Last friday I was working in New Westminster cleaning dryer vents on rappel with my good Slovenian buddy Klemen Mali. I had basically written off the Cobra Crack- I would wait until I was fitter and stronger- maybe in a couple weeks or something. I needed a break and my fingers were thrashed. The day before Paul McSorley and I had diving contests in Browning Lake and I had bruised my ear drum. My Dad gave me some random anti-biotics he found in case it was infected. Apparently that is a bad idea according to my nurse friend Mandoline...
The next day I woke up in North Van to the pitter-patter of rain. After a quick stop at the clinic to check to see if my ear was okay, I drove up to Squamish, hoping beyond hope that the rain would stop and I would have another chance on the Cobra. For some reason, I am always most optimistic in the morning. I'm sure coffee has something to do with it.
Conditions at the Cobra were absolutely premium. Only a few people were there: Mandoline, Jeremy, Rich and Senja. It was a good vibe. Some people can deal with crowds- my comp master buddy Sean McColl, for example. But I don't do so well with cell phones bleeping and a tonne of people asking questions.
On my first try I fell above the lip, dropping my foot out of the heel hook. I had never felt so strong up there, which stunned me. I rested for about an hour, and when the rain started drizzling ever so slightly, I tied in again and sent it. On the final 5.10+ part of the crack my rope got mildly wedged in the lip of the crack. The crack was filthy so I cleaned as I went, yanking up rope with one hand, aggressively torquing my fingers into the crack... I wasn't going to blow it now... At the top I was covered in dirt and blood.
The Cobra is done now, and a little era is over for me. I think alot about my friend Didier Berthod, who has since dropped off the grid and lives in a Monastery in Europe. He was the one who really sparked my interest in the line. Didier was a real soul climber, on a mission to climb the hardest cracks in the world. He didn't care much for personal wealth, and often hiked to the Cobra barefoot for some reason. I think he had some theory about being in tune with the earth before a climb... who knows. I climbed with him in Indian Creek in 2005/ 06 and said the Cobra was maybe the most beautiful line he had even seen. After he broke his arm in Moab I drove him to Salt Lake City and never saw him again. Didier came up short on the Cobra, but I hope his new quest is going well for him.
I miss ya, bud.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The last week has been a rough one in the climbing community. I have been feeling pretty glum thinking about my friends Micah Dash and Jonny Copp who were killed in an avalanche in China. I don't really know what to say... those guys were top-notch and big inspirations for me. I heard that they found Jonny's body right before my slideshow at the Leavenworth Rockfest. Man, it was tough to go up and act positive when all I wanted to do was be alone.
My motivation was waning big time, but as always, climbing seems to help. I have been coming really close on the Cobra crack. I love the all-consuming nature of that climb: the 45 minute hike, the remote nature of the cliff, the huge cedars and doug firs nudging up against the cliff.
I have been throwing myself at the climb relentlessly, and have one-falled it once on lead. My high point was just above the lip, trying to toss my foot above my head. My fingers are totally mangled and I'm going to have to take a couple days off.
When I first hiked up and saw the Cobra I was in high school and it was still a project. It is really beautiful, a stunning slice up an overhanging wave of perfect granite. Back then, it was called a project for the next generation, a futuristic route that may never be climbed. Times have changed. It has now had four ascents, all by really dedicated strong climbers: Sonnie Trotter, Nico Favresse, Ethan Pringle and Matt Segal. I still get goosebumps everytime I walk underneath it.
It is a joy to lose skin on this thing. Thinking about Micah and Jonny is a real wake-up call for how finite life can be. So right now I'm trying to appreciate the small things and enjoy the whole package- the painful locks, the struggle, and the friends that have generously come to belay me.
I'm a lucky kid.