Monday, March 4, 2019

Confessions of a Weekend Warrior

I've been experiencing a new normal this winter.  It's a temporary normal.  A seven week hiatus from my normal and a voyage into a more typical normal.  I've traded in drunken tourists for sassy teenagers, and given up mid-week powder days for a middle school science classroom in rural central Washington.  No matter how good my intentions are, days fly by with minimal physical activity, and yet, my body and mind feel more run down than usual.  I go days without noticing what the weather is like, or knowing what time the sun rises and sets.  It's foreign to me, after practically living outside for nearly three years.  That being said, I wont pretend that I don't appreciate the comforts of a shower, kitchen and central heating during this never ending winter.

Skinning near Steven's Pass, Wa- Kyle Hornor photo

When I only have two or three days off a week (a holiday means I don't have to work, for once), I'm eager to use them to their fullest.  Every weekend has found me back in Leavenworth, braving the weekend crowds at the resort, or hiding from them in the backcountry.  It's been a weird adjustment, but certainly makes me appreciate my free time to the fullest.  It has also validated my decision to pursue a career in the outdoor industry, and continue to build a sustainable version of this lifestyle that has brought me so much fulfillment and joy.

Mt Index and the Lower Town Wall parking lot

I have an ever-growing list of topics for posts I want to write, but I started penning this one in my head the minute I drove across the Skykomish river with the Town Walls in my rear view mirror on Sunday afternoon.  I spent the last two days, surrounded by stunning snow-covered peaks that elicited excited expletives every time I saw them and realized I wasn't dreaming.  It was crisp and sunny on the west side and a couple dozen climbers braved the sloppy parking lot and snow covered approaches for that coveted dry winter rock.

Leif racks up for the Mega Classic Link-Up, Godzilla to City Park (p2) to Slow Children

There are few places that really make my head spin and my heart skip a beat, Index is quickly climbing toward the top of the list.  The minute my feet hit the trail at the base of the Lower Town Wall, I was back to my normal.  The sun on my skin said spring is here, while a chill in the air still whispered of winter.  Sounds of familiar voices echoed off the steep walls, punctuated by the train as it roared by every so often.  We racked up at the bottom of one classic LTW link up, just as I've done hundreds of times before, but this time I heard the snap of every carabiner mixed with the metallic tinker of cams.  In my mind I was stressed about how long it had been since I climbed, but my body knew the weight of my harness, the tightness of cold rubber on my feet and the slight heat of the rope as it ran through my hands.

Leif leads up Slow Children, the best pitch of rock at Index, perhaps?

Once I started climbing, the aches and pains of my sedentary work week fell away.  Muscles I haven't used in weeks came to life as I leisurely crawled up the vertical face.  I felt the edge of every crystal that pressed into my skin, the sharp squeeze of stone on the knuckles of my toes.  Each time I slid my hand or fingers into the next section of crack and felt them lock into place against the cold rock, it was almost sensual, and sent goosebumps rippling along my limbs.  With no where to be in a hurry, our party of three laughed and danced and sang songs at the belays as we romped a few pitches above the valley floor.  From our perch along the cliff, we saw the sun sparkle off the river which weaved through naked trees at a slow winter pace.  Falcons circled high above the upper walls and frogs chirped in the marsh below.  I couldn't wipe the smile off my face if I tried.

Sky Valley <3

Hannah getting silly at the belay.

Leif is fast.  You can tell by the glasses.

On Saturday night about ten people, give or take, crowded into the small cabin on a friend's property.  The combination of wood stove and bodies kept the cold night at bay as we passed around a bottle of wine- then another- and took turns concocting new pizza combinations.  The energy in the room was exuberant from sharing the same incredible day surrounded by jaw-dropping beauty and premium company.  In the morning, we shuffled in from our vans and shared round after round of french press coffee and a hearty breakfast until the sun began to shine through the windows.  With the assurance of more much needed Vitamin D and crag-side camaraderie, we moseyed back to the cliffs to do it all again. 

Lucas slices homemade pizza

Flip stands guard at the cabin,

All smiles on Sunday.