Yesterday while I was organizing my camera gear, I came across a micro SD card in a USB adapter. The USB didn’t work, but when I tried another adapter, 150 odd images popped onto the screen from the spring and summer of 2010. The photos ranged from a surf trip in Sumatra to a shot of my feet turned smurf blue after thirteen pitches climbing the Angels Crest, breaking in a pair of new climbing shoes. Scrolling down through the thumbnails, the bright orange helmet of my friend Amy Stein jumped out.
I climbed a lot with Amy and this was definitely one of our most memorable outings together to tackle what is probably the most esoteric and bush thwacky route on the Chief - a 700m high granite monolith and the exclamation point of beautiful Squamish, BC. Mainly forgotten by the climbing community, the North North Arete is one of those climbs that when you’re looking for beta on the route, most people think they know someone who has apparently climbed it, but have not climbed it themselves. We were looking for something different, thought provoking, and adventurous, and the North North fit the bill.
One prominent feature of Amy’s fluid climbing style is that when she is tenuous about a certain move, she swears like a sailor while giving herself a pep talk. There were no shortage of these moments on the gritty, dirt filled cracks of the North North. Being so obscure, we soloed the first two and a half pitches before realizing we were actually on route! It continued with a bushy, loose, and dirty character usually reserved for alpine routes. We weaved our way around corners, through trees, and up a prominent fin. I remember leading a four foot wide chimney where the only piece of protection I could place was the smallest cam in my rack - a grey metolius double zero. There was nothing ordinary about this route.
Eight pitches later; dirty, bleeding, and smiling, we emerged through the “birthing pitch” - a half meter squared hole. Like crawling out of someones basement through a secret, nondescript trap door, we surfaced into the fading sunlight speckled on the mossy forest floor. Traversing from this rarely visited summit to its busier neighbor second peak, we finished the last of our water as the sun slipped behind Mt. Murchison. Descending the popular hiking trail alone, we chatted about the climb, the design of her new house, and her theory and practice on becoming better at getting up in the morning.
Amy passed away three years ago this past weekend and I miss her dearly. I hadn’t thought about our climb for a long time before I found this missing memory card. It made me realize that in the last few years, with thoughts of life changing events both planned and divined, I have been making a concerted effort to plan and infuse as many new experiences into my life as time will allow. As good and productive as that is, it often doesn’t allow as much time to look back and remember past adventures. It’s important to breathe life into these memories, to talk about past exploits over malted hops so they avoid being relegated to a dusty hard drive or cobweb filled corners of the brain.
- April 2015 (updated May 2016)