This time last year Mr. D and I both became first time fathers. Being a new parent, it turns out, is a piece of cake. They are cute and awesome and joyful, and instinct carries the day. Don't kill the baby, offer your love and good vibes, easy peasy.
The hard part is is attending to the rest of your life and relationships, the balance is an elusive dervish, always spinning on the tip of a pin. Laughing in its writhing chaos, you have to visit all of the extremes to ever hope to end up near the mean.
So what of climbing? How many friends lay their baggage upon me, "This is it. You will never climb as hard. You will turn into a doughy has-been. You're 36? Way past your prime. Next thing you know you'll only post in political threads and you will forever wallow in your self imposed prison of fear."
Oh hell no.
Mr. D and I made a vow to instead do the opposite, be good Dads, push our careers forward, and commit ourselves to getting stronger, climbing harder, expanding the realm of the possible. Of course to motivate yourself while massively sleep deprived, you need a goal, a challenge that inspires and is just on the other side of what you think you are capable of.....
One year later we live up to the promise made, and make the pilgrimage to the Needles.
The only other time I was here was four years ago, and I was blown away by how perfect this place is (http://www.supertopo.com/tr/If-Youre-Into-That-Sorta-Thing-The-Needles/t11636n.html)
;. The aesthetic, the rock quality, the isolation, the jets shooting the notch, the committing thought provoking climbing. Paradise. I knew this trip would be no different.
We cruised in from Oakland and set up shop in frigid temps. The next day we took our time, waiting for the sun and hiked out. Our route for the day was Spook Book, one of the best climbs I have ever done. A don't f$#k up or you'll hit the ground badly opening gatekeeper leads to some of the best 5.10/10+ shallow corner climbing I've ever touched. Sustained, direct, small gear, perfect.
We shivered a bit, but that was ok, we wanted temps to be crisp, for tomorrow was the big day.
We ate a big breakfast and began our approach. Walking in to big climbs is always filled with introspection and the incredible imaginative power of the conscious mind. I fell into a rhythm, seeking insight. I think of Doug Robinson's words "More dualities, poles that knit us together and pull us apart. At least up here I am forced to contemplate these things with my hands and feet, instead of my overstuffed brain."
I never thought I would ever be strong enough to lay hands on Romantic Warrior. But here I am. I am whisked away into the fantasy land of the perfect climb. The experience is sublime.
The Book of Deception is one of the best pitches I have ever climbed. Just thinking about all of that hard stemming makes me giddy as I type.
We didn't send, but we figured out most of the climbing. The campus traverse was the only part that really smacked us around. More importantly we got to play around on an iconic line. Blows my mind that you are climbing the same crack from bottom to top. More importantly than that we got to see the path forward to getting strong enough to put her down, we will be back. Most importantly we proved to ourselves that we could rise to our own challenges. Despite living in the bay, hustling to keep food on the table while taking the time to enjoy our kiddos, we also are continuing to climb harder. Carrying around a kid helps the lock-off strength I swear it.
We drank whiskey and ate well, and then treated ourselves to a final day of climbing on Wailing Banshees, Spooky, and Airy Interlude.
Very grateful for my wife for holding down the fort, very grateful to my daughter for giving me a reason to live as an example for her. Very grateful for the tumult of geological time and resulting mountain ranges of the world. May this practice nourish us, may it help us be free.