Desert Rocks

One month ago I left the creature comforts of a warm house and a loving companion to live in my van and climb splitters. As I drove west the landscape gradually change from impossibly flat plains to dynamic snow covered mountains to choppy desert. After slithering through the Rockies the color of the earth slowly became more red. Before long I arrived back to one of my favorite places, surrounded by friends and laser cut cracks through steep varnished sandstone walls. Dirtbag paradise.

Many of my friends had already arrived. I had the privilege of making this place my home for two or three weeks. I can never keep track of time at the creek but that's just the way I like it. Life is always simple there. No screens to distract us from the most important things we have; climbing, our surroundings and each other.

For weeks I was extensively observing the subtle differences in thousands of feet of seemingly parallel sided cracks. Some might think that a climb would get boring when the rack calls for 12 of the same sized cam but I find myself constantly stimulated by how the cracks can go from dreamy to nearly impossible just by changing by one small fraction of an inch. Just when I think that I've got a crack size figured out the angle shifts just so, the podded feet disappear or there's a subtle corner change and I'm forced to reevaluate my strategy.

There's a surprising amount of creativity required to finding ways of filling the cracks with our appendages in order to make upward progress. When I take a step back and listen to our conversations around the campfire at night I am floored and honestly a bit embarrassed about how much of it has to do with finger and hand sizes.

Inevitably after spending a few weeks at the creek my body starts to hate me despite everything I do to take care of it. I apply hand salve countless times throughout the day, I eat the healthiest foods, I rest one to two days for every day I climb. But every time I climb I shove my poor little digits into tiny cracks. I loose skin, my knuckles swell, my feet and toes get bruised. My back and abs get so sore that at times I can't make a full recovery on my days off. Oh what I put my body through just for the joy of sending splitters. The gobies on my hands will eventually heal but I'll remember these good times for the rest of my life: the glory of a simple life whittled down to sending hard cracks and drinking warm beer with funny friends.

Miranda Oakley