It's dark as we make the left turn at Mojave and blast north on 395, the stars above swirling overhead on an inky black backdrop.
We are back in the road-trip saddle and it feels good.
We make good time and rumble into a flat sandy wash off Movie Road by eleven hundred hours.
We fall asleep to a blanket of stars overhead. The cool night smells of desert sage and the promise of adventure.
Morning comes slowly and we awake to a vast panorama of sand and stone and blue.
The posse gathers around strong coffee and the guidebook. Davey, Adam, Pauly, Mike, and I were all born in 1973. Five of us are either 45 years old or turning 45 years old. We dub ourselves the "Ol 45 Club and we are here to get away from it all, car camp, climb some stuff and celebrate birthdays and eat good food in the dirt. We all bring something to the table, and being a rad climber is not one of those things. Joe is a kid. He's way strong and leads anything we put him on so we let him hang out with us. Mark is over 60...but we let him into the club because he's climbed El Cap more than any of us ever will combined. And he brings great coffee.
We waste no time in moving the camp to a more secluded spot and start throwing ourselves short but fun routes right near the truck.
Mike gets all paparazzi on things and knows his way around a lens. He gets some nice shots from the weekend. So do I.
After a warm up we quest all the way over to the DXM wall. About 40 yards total. I bring chips and salsa and six draws. It's 10:43 am.
Davey steels his nerves and gets ready for the first lead of the day. His Tyvek "jacket" suit will guard him against.....not much actually....but it looks super cool.
Davey Leans over a sould destroying void, yards up onto the wall, clips the first bolt and its on like Donkey Kong.
We Team Sesh the bejeebus out of the DMX Wall. Toprope toughguys slaying the gnar. Blue skies threaten to send us running back to the vehicles for breakfast burritos and country boy skillets full of hashbrowns sausage and belpeppers, but we persevere and send the nearly vertical 5.8-5.9 terrain above us, undaunted by the exposure and the risk of mild sunburn.
Mark and Adam squeeze down into a narrow slot and find this little beauty. It looks spicy, so I stay and take photos rather than make myself look bad.
Pretty soon the desire for pipin' hot breakfast overcomes my desire to send another moderate 70 foot 5.8 face so I hump it back to the campsite and get the ol Coleman fired up.
After a gut bomb breakfast burrito or two, Macronut looks at me with that gleam in his eye that can only mean one thing.....
The desert silence is shattered by the sound of 450cc's of blood curdling, heart pounding, knee weakening pure testosterone.
We pull out of camp and rip down Movie Road, the wind in our hair, the backdrop of the mighty rampart above, beconing us with her wanton desire for all things wild, lifting above the desert caldera with all the hope and promise of a day burgeoning under the weight of unchecked possibility.
We pound pavement into town to fuel up on the bare necessities.
Then its "go west young men....go west."
We are back on the four stroke saddle and it feels like being a 10 year old on Christmas eve.
The landscape is magnificent. The blue sky above meets the summit of Whitney which plunges to meet the scrappy hills below which tumble down to meet the very pavement under our tires. We are connected to the place in a deep and meaningful way.....so we stop often and take selfies.
But soon we are stopped by "The Man."
So we turn heel and blow outta there, hanging a left down the first dirt road we can muster. And soon we are exactly where we'd like to be. Lost.
We are adrift in a sea of sand, stone, sky and prickly things.
We press on, eastward toward what we think may be civilization, but our trusty metallic steeds carry us only deeper into the unknown folds of the earth.
Whoa....lookie here...What is this? It says BEWARE. STAY OUT.
So in we go.....
Yo Macronut...this feels like a really bad idea...
We wander until a fork in the tunnel leads to absolute darkness and probably the pit of hell itself....a loose stone kicked into the void falls for eternity before answering back with a faint, hollow clicketty clack. We quickly head for daylight.
We hightail it back to camp, happy to be alive and happy that Happy Hour is starting in ten minutes.
We sit and enjoy watching Mark cruise "Hanged Man" 5.10b on The Pillar of Thoth. I think about walking over there for a TR burn...but the gravity of my lawn chair is too strong. I'm 45 years old now and it takes a lot for me to get motivated when I'm near the ice-chest and hors de'oeuvres.
But it's Macronut's birthday and he wants to climb something. Pfftt. You're killin' me Smalls.
"How bout we scramble up that there gully yonder and watch the sunset?"
"I'm yer Huckleberry....how bout you just try an keep up. Old Man."
We throw a headlamp, some gloves and our steely courage into the daypack and strike up the gully, into the unknown.
Soon we are lost in a labyrinth of bottomless drops, dark corridors and third class shenanigans. Moving over the complicated terrain is refreshing to the soul and we dash madly upward, seeking who-knows-what at every bend, clawing aimlessly at the stone in front of us, running from something and toward something at the very same time.
We are back in the alpine saddle and it feels like falling in love all over again.
Eventually our legs tire and the sun begins to melt in the western sky. We stop short of the "summit" and stand there and just suck it all in. Man I love the desert.
The way down goes fast. Too fast. We follow the smell of sage and creosote and propane stoves hissing for dinner down the gully.
Dinner is on by the time we make it back to camp.
We arrive to see that DaveyTree from Supertopo has started cooking tacos made from goose and duck meat. He fondles the meat gingerly, kneeding in spices and peppers and onions and all kinds of love.
And when the tortillas have been warmed, the lemons sliced, the cilantro chopped and the Sriracha mayo oozled over the masterpiece, it is truly a thing of beauty. I eat eight of them. and I want more.
We spend the evening among the company of good friends, by the fire, stars overhead. We tell tall tales, slander each-other, talk of things meaningless and waste away the night just enjoying the hugeness of the place and the time together. We come to the conclusion that 45 is the new 20 and that we need to do this until we are really, really really to old to do it any more.
I fall asleep again under a sky so full of stars that I do not want to close my eyes lest I miss another moment to be under the weight of such enormity.
We will go home tomorrow. Back to our loving wives, our kids, our jobs and all the things that make great trips like this possible. But for tonight I will just lay here, soaking up the beauty, marveling at God's creation, and as I drift into peaceful desert-in-the-back-of-my-truck-in-a-down-sleeping-bag sleep, I'm already planning to return again.
Thanks for tuning in Supertopo.