Yesterday in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the IOC struck the decisive blow against including sport climbing as an Olympic event for the 2020 games. It was a decision that saw baseball, squash, and the sport I feel was unjustly ousted, wrestling, as possible candidates for reintroduction to the games. Although climbing as an Olympic event would have brought prestige, popularity, and spectators for the sport, I feel that sport climbing is not quite ready for it’s prime-time spotlight. It’s a sport that emphasizes collaboration and teamwork over rivalries, that represents global partnerships rather than dividing by countries, and which promotes skill, flexibility, and finesse over raw strength. I feel that an olympic debut for climbing, something that has yet to be seen on a global scale, would introduce the sport to many for the wrong reasons. I feel that climbing’s natural increase in popularity should come from a natural love of the sport and not the competitiveness that would ultimately come from seeing it on TV. Thus I feel I should state my case for why climbing should not be an Olympic event.
Seattle is known for many things. It’s mountains, it’s coffee, and especially it’s thriving and unique music scene. It was the Pacific Northwest that bred the great bands of the 90′s, but the city lends itself to an eclectic and unique breed of talent that uses homemade instruments to revive and continue older and traditional songwriting styles. This weekend I was invited to the Folklife Festival, a yearly gathering of worldwide folk music, not just through traditional American banjo bands, but through Irish foot stomping fiddles, trance-like middle eastern drums and flutes, Native American drum circles, and even intellectual hip hop poetry. As we walked around the grounds, discovering each new busker or band, everyone had something different to bring to the table.
May 20th, 2012 was supposed to be one of the best days of my climbing career. I was poised to summit Rainier, get my first peak, my first snow and ice climb and accomplish a task I had trained long and hard though. Instead it was one of the most terrifying days of my life. Caught and devoid of energy in a windswept snowstorm, turned around 500 ft under the summit. unable to see because of ice buildup in my goggles, and having to have others help guide my way through tricky narrow pathways, it was a day that made me question many things and almost completely quit climbing. It was a sobering and eye opening lesson on how wrong things can turn very quickly.
After Rainier, I got myself together. That in inconsolable feeling of having come so close and those last 500 ft have felt like a weight on my shoulders. It was unfinished business, so I decided I had to move. A year later I’m not living under the shadow, I get to look at it almost every day, and i’m living among talented, inspiring, and established climbers who i’ve already learned so much from. So having put the experience in my past, I’d like to reflect on what this experience has meant so far and where my future is headed.
When I was 11 years old, my mother took me to see “Everest”, the extravagant IMAX film which followed a group of climbers as they scaled the peak in the face of overwhelming tragedy. As I walked out of that theater, with images of triumph and conquest in my head, I knew I wanted to climb. Growing up in Florida, it would take over a decade and a trip to Nepal before I could make it happen, but in that time I diligently followed the expeditions and I knew the names of climbers the same way that people know their favorite athletes. For me Everest has always represented an ultimate endeavor, a test of physical and mental strength, and the chance to stand on top of the world.
In recent years, the romance of the mountain has been devastated. Sensationalized by Into Thin Air, the account of the 1996 tragedy, Everest has been turned into a circus, where triumph and achievement has been overcome by stories of death, chaos, and in recent weeks, a fist fight between climbers and Sherpas. With the peak now becoming a footnote and a joke in the eyes of other climbers, I want to share why it still means so much to me.
What is truly surprising about Washington state is the diversity of the landscape. The Olympic and Cascade ranges dominate the west with their soaring peaks extending all the way to British Columbia, the beaches in the east are lined with lush, mossy coastal rainforest, and in the east, the gray of the city opens up into red rocks, deserts, and canyons running the course of the Columbia River. Our first hike of the year was advertised as being a short two mile jaunt through flat desert lands, admiring the canyons and camping out by the river.
It turned out to be so much more.
Yesterday I celebrated my 27th birthday. It was the first day where I was able to walk around and properly explore my new city. Although I wasn’t able to get any hiking or climbing in just yet, I treated myself to learning to make Dim Sum, enjoying a cappuccino in my favorite cafe, and enjoying the sunny and cloudless weather. Despite not knowing many people, yesterday was as perfect as could be. So with that, I also bought myself a new camera. I can go back to photographing, exploring and taking a documentation of the every day.
I’m finally back, and I finally re-found the motivation to give this site the attention that it deserves. Admittedly the last few weeks have not yielded my most productive blogging time, and the transition from Miami to Seattle has had it’s rough patches. Things are starting to clear up and I don’t have any excuses anymore. With the weather starting to warm, the tree outside my window sprouting the spring blooms, and the majestic peaks that I can see from my window in full view, i’m ready to fulfill every reason why I came here. Ready to start exploring, ready to get outside, and ready to climb again. So this post is going to be a little more off the cuff than usual: half apology, half confession, half manifesto. I have a lot of ideas in my head, and it’s time to start putting them to work.