Flatiron #1

900 feet. 6.5 hours of climbing.

It is 6am and I’ve been napping in the front seat of Mike’s van since 3am. I’m pecking this out, stream of consciousness, on my phone, racing the dying charge, with a sore right pointer finger. Other than some apples and oranges, I’ve not eaten a ‘real’ meal in about 20 hours. What we managed to do last evening is the most amazing, most challenging, most focused thing I have ever accomplished. Nothing else I have ever done is even worth *mentioning*.

We started on a whim at about 6pm: spreading gear out of Mike’s van into the parking lot as the the regular mortals stared. “Look! Real climbers!” From the lot we power-hiked up what, I’m guessing, was at least 500 vertical feet of increasingly knarly wooded trail.

To the base. Of the biggest inclined slab of rock imaginable. We spent a lot of time going over gear, call-n-response stuff, etc.

And on my first day on real rocks, Mike started up the first pitch, dragging the “sharp” end of the rope, and setting hardware for fall protection.

“CLIMBING!” Then I followed.

We did seven pitches, meaning Mike climbed away out of sight, and set up. a belay position as high as our 200ft rope allowed. Then I climbed, picking up gear as I passed it.

Seven pitches. Three before it got dark. Four in the dark. (We’d brought head lamps. ) Oddly, the dark was WAY easier: All I saw was this rock, my hands, my feet, and the infinite piece of rope I was following.

Up, down, around, over. Literally one. inch. at a time. I covered something approaching 1400 feet along the rope, 3, 4, 5? false summits. Where you scale a thrust of rock – rock sticking up literally into the Milky Way hanging from the sky – an inconceivable puzzle of body and mind, to the top. Only to find a liitle down climb, over, and up yet again.

Six and one half hours of, “i’ll move my left foot up two inches to that nice looking spot. Now, I wonder what’s up to right for my hand…”

We reached the summit at 12:30.

Then rappelled literally down into the inky black off the back. From there we walked down an endless foot trail and back to the van.

At nearly 2am. Where I lay in middle of the parking lot, flat on my back, enjoying the sheer comfort and staring at the exact same stars.

It was trancendental. It was Heculean (for me anyway. )

Now, at 6:30, my legs are a bit tired, my finger tips are sore. I’ve not one bruise. The sun has just popped up on the other side of the world. Climbing is not “my thing.” I’m never going to want to sleep in a park, or live in a van, as Mike does now without a second thought.

But.

My god! It’s full of stars.

Louisville Colorado

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Almost to Boulder. Spent the night — after some epic delays in Allentown, missed connections, missed standby, and terminal hussle in Chicago — in Louisville Co. Caught up with Mike; dinner, beer, and probabaly the last/only night under a roof. Sorted all my gear out this morning, and Mike’s leaving me the van for today. Couple stops, then off to try a trail hike to see how this “thin air” really works out.

Visceral

My suspicion is that, in our convenient society, we don’t need to be acutely aware of our balance and body positions vis a vis the ground because many of us don’t do much physical labor anymore, or play freely as kids outdoors now that we have so many enticing computer games to entertain us.

~ Wayne Muromoto, from The base: close to the ground

More than a year ago, I wrote that parkour is about freedom (and much more.) There is also a visceral component that I’m finding is playing a greater and greater role.

Visceral, adj.
characterized by, or proceeding from, instinct rather than intellect: a visceral reaction; characterized by, or dealing with, coarse or base emotions.

When you treat your body like a Cadillac meat vehicle – that is, when it’s just a mode of conveyance from one creature-comfort to the next – you soon cease to be intimately aware of what your body is feeling. A large part of the allure of parkour is the immediate and clear, honesty and reality of the experience of training. It’s obvious that your body and mind are not readily separable, but in normal daily life, one mostly ignores the body. In parkour, the body and mind have to work in harmony.

I have a lot more to say about this harmony (my personal interpretation, and explanation, thereof.) But for the moment, I’m just going to start with the above.

The weight of the past

This is not to say that nostalgia is our inescapable fate. The lesson I am trying to draw from reflecting on the examples of Snowden and the N.F.L. is not that the thrill ends early. Rather, in their extremity these examples bring out something else. For most of us, as our lives unfold we simply do not, we cannot, know whether we have peaked in an area of our lives — or in our lives themselves — in ways that are most important to us. The past weighs upon us, not because it must cancel the future, but because it is of uncertain heft.

~ Todd May, from The Weight of the Past