership, but this day felt different, this felt like survival climbing, which I guess the nature of climbing has its roots in survival.

    The second lead of the day involved a traverse with over a thousand feet of air beneath my feet, feeling it out, discovering how the holds felt and the best way to lean into them. On these leads I think I discovered I was truly a climber because I didn’t hate it. So much had gone wrong, we were out of food and water and my body felt terrible. But, this, the movement upwards for survival, somehow there was a great divine purpose.

    The exposed traverse high up on The Cruise. (note: this photo was taken on a subsequent climb, years after the story being written about here)

    The exposed traverse high up on The Cruise. (note: this photo was taken on a subsequent climb, years after the story being written about here)

    Gene felt worse and worse and depending on me more, which somehow made me feel better. We moved at a snail’s pace up the wall as it became more and more fractured near the top. And, finally it was over.

    We craved water more than anything. Then we drank the sky. It was so blue, and we felt so blessed to be alive. It was a privilege to suffer. We knew that then. Soon, I had what we wished we had more than anything in the world while freezing and starving on that ledge throughout the night: food, water, and a woman.

    That night I held my girlfriend tightly. Under the cover of blankets and love a journey had been completed, and the magic of the Black Canyon was alive in my heart.

    This piece is an excerpt from Mehall’s upcoming memoir, American Climber. He is now running a Kickstarter campaign for the book, pre-order through Kickstarter now for $25. 

    Screen shot 2016-03-23 at 10.01.54 PM

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

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    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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  • North Sixshooter, Indian Creek. Photo: Keith Brett

    Protecting Abbey Country – Love Letters To The Desert

    Mar 20 • Locations • 193 Views

    I am sitting in front of my computer, doing what I do to make my pennies, but in a few hours, when my writing is done, and the car is packed I will head out to my favorite place in the world, the most beautiful place in the world, my second home, Indian Creek.

    by Luke Mehall (this article was written for Utah Adventure Journal, an awesome free publication based out of Salt Lake City)

    I don’t know exactly where I’ll sleep, my second home contains no bedrooms, thus I’ll spend the night in my tent in the piece of real estate I briefly claim, a campsite on shared, public land, where I can see two beacons of hope — the North and South Sixshooter towers. These towers are not overwhelmingly large, only a few hundred feet, pure rock exposed atop talus cones. This was once the ocean, I understand. I am not a geologist but I trust the rumors that I’ve heard.

    Screen shot 2015-04-15 at 11.29.00 PM

    The author on Sig Sauer, Pistol Whipped Wall, Indian Creek. Photo: James Q Martin

    I’m a poet, which in this modern world is both the best and worst thing you could be. I probably should be a social media guru, or the founder of a high tech startup, but my heart and soul were molded by people like Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Martin Luther King Jr., and Edward Abbey, and so I follow the call of beautiful things and let it lead my heart where it goes.

    Yeah, I probably have like four hundred and twenty seven dollars in my bank account, and will have slightly less when I return in a few days to go back to my day job. I should probably hunker down and write more — but when the desert calls me I can do nothing but heed its call. Plus, when you ain’t got nuthin, you got nuthin to lose. Bob Dylan told me that. I guess I have him to blame as well for this rabbit hole of soul searching in beautiful places.

    I’ve been at this for 17 years now. Climbing was the impetus. It saved me from going to the dark places that Kerouac went. He was a climber, but he never really had climbing, you know? He found his home in the bottle. I like to have a couple beers now and again myself, but I’m simply climbing too much to drink all the time.

    I started in the gym, so in some weird way this old abandoned grain silo converted into a climbing gym in the Midwest paved the way for me to become an environmentalist. I’m a shitty environmentalist though. I just love the land so much I could not live without it. I don’t fight for it, as much as I should. I’m just now realizing I need to become more of an activist. I’ve been too busy writing the land love letters all these years.

    If I’m being truly honest — and honestly that’s the only job a writer really has — I am the most engaged in politics when there is a threat. In college George W. Bush and company were the threat, and I was a budding writer, who spent half my time composing poetry about the outdoors, and the other half writing scathing editorials for everything that he did, from starting wars, to the massive oil and gas leases that were sold off at the end of his presidency.

    So, of course now, after two decades of enjoying the red rock desert that we call Indian Creek, and learning about the changes in the air, I’m finally drawn to do something. What that something is — well, time will tell. Action speaks louder than words, and at the moment I’m just a guy who writes too many love letters to beautiful places.

    Ahhhh...Indian Creek. Photo: The Climbing Zine

    Ahhhh…Indian Creek. Photo: The Climbing Zine

    Here are the basics of what’s going on. The love of my climbing life, the place where I would want my ashes scattered if I died today, Indian Creek, is about to change. First off, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will start charging for camping in the fall. It’s a minor change, and the fee will only start at five dollars per site for the two most popular sites, Super Bowl and Creek Pasture. For dirtbag climbers it feels major, Indian Creek is the last of the big climbing destinations in the United States to remains free to camp at. Freedom is at the heart of what climbing used to be about. And freedom is free, right? But, climbing is not what it used to be, and there are way too many of us these days. And climbing is not free. We shit, we drive on roads, and we impact the land. We must be managed.

    I think this will cause the largest fuss amongst climbers this season, for good reason, losing this last stronghold of free camping is certainly something to lament. In reality, there are greater threats to climbing in Indian Creek, most notably the movement to move protected, federal lands into the hands of the state, who would, in turn let entities such as the oil and gas industry use it as they wish. The best (or should I say worst) example of this is Utah’s Republican Congressman Rob Bishop’s recent Utah Public Land Initiative (PLI). It’s no surprise that conservation groups including the Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and the Outdoor Alliance are rallying to fight the initiative.

    As I learned about this initiative and reached out to various contacts I have in the outdoor industry, I found out about other factors that could change how we use the land. The BLM is working on a new Master Leasing Plan (MLP), something they do every 25 years, and there’s also the Bear’s Ears National Monument proposal. The latter would protect the Indian Creek corridor, but at the moment the proposal is vague on how the status would affect climbing and other recreational activities.

    So these things have all been swirling in my head this winter, as my beloved desert thaws out and becomes perfect for climbing. I’ve wondered what I should do. I knew I had to get involved, and I knew it had to be with a local organization. So, I reached out to Friends of Indian Creek, the Moab-based non-profit and asked them if I could help out. After some going back and forth, they said they could be in the need for a new board member in the near future. I happily said I’d take the post if it was available, and it looks like I’ll be able to get into the role here shortly, perhaps later this spring.

    So the story is over there, right? Well, not exactly. We have to go to Southern California first.

    Earlier this month I had the pleasure of spending a week in the Joshua Tree National Monument. I lived in J-Tree one winter ten years ago, and I learned quite a bit about myself in that time period. I lived in a tent for over a hundred days in a row. I soloed domes and watched sunsets and sunrises. I met new friends and trusted my life to them on the other end of the rope. But, I didn’t realize how formative those times were until this winter when I wrote a memoir called American Climber and the J-Tree times came back to life in my mind. I mean how many people get the privilege to forget about modern society and live in a tent for 100 days? Ten years later, with more modern distractions than ever, we need these public lands for soul searching and looking inwards.

    spiderline

    The author on Spiderline, in J-Tree. The first ascent was free-soloed by Yabo, back in the day. At 5.11c it has to be one of the all time most impressive FFA’s in J-Tree. Photo: Moja Gear

    In the memoir I also reflected on how important the desert was to me. Sometimes you surprise yourself when something comes out of you, and instead of just merely reflecting on the natural beauty of this land, I realized it gave me something deeper, a gift I could use each and every day of my life, the gift of hope. Here are some of those words I wrote while reflecting on the days after 9-11, which was right around when I discovered the red rock desert.

    This world of machinery and war, it’s all too much isn’t it? If there is a God who created us, and is watching over us, God surely did not give us this life to fight so much, right? If I were still in Illinois I know I would have sunk deeper into a darkness, given the coming war, but I had seen the light already, and the light came from the sun, and if you were in the right place (nature) at the right time (sunrise or sunset), well, there was a certain beauty to it that made you believe. Believe in what? Hope.

    And where do you find hope? Bob Dylan asked us that a long time ago in his epic poem, “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie”.

    His answer, his hope, in the poetic way only Dylan can communicate, was in Woody Guthrie, as he lay dying in the Brooklyn State Hospital, and it was in the Grand Canyon at sundown.

    My hope was in the sunrise at Hartmans in Gunnison, as it awakened me every morning. It was in Yosemite, a place I truly regarded as a Promised Land that could save the lost soul. Hope was also in the red rock desert of the Colorado Plateau. Moab. Hope was in the desert.

    I know America is not a perfect place. We are scarred from years of injustice, war, and tragedy. Land has been stolen, given back, and stolen again. I don’t understand the past and why humans do the things we do. But, I do know why we protect important places, and for the rest of my life I’ll do all that I can to protect this desert, even if it means that I spend more time fighting for it than actually enjoying it. I hope those days never come, but I know it is my duty to provide hope. I can do it by writing my little love letters to the wild, but the wild does it best, by what it naturally does, providing hope. And, Utah, and the rest of America needs that now more than ever.

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover8 (5)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. The third book, American Climber, is set for an April 11th, release. You can pre-order the book here, get it on Kindle, or best yet, support the Kickstarter!

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    Rock Climbing Gives Us Feminism by Georgie Abel

    Mar 18 • Locations • 1259 Views

    “What about you, Georgie? Are you a feminist?”

    I was sitting around a campfire with a group of friends. I had climbed outside maybe twice before.

    “No,” I replied, scratching at the label on my beer bottle. “Because I don’t think women should have to be doctors and engineers in order to be considered a strong woman.”

    by Georgie Abel

    This was what I said for years when posed with the f-word question. However, I didn’t realize that I was pretty much describing exactly what modern day feminism is, and that my answer as to why I wasn’t a feminist was, ironically, feminist as fuck.

    Rock climbing taught me this.

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    I learned how to be a climber mostly by an ex-boyfriend with an ex-dirtbag for a Dad. They took me out on the granite slabs of North Carolina when we were in college. The two of us traveled around the country together in the summertimes, trying to live the dirtbag life that his Dad had lived, but we had no idea what we were doing. We didn’t even really know anything about climbing. One summer we drove right through Ten Sleep canyon without even realizing that it was a climbing destination. Eventually we made it out to California, where we chuffed our way up 5.8 in Tahoe and Yosemite.

    At this point, I wasn’t fully aware that there was a climbing industry or climbing media. I didn’t even know that professional climbers existed.

    I was still oblivious to these things when I made the decision to be a dirtbag and abandon a life of normality. I was 22 years old. After a dark time in my life and a few half-assed attempts at being a normal person, I packed up my van and headed, ironically, to where I currently am right now—Durango, Colorado. I made this decision not based on things I had read or seen in the climbing industry, but on the personal stories of women and men that had not been told by the mainstream media.

    I felt like a climber. I felt like a real climber, even though I was spending most of my days following my boyfriend up 5.9 in the Valley. The climbing life gave me a new and wild sense of freedom–I could live out of my van, drive across the country alone, eat beans for dinner every night, say whatever I wanted as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone, feel angry, have wild opinions, change my mind, cry, flirt, wear a backwards hat, wear sundresses, not talk to anyone for three days, be loud, sleep wherever and with whoever I wanted, climb 5.6 and feel like a badass, and it was all good.

    It was all so good.

    Without knowing it at the time, this freedom came largely in part because I had almost entirely escaped the systems and modalities that wanted to control me–namely, mainstream patriarchal society. The work place, which can be a very oppressive place for women, was included in the list of things that I was avoiding. Climbing doesn’t require much money, so I barely had to work. Of course, I still had to deal with misogynistic douche lords at the crag, but I had largely escaped the system.

    Here’s a sentence I bet you’ve never read before: rock climbing prevented me from experiencing systemic sexism.

    But then, I decided to speak. I decided to write. I decided to get involved with the industry because I wanted to share my love for rock climbing with as many people as possible. That’s when I realized that the wild freedom that the climbing life offers a person is not supported or represented by the majority of the climbing industry. Not if that person only climbs 5.10, writes about something other than conquering a mountain, climbs in booty shorts, wears a helmet while sport climbing, has prickly opinions, posts selfies, speaks out about their experience with oppression, isn’t white, isn’t straight, isn’t compliant.

    This was around the time that the word feminism came into my life as something that made perfect sense. Not only did I start to identify heavily with the label, but I also saw the term as something that this world desperately needs.

    In my mind, the word quickly grew from being about women to being about everyone. The feminism that I began to identify with and still claim today is just as much about issues like immigration, gay rights, and anti-racism as it is about women. It’s about fighting against the laws, stereotypes, and social constructs that prevent anyone, including men, from being who they truly are. It understands that living a life that has been shaped by shame and oppression is the most painful way to exist in this world.

    This kind of feminism encourages people to do whatever it is that they find empowering. They do not make choices according to what society or the media deems “empowering” or “good”. Instead, they make decisions about how to live their life based on a value system that they have created for themselves. With this attitude, a woman can be a sex worker if that is what she finds empowering. A man can wear eyeliner without implying anything about his sexual orientation or gender identity. Anyone can do whatever it is that they want to do without being told that it’s “bad”. It is a way of living that allows people to be who they truly are. The ultimate goal of this kind of feminism is freedom, in the most radical sense of the word.

    This is exactly how the early days of my climbing career felt. I was experiencing what a world on feminism would look like. So when I showed up to the climbing industry, because the climbing life had given me so much freedom and empowerment, I did not like what I saw and I wasn’t afraid to say so.

    Some people supported me, and some people were really uncomfortable with this. Whenever I wrote or spoke about oppression in the climbing industry, either through stories of my own or by sharing the experiences of others, I was told that I was delusional, immature, a liar, whining, a man-hater, and worse.

    While my idea of feminism is inclusive of all people, it does’t deny the fact that certain groups experience oppression to a higher degree and in different ways. All women, but women of color even more so, are fighting two battles. The first is for issues like equal pay, equal representation, rape culture, the right to her body, sexual harassment in the workplace–you know, fundamental human rights. The other battle is that of simply being able to speak. And, when and if she is brave enough to speak, that her story is heard and treated as valid. Women are constantly told that they are not trustworthy observers of their own lives, unless their experience with having a vagina has been overwhelmingly positive.

    This is exactly what happened to me when I wrote about oppression.

    Another example of this occurred last summer when I ran up Mt. Whitney. I stood on the summit at about 9am, accompanied by a group of men. We started chatting, and they asked me which camp I had stayed in the night before. I told them that I had slept at the Whitney Portal, which is several miles further from the summit than any of the base camps. They looked around at each other, smiling, and one of them asked the question again: where did I camp last night? I gave them the same answer. “No, what camp, along the trail, did you sleep at? The Whitney Portal is over 11 miles from here,” one of the men explained to me. I told him that I was aware of that, and that I had in fact slept at the Whitney Portal. At this point most of the men looked off in the distance and turned away from me. They could not believe that I was able to cover the distance from the portal to the summit so quickly. Despite the truth of my story, they were prevented from believing in an event that had just occurred simply because they weren’t able to fathom my experience.

    I could make assumptions about why they doubted my abilities, but that’s another story.

    While this may just seem like a relatively harmless situation for me and a somewhat embarrassing moment for the dudes, it is important that we talk about these issues because of how damaging it can be when applied to different situations, like when a woman is raped. And at a systemic level, this is a mindset that is responsible society’s most horrifying problems.

    The reason why I am speaking and will continue to speak about the issues is because I want everyone to experience what climbing gave to me. This lifestyle and sport has empowered me more than anything else in my life. Living the climbing life gave me a taste of freedom from the rules and the bravery to speak loudly, but more than anything it has instilled within me the trust and knowing that my experiences are valid.

    I have seen from a young age how a woman who “knows”—a woman who trusts her own story and isn’t afraid to tell it—is treated as a threat to society. And while all of the shame and control is wrong, they’ve got one thing right—she is in fact a threat, and a powerful one. A woman who knows is very dangerous. She threatens the way in which society operates. But she also does something even more damaging, even more powerful—she threatens the structures of our own minds, the place where all of this begins and ends.

    I haven’t gone about everything perfectly. But I believe in climbing too much to be quiet. Climbing as a lifestyle has taught me how to believe in my story even when it’s questioned and harassed. It has given me the freedom to live in a way that empowers me. It has done this by teaching me how to trust myself in a very relentless way. I want everyone to experience this.

    The medicine that rock climbing provides is for all of us, and its name is feminism.

    Georgie Abel is a climber, writer, and yoga teacher from the San Francisco Bay area. She loves slabs, coffee, power spots, highballs, gin and tonics, poetry, running in the mountains, and not training. She writes about her adventures at www.georgieabel.wordpress.com.

    Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview

    zine_cover7 (4)

    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. The third book, American Climber, is set for an April 11th, release. You can pre-order the book here, or get it on Kindle now

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