Trip ReportVanishing Point
"What can happen to you in a place where nothing stands against you and nothing has the ability to become your limit?"
15/01/2010 Friday Norway FivaTent
I'm slowly losing track of time. Another day in the row, the tent is making a loud, besetting noise. I can't sleep, so I push my ear plugs in and hide my head in the sleeping bag. Every night, I wake up in order to heat my chilled feet up; when I succeed to get back to sleep, the alarm clock goes straight off, so I wake up more tired than I was in the evening. During the day I lay in the tent drinking tea, eating chocolate and reading Kerouac's Dharma Bums. The wind is blowing, blowing, blowing...
26/01/2010 Tuesday Norway FivaTent
I have been carrying down haulbags full of gear for the last eight hours. I'm chilled, but let it be, the most important thing is that I'm going home and that I decided to never come back here. Fortunately I got a grip and made the decision to leave. But why could I not have done it before all these nights of shivering and blocked ears...?
09/02/2010 Wednesday Scotland Bed & Breakfast
A couple of days ago, we camped in Gregor's car on the North Face parking; we left towards Ben Nevis early the morning. We climbed up the Orion fast, and in the evening we slept in turns, driving through the snow-covered roads of Highlands. The joy. Nowadays we change areas almost every day, climbing, climbing, and climbing. I get dizzy from the whirlwind of repeating names of valleys, peaks and walls. It may also be caused by the names of whiskeys tasted by us each evening, as Gregor is a true connoisseur, eager to explore the contents of his little cellar. And what was all that lonely torment in the FivaTent for?
Tomorrow we will say our goodbyes and I will go back home.
01/10/2011 (14:00) Saturday El Capitan alone on Mescalito the Bismarck ledge
For a couple of days now I've been climbing at night, when it's colder. Thanks to that I can drink less and I don't get as tired as in the scorching sun. I'm quite seriously dehydrated. I'm running out of liquids, still around the middle part of the wall. All that's left in the pack are two cans of fruit in syrup and one beer for celebrating the victory. Two days ago, Tommy shouted over to me that I can take some water from his wall deposit. It's the only solution, but to get to his portaledge I still have to climb through two pitches and rappel down two long ones. I don't have a choice I'm leaving the beer for tonight. I'll eat the fruit tomorrow morning or rather suck the juice out of it, chewing slowly on the minced pulp of pineapples, peaches, Californian apples and pears. Then my food reserves will be done and all I'll have to rely on what the wall brings.
05/10/2011 Wednesday Yosemite Cafeteria
A thunderstorm has raged yesterday night. On the peak of El Capitan, on the last stance of Mescalito, I hung up the portaledge. I did it in the single available place, on a dried up tree, which tilted and creaked. In the morning, the rain turned into snow, and I barely made it to the valley with the overweight pack. Now I'm sitting here with a hamburger and a firm resolution of not changing my plans and walking up to the foot of Zenyatta Mondatta. In brief: put your packs on and get to work!
Wait a minute, maybe I should think about something like word of the day? For example: masochism, mortifying, suffering in the name of... redemption, penance, punishment? No, too much chaos and negative connotations. I would prefer something like: struggle, ascent over..., accomplishment, victory over..., a noble sacrifice for the good of humankind, entering the world of fame, inspiration for future generations...
Ok, I'm going to bed, my mind needs resting.
13/04/2012 Friday Baffin Island - the base of Polar Sun Spire north face
Yeti (Marcin Tomaszewski) and I are lying in the tent. Eso gave us a lift on his skidoo and left us in a polar wilderness. The riffle is lying in the corner, but if ever a bear decides to attack us, we will surely not have the time to reach out for it.
20/08/2013 Tuesday Karakorum Great Trango Tower Bushido
We have climbed through the last pitches of the root in the dark. The storm started with melting snow and wind, to conclude in a sudden drop of temperature and the snow turning into ice. The ropes, which were soaking wet before, now stiffened to resemble cows' tails. Hung up in my harness, I trembled, stomped my feet, and waved my hands, shivering with cold nonetheless.
We finally started to rappel down. I watched Yeti's silhouette vanish as he lowered himself into the darkness; the snowflakes were swirling madly in the light of my headlamp. We were struggling together to take each rope off. The last eight rappels leading up to the camp were to be rapped off in a vertical overhang. We stopped hearing each other; I involuntarily fell asleep a moment after. After waking up I lowered down into the darkness, but inconsiderately passed by the middle stance.
We didn't manage to put the ropes down so we kept on rappelling down without saying a word, towards the portaledge, the sleeping bag, shut eyelids and unconscious sleep. I reached out for a hotplate, but the persistent shutting of the eyelids was stronger than hunger, so we sunk into our sleeping bags. After four hours of solid sleep I heard a drawn-out Allah Akbar echoing from the basecamp... I opened my eyes and saw a beautiful sunny day. We will start rappelling down right after breakfast...
28/09/2013 Saturday Yosemite Cafeteria
Finally in the Valley. I left behind the reports, the photos and obsessively repeating: Bushido, Bushido, Bushido. I pushed the cafeteria doors open in the darkness of six thirty in the morning, ordered a coffee and reached out for a French pastry without needless looking around. Not so long ago I was dreaming about this while hanging on Trango, eating instant noodles and here it is how pleasant to fulfil simple dreams. I sat down by the window at the end of the room. Tom with his inseparable can of coke joined me right before eight, followed by Brad, Scott, Richie, Andy... And again, I repeated: Bushido, Bushido, Bushido. Perhaps only the solitude on Kaos is able to liberate me from these cursed words.
14:17 El Capitan start to Kaos
I finally carried the water pack up so I deserve a little rest and a can of Cobra. Getting back to this morning, I have to note that right before I finished telling the Bushido story, we were joined by Kimiko a Japanese girl with quite an un-Japanese face. As I later found out, Kimiko is half-Jewish (apparently her second name is Salome). She had scratches on her hands and dirty, broken nails which clearly indicated she was climbing on El Cap. Aside from that, her determined glance revealed a strong character. It's about this type of girl that you say: 'small, but mighty'. Someone mentioned later that she did a solo on The Shield and Mescalito, and numerous one-day roots on Nos.
Ok, now I have to hide the water from the bears and run down.
06/10/2013 (21:50) Saturday El Capitan alone on Kaos belay nr 5
The psychological terror caused by the cut lip revealed its healing power. On the crucial pitch, a slab in which I put a cam broke off and... wham! I felt blood running down my lips. I licked the sweetish drops off and continued to climb until the end of the pitch, later removing most of the pitons with my hands or by hammering away at them a couple of times. All in all, the crucial A4+ is behind me and there is two pitches left until the link with Zenyattΰ Mondatta A3 and A2. My punch-drunk mind became suddenly calm like an ocean after a storm. Thanks.
08/10/2013 Tuesday El Capitan Kaos
A ten-meter sequence on weak skyhooks broken up by heads. This is how the last A2 on Kaos looked like. Apparently someone corrected the valuation to A4+. I even noted this remark some time, it's a shame that I had forgotten about it... Now I will relax on the traditional A4 of Zenyattΰ Mondatta, enjoy my birthday in the portaledge and the pleasure of loneliness. It's become strangely empty on my wall. Is it a storm that's approaching?
13/10/2013 Sunday Yosemite Curry Village Casino
Yesterday I finished Kaos and on the flat peak of El Cap I let out a horse-like: yee-haa! During the descent I was neighing out of joy like Tornado the Horse after a portion of oat out of Zorro's hand. I was joyful about Kaos and Bushido at the same time. I was joyful about climbing alone and with Yeti, Gregor, Kubol, as well as... I couldn't remember who anymore, but with everyone whom I ever tied the rope around, and even the people with whom I only went to the mountains, and even those with whom I will never share the same line. Yes, it was a strange, but an irresistible feeling of joy of everything. I was even happy about my cut lip, because I was finally going to have a scar with a good story. Too bad that it's so late, but let's not slip into negative thinking. I prefer to whinny my 'neighs!' and laugh at the sun and the moon.
On the bottom, in the parking lot, I met a ranger, Jack, who informed me that the valley is shut for visitors and it is illegal to stay in it. However, after a bit of explaining, he let me stay as long as I'm resting and taking the equipment down from the peak. He's a cool guy anyway, he gave me a lift to a pizza place in Curry Village and dropped me off at Camp IV. Today Stu lent me his bike, and Scott is meant to fix my cams. It looks like Kaos can work wonders... Aside from that, there's only a handful of parking lot staff here. I feel strange in complete silence, without the drone of Harleys and the rumble of cars. Shops and bars, apart from a few exceptions, are shut, and hotels are all empty. Silence, silence, silence...
I don't know any more if it's chaos of expulsion, or re-establishing of balance after eternal chaos.
15/10/2013 Tuesday Yosemite Cassino breakfast at Curry Village
When I was taking down the equipment pack yesterday, on a forest path I met Kimiko the girl from Cafeteria. She crashes somewhere illegally, so she didn't want to come down with me so as not to meet the rangers. We sat down on the ground while she told me the story of Mister Buddha.
'When I was leaving San Fran, a Buddhist monk was standing on the other end of the platform in Richmond. He was not very tall, quite stocky; long curls were sticking out of his baseball cap with the distinctive, large Nike logo on it. Anyone who looked at him, even just for a moment, noticed instantly the conspicuous, heavy trekking shoes, a couple of sizes too big, which contrasted strongly with everything else he was wearing, and with how short he was. His cheerful face, Tibetan, blissful smile and these heavy mud-covered shoes made a peculiar, out-of-this-world combination, although none of the passengers made fun of him, or even paid any attention to him. When the train to Merced came, we got into the almost empty compartments. After a moment, he walked towards me with his characteristic waddle and he took the place next to me, although there was nobody else around. He looked at me, smiled amicably and closed his eyes. At the same time, a conductor arrived and loudly announced the ticket control. He came up to me, thanked me for the ticket, and just walked on, not paying attention to the monk, who was whispering something to himself. When we changed to a bus in Merced, it was similar. Mister Buddha walked ahead of me, and the driver didn't even ask where he was going, sticking his hand out for my ticket. I was shocked, because I didn't know if I was seeing a monk that didn't exist, or if he's invisible only to certain people, and I'm the chosen one who's able to experience his presence. In the bus I took the place next to him. And anyway he himself provided space as if for me, like it were obvious we were travelling together. We didn't talk, up until when the bus was passing the precipice of El Capitan, springing up from beyond the trees. He looked at the Big Stone and invited me to the Girls Club for a purgation ceremony, which is meant to take place just today.'
At the end of our talk Kimiko asked me to come with her to that meeting. Long story short, today I'm going to a purgation ceremony. Admittedly I don't know what I'm supposed to purge but there's meant to be rice pouring, mantras and some sort of a group request show. We'll see what the Rice Buddhas magic is all about.
16/10/2013 (06:30) Wednesday Yosemite Camp IV
That was something! We entered the Girls Club at dusk. Mister Buddha spilled some rice on the floor and ordered to leave it there for the next three days. He told us to write down our wishes or dreams on a piece of paper while he was chanting mantras. He gave a sort of an individual mantra to each of us too, which was connected to the wishes that we had written down; the papers were meant to be burned over the flame of the candle, which stood on the table. He scrupulously picked the ashes, put them into envelopes, and advised to keep them under our pillows for a month. Essentially that was the end of the ceremony, although each of us was purified additionally during individual talks with the Rice Man. Truth be told, I haven't understood much of these recommendations, as his English sounded a bit like a mix of wise sayings of Paolo Coelho, monologues of Bruce Willis and punch lines of Doctor House. I asked him if he taught vanishing lessons, too, but it seemed like he pretended not to have understood me, or rather ignored me. Evidently it's the master's secret...
OK, enough of this writing. I'm going to get breakfast, as it's terribly cold in the tent.
09:45 Cassino in Curry Village
How freezing it is! After going inside I had to warm myself up in front of the fireplace for fifteen minutes. But Ill get straight to the point, because something's been going on since the morning. Just an hour ago I was riding a bike to breakfast, dressed in all possible jackets, hats, socks and gloves. The cold of the rushing air was piercing me through to the very bottom of my soul, when suddenly I noticed Kimiko.
It was right behind a small bridge next to the stop no 6, where I had taken a turn right on the path among yellow grass, to shorten the road to the stop 11, and get to Curry Village from there. About midway through the glade stood the beautiful Japanese woman, chanting her mantra and throwing pieces of meat towards the four directions of the world. It didn't look like sun salutations that she apparently practised. I stopped suddenly, and she got a fright, as if I caught her red-handed at a secret date. She ran up to me and quickly started a conversation, so as to draw my attention away from what I've just seen.
Did you hear that they're opening the Valley? It'll be already legal to enter tonight. Its a shame, cause I'm going to a Native American sweat lodge. Do you know what it is? It's this tent for meditation, something like the European sauna, but more mystical...
Before I managed to say anything back, Kimiko turned around and ran through the grass. It's only then that I noticed she was barefoot. Could it be the Rice Buddhas special recommendation?
19:33 Camp IV by the fire
I lit myself a goodbye fire, by which Im writing out the day's events.
After breakfast I rode up to Girls Club. The rice was still lying on the floor, but aside from that there was no sign that the ceremony had taken place. There was a woman sitting at a desk; she printed me out a ticket for the internet and indicated a computer. There was only one message in my mailbox:
'Hi big Marek,
It was pleasure to I that you was at my ceremony.
If you write out your paper, I always invite you where you are not.
Im up to the same stuff as ever I'm on the road and I vanish. Vanishing is something like exchanging 'here' to 'there', but I don't have to teach you this, because I would myself like to do it like you. You get what I'm sayin'...
I think I know why your paper was unwritten, so share with others.
Forever with you
The Rice Buddha.'
Wait a minute, but how did the Rice Man know I was calling him that in my head? And how did he discover that my paper was unwritten if I had burned it...?
17.10.2013 Thursday Northern California
It turned out this morning that the Yosemite buses aren't running, so I won't be able to get a connection to Merced. I stood up on the road shoulder, trying my luck hitchhiking, but unfortunately, all the traffic was going the other way. I was about the give up, when an old, unwashed white sock-coloured Dodge Challenger appeared from around the corner. The front reflector was taped with duct tape and climbing brand stickers were breaking through the dust of the hood. Kimiko was sitting at the wheel, and climbing gear was scattered on the seat and the floor.
Get in. I'm going to paradise...
To paradise? I don't think I'm going that way yet I smiled with slight irony.
Yeah yeah, I mean I'm going to Paradise in northern California, to the sweat lodge. I told you about it yesterday. Then I'm off to bouldering at Lake Tahoe, and then Im going to the west coast, to Eureka.
After saying this, she got out and opened the trunk with a kick.
In this car you look like James Kowalski from Vanishing Point I said something that was meant to be a complement.
I don't know any James, but my grandma was called Kowalski. Strange, huh? But it's a long story. Get in...
As I was shutting the tailgate, I noticed a large, marker-written text: 'Somewhere else is better.'
07/01/2014 Tuesday at home I'm sitting by the fire and sipping on wine
I barely was able to open the door because of all the old mail put in through the letter box. Amongst the greeting cards, adverts and magazines there was one letter containing a CD, and one envelope. Both were without senders. The CD was probably a present from Kubol, as only he, after so many years of climbing together, knows what music I like, and has a style that I envy him. In the envelope, that I just opened, there was an unwritten piece of paper. Interesting...
11/01/2014 Saturday Norway FivaTent
It was snowing at night quietly, calmly, and persistently. In the morning I dug the tent up, and in the afternoon, I held it when the gale was bending the poles. The temperature is oscillating around minus 10; I'm kind of able to live with that, but the ice-cold wind is unendurable.
Actually, why did I come over here? To gather better memories than those from a couple of years back? Maybe because I gave in to insidious promptings of oblivion? When I get home, I will write down in capital letters that I decided to not get back here anymore.
Insidious promptings of oblivion.
Unwritten paper? To be like James Kowalski...
Somewhere else is better.
Bushido Bush..., B...
Get in. I'm going to paradise...
I wrote some story, which I want to share with you...
Kaja, thank you for editing
Thank you for support:
MBC Ltd, UK (Grivel, Edelweiss, Deuter, Shred)
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