Climbing Moon Rock & Surrendering to Yourself

On Saturday, September 10th, 2016, I climbed on a boulder that fell from the moon.

A panorama near the pass. Nate on the left.

Okay. In reality – which sucks sometimes – I climbed on a boulder that looks like it fell from the moon. This experience partially fulfilled a hidden fantasy I’ve held since becoming a climber––can you imagine the bouldering potential on our moon? On Mars? I convulse at the thought.

The experience also taught me a little more about acceptance.

Here is your backstory

My friends and I enjoy developing boulders. What does that mean? Put simply: we find unclimbed boulders, then we climb them. There is a lot of work that goes into that process that I won’t detail here. BUT – if you’d like to learn more about what we do and how we do it, check out this blog post from last month, my Alpine Diaries series on the FrictionLabs Blog, and Nate Davison’s superb Backcountry Bouldering series of videos on his YouTube channel. That should get you caught up.

I’ve lived in the Boulder and Denver area for ten years. Over that time I’ve met many souls involved in the rock climbing scene and industry – one of which is Jamie Emerson. I would be lying to you if I said Jamie has not influenced what we do. I mean, this is alpine bouldering development: didn’t Jamie kind of invent it? He might tell you otherwise; there are countless other influential developers in Colorado, I know. But the fact remains that he popularized the genre, became its authoritative voice, and has established hundreds of boulders in Colorado and surrounding states. His stellar blog, now mostly lost to the sands of time, proves this point.

Jamie occasionally climbs at the Denver Bouldering Club – my home base for climbing in the city. We nerd out on new boulders and zones whenever we get the chance. Recently, Jamie revealed the location of a new, undeveloped area to Nate. This is no small revelation. For the people who dedicate their lives to climbing, in whichever niche they may reside, giving away such information is like burning pages of the novel you’re writing. Or at least letting someone else write it for you. Even if you trust the other person, you still lose a little piece of potential. Jamie, if you’re reading this – thank you for everything you’ve done for Colorado bouldering, and thank you for showing us a new zone.

Nate climbing Genesis |V8|, a newish boulder in the Holy Cross Wilderness of Colorado.

Moon Landing

On September 10th (six days after an initial recon mission), Nate, Wes, and I dropped into the new area. It’s a pretty typical Colorado alpine approach: trailhead around 10,000 feet; hike up and over a pass above treeline; follow the trail up and down (and up and down); eventually bushwhack down about 1000 feet through forest, granite shelves, and thickets of dense brush towards a small lake lined with talus. Almost all of the rock at this lake is classic high-elevation gneiss, intermittently streaked with some type of lower quality granite.

Atop all of this talus there sits a boulder. A large boulder, probably thirty feet at its highest point. A blueish white boulder, with perfectly sculpted holds and fine texture. A dream boulder.

I cannot account for this boulder’s rock type. I don’t understand what it is, nor how it got there. A visual scan of the surrounding talus showed one other small boulder like it – maybe they fell from the sky? Maybe a meteor screamed through our atmosphere, crashed into the cliff above, and this boulder tumbled down as a result? It’s impossible for me to say. However the boulder landed where it is now, it yielded two of the most enjoyable V6’s I’ve climbed in a long time.

Wes Walker on his V6 FA, currently unnamed.

After staring at this piece of stone for a while, after climbing two amazing lines on its face, I realized that it didn’t necessarily matter how it got here. It’s just there. Within the limits of human time, it has always been there. And within the limits of human reason, we’re constantly struggling to answer the question of why? I’m sure there’s a geologic explanation for how this unique boulder came to exist, I just don’t know what that explanation is.

But in terms of the Self, sometimes common reasoning isn't enough. Any person, no matter how successful or seemingly self-assured, can still feel self-doubt, can suffer under the strain of internal yins and yangs, can question who they truly are. As for myself – I'll be the first to admit that I've never had a firm sense of self-belief or self-knowledge. Not in the slightest. But as time goes on, I see more and more that the first step, at least for me, maybe for others, is accepting who I really am.

Nate on Enceladus |V6|, one of the new climbs on the big white boulder.

Finding peace with the Self

I graduated from the University of Colorado in 2010 with a degree in Creative Writing. Before I even finished, I accepted a certain fact without question: I will never use this. I will never be a writer. Before I could give myself a chance, I immediately barricaded myself behind walls of self-limitation. Why did I do this? Maybe it was because of the academic stigma behind such an education – that a writing degree is essentially purposeless and leads nowhere. Maybe it was because every time someone asked me, “what do you want to do with that?” I didn’t know what to say. Maybe it was because I was taught how to write in college, but was given no advice on where to place my skills after school was out.

It took me five years to earn money as a writer. A friend of mine from college (a fellow English major) put me in touch with his roommate who’d started her own web design company. Kayleen Cohen, co-owner of Mtn. Dog Media, LLC, gave me a chance. I started executing copywriting projects for Mtn. Dog clients websites last year, a position I still hold with the company. That serendipitous moment, when I became a copywriter with an opportunity to actually write with purpose, started me down a path. Little by little, I began to accept the possibility that I was, in fact, a WRITER! Or, at the very least, I could be one someday.

Or maybe a nature photographer? Probably not...

It took me until about two months ago, six years after I’d earned my writing degree, to fully accept it. This very blog solidified that acceptance. Not only is writing these blog posts the most fun work I could imagine doing, it’s also the most meaningful to me. Tying my passions (rock climbing, namely) to aspects of self-improvement and positivity is – I sincerely hope – my means of inspiring you, the reader. It’s taken me a lot of reading over the past couple of years to understand the possibilities for inspiration that exist on the internet and in books, and I truly hope I can return the favor to readers in some way.

So if you’re experiencing some sort of existential crisis (which so many of us are), just know that you’re not alone. I am too. I probably always will be. It’s so easy to get lost looking for answers. It’s easy to look back on the past and wonder how things turned out the way they did. It’s far more difficult to accept who you are and improve from there. But that’s where we must begin. I had to accept myself as a writer – one who conjures nearly meaningless philosophical ideas about rock climbing – before I could accept myself at all. And that's where I find myself.