Craggin   8/06/15


I'm one third of the way up the crack at Madeline, a 5.10


You may have noticed a lack of Smokies content this summer.  And yes, it means I haven't been in the park much for varying reasons.  Foremost is the egregious police state it has become due to the fee.  Second is the prohibitive nature of the reservation system that has been down for days at a time.  Third is that I am exercising more discretion about people with whom I spend time. I have a set of values, many of which are contingent.  Some are not. I am an extremely tolerant person but even the most tolerant reach their limits. Two things that are sacred to me are respect for the outdoor spaces and respect for oneself.  People who don't have one will not have the other    And that is where I drew my line.  Like the great John Muir said, 

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.

Fortunately, I have fallen in with a great group of rock jockeys, both guys and gals.  And I have been blessed to spend about every other day at Ijams advancing our skill set on sport routes.  It is a thrilling time in South Knoxville with all that has been done in the Urban Wilderness and I have been extremely gratified for the opportunity to indulge this latent passion.  Climbing peaks throughout the world often requires differing skill sets and contrary to what most folks think, this type of climbing isn't really one of them.  Of course, there are technical routes on mountains that employ rock and ice or dry tooling work.  But these are typically reserved for far more accomplished alpinists than myself.  On some peaks you may have the occasional technical section so it isn't as if these skills are totally useless.  Broad Peak, for example is a fixed rope from bottom to the top.  But that fixed rope climbing involves a serious relationship with knots and ascenders.  You need to know how to handle a 5.9 rock section independent of a fixed rope that is frayed and years old.  Because Broad Peak is somewhat technical, only three alpinists have summited it this year.  Compare that to a typical Everest season when over 300 folks top out.

I do have plans for a couple of backpacking trips in the coming weeks with different folks.  So it is a quality versus quantity paradigm.  In the meantime, we climb every day possible and throw in a mountain bike ride or run on the gravity trail.

Work on my book continues and is near completion.  Presently the finishing touches are being applied and the cover work and illustrations are being sorted.  Equally exciting for me is the prospect of the next expedition to Tibet in April.  I am planning an attempt on Cho Oyu in the Spring.  Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain on Earth and I will be organizing an expedition with my old friend, Andrea Rigotti, veteran of three Himalayan expeditions and two of his climbing mates I haven't yet met.  It means that my training will resume in October and the mountain of logistics will ramp up throughout the winter.  This is all provided that the Chinese keep Tibet open in the Spring. They closed all climbing this Fall due to political reasons.  The Chinese don't want any media coverage of potential protests by Tibetans.

So that is what has been up with me.  Several folks have been out to the crag with us and are exhibiting proficiency at an accelerated rate. It is fun to watch newbies get "the bug".   I wish everyone a pleasant late Summer.