Thursday, May 6, 2010

Not exactly el Capitan

When I came to Alaska I wanted to be a climber. I didn't really know how to go about it, but I knew that I wanted to be like the girl in Rock and Ice Magazine who seemed to be floating effortlessly up the vertical rock, with her soft, shiny hair waving in the wind and a perfect look of concentration on her face.

Well, that didn't exactly happen. For one, my hair will never be soft and shiny. There is usually dirt in it. Secondly, my look is more of fear than concentration. Most importantly, there really isn't that much awe inspiring rock in South Central Alaska. There is nothing that I can look up at and say, "Some day, I want to climb that."

It's mostly just this crumbly pile of rocks we call the Chugach. Each summer, I start out saying, I'm going to climb more rock, but then read the guide books and look at the rock around town and my motivation falls flat. I pick up a bike or a pair of hiking shoes and find other fun ways to spend my free time.

But there has been something nagging at me lately. Eventually we are not going to live in Alaska anymore. I'm not saying that is anytime soon, but some day we will probably move away. I don't want to regret not spending my time here wisely.

There is great rock in Alaska. Huge towers of granite that cause even the laziest person to wonder, maybe I could get to the top of that. The problem is that these mountains are not close to town or close to anywhere that you can drive in Alaska, so I don't get to see them very often. But after seeing Brian's recent pictures of the Alaska Range, I find myself wondering, why are we not spending more time there?

The answer is, because I don't have the right skills. In order to climb peaks in the Alaska Range I need to be able to climb ice, rock, snow, and travel across glaciers. I've got the ice and glacier skills, and I have learned a little about placing snow protection (it's not rocket science), but the rock is where I am lacking.

That's what I intend to spend some time learning to do this summer. I have to say, climbing trad scares the crap out of me. I got a chance to do a bit of a mock lead last night and I would not want my worst enemies to fall on any of the protection that I placed. I definitely need more practice.

But I have got to start somewhere. On a night like last night, playing around on the rocks and lounging in the hot sun was not half bad. And now I have some good climbing partners to start exploring with. I think I might even stick with it this time.

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