Day 55 (July 29): Home Stretch

We climbed the morning of July 28. I got in some final moments of self-berating and crying, and sent a 5.11b on my third go. Mico attempted a “top 100” 5.13a titled “Ibiza.” My theory is that there are more than 100 climbs that round out the top 100, a rating the guidebook uses in place of five stars. They make an effort to spread the “top 100” throughout climbing areas in Squamish, and preference climbs that are “unique” for the area. Like the word “interesting,” “unique” is a rather bland word that can mean a good deal of other words. Sometimes unique means good or special, but just as often unique can mean atypical or strange.

We drove back to Seattle, stopping in Vancouver for ice cream and dosas. The ice cream place, La Casa Gelato, serves 238 flavors of ice creams and sorbets. They serve everything from the mundane–chocolate, mint chip, vanilla–to the utterly bizarre–garlic, spicy mango, cherry cotton candy. I sampled what amounted to many scoops worth of sorbet. Then, drowning in a sea of ice cream choices, I played it safe and paired an iced coffee sorbet with a chocolate one. Mico boldly paired spicy mango with cannoli ice cream, a combo he maintains he does not regret.

We read about the early east coast rap scene and the evolution of sampling on my cellular device as we drove down to Seattle. On arrival, we were greeted by the entire Suzuki family. Though it was pretty late, everyone was wide awake because they’d recently returned from Japan. We had a lovely breakfast with bacon and coffee, and cleaned the car in the morning. In the afternoon, we went raspberry picking with the boys while Chiaki and Keiichiro finalized the purchase of their ridiculously discounted minivan. Though Keiichiro works for Amazon, his true passion is haggling with car dealers. His face lit up when he talked about the prospect of spending an entire Saturday at the dealership. He says his goal is to reduce the dealer to tears. In the evening, we had an indoor barbecue and played Settlers of Catan. Mico is incredibly kind and attentive when he interacts with old people, children, and dogs. However, this did not stop him from mercilessly taking advantage of the boys while we played Settlers. After a late night nerf gun fight, we went to bed so we could get a few hours of sleep before our 4am airport trip.

 
 
 

Day 48 (July 22): A New Hope

The first thing Mico did after quitting The Opal was shave the “beard” and mustache he’d been growing. He hadn’t touched a razor to his face since the beginning of the trip, so this was kind of a momentous occasion, a rebirth of sorts. He didn’t have a razor of his own, so I let him use the pink one that had been languishing in my toiletry kit. I wanted to capture the whole event on film but was limited by lack of storage space on my phone and my subject’s lack of enthusiasm.

The Arcteryx Academy was happening in Squamish that weekend, so we declared the day a rest day and headed into town. We met up with Mico’s friend Cynthia who was hawking freeze dried camping food at the gear fair. I spoke with a 5.10 rep who told me the rapid decline of my pink anasazis was likely due to a manufacturing error and would likely be covered by the warranty. We did yoga in the park to loosen up our limbs. Mico engaged in a dodgeball game with many other grown men, and a handful of women and children. As compensation, he received a 5.10 hat and much needed clean t-shirt. The Squamish farmer’s market was taking place next door. We took advantage of this, purchasing potato thyme sourdough bread, maple candy, and chipotle yam hummus. 

In the evening, we returned to the Arcteryx Academy to see the results of a photography challenge and listen to live music. While listening to the music, we observed a lanky ginger moving through the crowd with a lager in hand. Periodically, people would stop him to shake hands or get their picture taken with him. The lanky ginger was none other than Will Stanhope in the flesh. I told Mico I’d give him $20 if he went up to Will and asked him for his shirt as a memento. Mico had other, more mature ideas. In 2015, Will Stanhope climbed The Opal (evidence of this can be found in the form of a photo on Will Stanhope’s personal website). If anyone in Squamish could provide us with the beta to unlock the 4th pitch of The Opal, it was Will. With this new hope, we spent the next half hour plotting the best way to introduce ourselves to Will while following him from a distance. Again, I offered Mico $20 to ask for his shirt, but Mico did not feel that this would be the best introduction. We observed Will purchasing another beer and making out with his girlfriend, but had yet to come up with any good ideas for an introduction. Our opening came when we saw Will talking to Cynthia. We walked over, greeted Cynthia rather awkwardly, and then Mico turned to Will and asked him about The Opal. The conversation went something like this:

Mico: I’m trying to climb The Opal.

Will: Huh?

Mico: What’s your beta for the lower crux on the 5.13 pitch?

Will: Huh?

Mico: The fourth pitch.

Will: Is that the hardest one?

Mico: Yeah.

Will: Uh. I don’t really remember… I think you just gotta bite down on the holds and go for it.

Me (in my head): This could describe the beta for pretty much any climb on the planet.

Mico: So you dyno for the hold out right?

Will: Maybe. Yeah.

Mico: I think I’m too short for that move.

Will: We’re like the same height.

Mico’s eyes are level with Will’s shoulder. Will is quickly losing interest in this conversation. We thank him for his time, say goodbye to Cynthia, and speedwalk to the car. I am reminded of a piece of advice from the talk Hazel Findlay gave the night before, “don’t ask for beta.” Hoping is a sad, sad business to be in.

Day 46 (July 20th): No Climbing

Sunday the 16th was easy. We slept in, waved bye to Sylvan and Ben, went up three boulder problems in Pemberton, picked and ate hundreds of berries, and played Scotland Yard with Vic and Deborah.  Ceri was Ms. X, and while wily, we caught her around move 36.

Monday and Tuesday were big climbing days. Wednesday we rested, had fun at the grocery store, packed our bags for an early Thursday ascent, and prepared a pre-climb meal of vegetable lentils flavored with the bacon substitute salt cured pork. The bacon look alike contains over 2000 mg of salt in 1/5 a package. We added 1/2 package to our lentils, about 130% our DV of sodium a piece. 

That night I didn’t sleep well. Perhaps it was excitement about the climbing day to come (last attempt on the opal?), or maybe a caffeine high from the earl gray tea and cup of coffee, or the brief period of rain. None the less, we cut down on salt pork. Only 1/4 cube a day or about 50% DV of sodium each. 

The lack of sleep and sporadic rain showers meant we called off our climb and went for a steep hike to wedge monte lake and to the theater to see Spiderman. We recommend both, the lake to those who like steep hikes and mountain views and the movie to pretty much anyone. Some photos on instagram and videos below. 

Days 30-32: Eating as a Full-Time Occupation

Turns out a life that consists mostly of rock climbing, hiking, and sleeping on the ground promotes weight loss. Over the course of the past month, we each lost 5-10lbs. Boy were we about to make up for lost calories. After driving for basically a day with a 3 hour nap break, we arrived at Grace’s house in a lovely suburb of Seattle. In preparation for meeting her family, I brushed my hair (more akin to preening at this point) and clipped my fingernails. We arrived on the fourth of July (day 30 of our trip) and were welcomed with a washing machine, hot showers, bowls of orzo salad, and freshly baked brownies. Thus began a life of leisure and extremely large quantities of food (mostly in the form of snacks from Trader Joe’s). We walked around Pike Place and ate food (steamed pork buns, cherries, and tamales); we drove to the beach, spent 30 seconds in the water, and ate food (mangos, cherries, figs, and peaches); we walked to the park, played spades and a weird twist on the drinking game cricket involving frisbees and water, and ate food (sesame sticks and peanut butter pretzels). We ate food as we watched Mean Girls (Mico’s first time. He didn’t enjoy it because it reminded him too much of high school) and Pulp Fiction (he enjoyed this much more). We got Vietnamese food before attending a Seattle Mariners game, and we got ramen after we went climbing at a local gym. We were having such a good time hanging with Grace and Sylvan and eating that we ended up spending an extra day in Seattle. We skipped town early on day 33 of our trip and, sporting a new 10lbs of training weight around our middles, headed up to Squamish, so Mico could begin work on The Opal.

 
 
 

Day 13: When Disaster Strikes!

There is much in this world that we don’t know. How do you rock climb? Where can you find the best stunt doubles (those last ones couldn’t even finish the problems)? Where are the most photogenic boulders for good stunt double photo shoots? I’d hoped that with a BA in Film Studies and a few succesful shorts, Ceri would know the answers to these questions that are so critical to our trip’s success. Some might expect that this misunderstanding would cause a rift in our friendship, but we’ve banded together to learn about the world. What we’ve found so far is that Ceri is likely in the 20% of people who do not react to bed bug bites while still in the 80% that hates their guts. I sadly fall in that reactive 80% but do not respond so violently or profanely to their presence, enjoying a simple smush, as opposed to a shouting match. We also learned, during a touristic trip to a weed dispensary (Ceri, straightlaced as she is, wanted to visit an “artisinal” dispensary where they’d describe the flavor profiles of the different varieties of plant), that weed comes in multiple varieties, some producing an energetic high while other strains induce a dude like trancesdental state. While we can’t personally comment on the different strains at Earl’s (much to the disappointment of the talkative weed venor) we can say that some of what they sell smells like kitty litter. Sadly, we still haven’t learned what that funny fry pan with ridges from the Jon Chen Fry Pan Co. is all about.

Day 10: Bacon and Ice Cream and a Small Amount of Exercise

Today we took a well-deserved rest day. My fingers needed it. 8/10 had cuts on the tips that would start bleeding anytime I touched anything–granite, sandstone, my toothbrush, a banana–the texture of the thing didn’t really matter, just the fact that I was using my hands. Like all good rest days, we got off to a restful start with bacon followed by some core and upper body exercises done from rings we suspended from an unsuspecting pine tree. As with most things physical, the exercises Mico performed with ease, I struggled to complete; the exercises he struggled to complete, I failed to perform entirely. We had a 4+ hour drive from Durango to Leadville but planned to break up the drive with a fun activity. As we drove, we did some research. It came down to berry picking or a 9 mile round trip hike to a hot spring. Since it was our rest day, we thought it best to go with the 9 mile hike which started at just above 9,000ft.

The day ended with a blissful trip to Walmart where we feasted our eyes on the near-infinite power of Capitalism and shared a pint of chocolate cookies and cream cashew milk ice cream.