Thursday, 9 June 2016

How to be a rock climber...

...according to the fine gentleman at IFHT

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Gear I Love (2016 edition)

Who doesn’t love gear? But maybe more appropriately, to my female readers, who doesn’t love gear and clothes? I LOVE clothes! As a climber and skier my obsession with clothing is two-fold; I love clothes because of they way they look and how they make me feel when I wear them, but I also love how they function and help me perform at my best. This will be my third “The Gear I Love” blog post and for those of you who have read my previous posts here, and here you’ll know that I’m unabashedly feminine in my approach to mountain clothing. It’s got to look good, or I won’t wear it. I spend more time in smelly mountain clothes than anything else and if it makes me feel fat, or my butt look saggy then I’m having none of it.

My previous posts have been directed towards my female audience, and this post is no different. So anyone who gets squirmy at the thought of talking about how a pair of skinny pants makes your butt look good, then please scroll on through to the next blog post. As with my previous posts I like to focus on clothing and gear “systems” rather than simply listing off a bunch of random pieces that I like. As summer is approaching, I’ve decided to present three of my favourite clothing systems for the activities that occupied most of my time last summer, alpine running, alpine rock climbing, and rock climbing.

As a slight upgrade from my last gear post, MEC’s photo team offered to take some artsy images of my clothing systems, as opposed to the images I’ve previously taken on my kitchen floor. Though the kitchen floor idea helps to keep things authentic, it really does a disservice to the clothing when it’s displayed next to my dirty stove.

Full disclosure here, MEC is my clothing sponsor, and has been for five years now. I feel incredibly lucky to have the support of my beloved Co-op. My roots with MEC run deep. Prior to becoming MEC’s first Athlete Ambassador I worked in the Head Office as an Assistant to MEC’s then, Chief Information Officer, Georgette Parsons. Coincidentally, Georgette was a role model in my working life, but also a style role model. She always wore the perfect blend of business classic and outdoor casual. The MEC team feels more family than business partner, and for that I am very grateful. So much has changed for the Co-op since I began as Ambassador. MEC apparel has always been well made and tough, but now, it’s also has some serious street appeal.

Continuing with full-disclosure, I’ve included some key pieces of gear from some of my other awesome sponsors, Petzl, Scarpa Footwear, and Julbo Eyewear as well. I worked hard to establish a relationship with each of these sponsors, and chose to pursue their support because I love the gear they make. I feel fortunate to partner with them because I’d be buying their gear regardless.

Alpine Running System

Let’s dig into it. First up, check out this most adorable image of my alpine running clothing and gear system. I’m a big fan of in-a-day backcountry scrambling missions that might otherwise take two or even three days. For these missions when speed is paramount I don’t want to carry around any extraneous weight. I’ve narrowed the ideal system down to the very basics, the Agility Tight, Y Not Bra, Sparrowgrass Short-Sleeved Top, Farpoint Jacket, Spicy Jacket, and Waterproof Enough Glove.

When attempting to run for much of the day, but also scrambling around on course rock I prefer tights. It allows for moisture wicking while I sweat and unrestricted movement while I scramble fast. The best feature of the Agility Tight might just be the waistband. It’s wide, with a little extra detailing that is just so flattering on us girls. I’m also partial to the fabric gathering around the ankle, which makes the tights pretty cute when you’re wearing them to Pure Bread after your big day.

On top, I pair the Y Not Bra under the loose fitting Sparrowgrass Short-Sleeved top. The Sparrowgrass is probably my all-time favorite MEC active t-shirt. I have, get ready for it, 5 of them in 5 different colors! It’s fabricated from a combination of polyester, wool, and spandex so it’s kind of the best of all worlds. The Sparrowgrass never has “memory stink” (for those of you who are unfamiliar with memory stink, it’s a shirt that you take into the mountains one too many times and it doesn’t matter how many times you wash it, it always remembers that stink). The loose fitting silhouette is always flattering no matter how many Pure Bread Lemon Basil scones I’ve downed before starting my mission and it stays well ventilated while I sweat. I should add I also like how you can see the spaghetti straps of the Y Not Bra under the loose scalloped neck of the Sparrowgrass. It’s all in the details ladies!

I am generally a very warm person, so I only need a simple wind layer to help keep me warm as I sprint through the mountains. I throw on the Farpoint Jacket (it packs into a tiny little pocket so you barely even notice it when you’ve got it stowed in your equally tiny day pack for this mission) to help block the wind and usually that’s all I need to stay happy. In my experience, during summing alpine missions the coldest element is always the wind. If you can put a barrier between your skin and the wind, you’ll stay reasonably warm while you move. When I stop for a quick bite, or a summit photo I throw on the Spicy Jacket. This jacket might be the single most important piece of gear in my whole kit. I think the Spicy is one of the most cutting edge pieces that MEC has made. Why? Because it weighs 210 grams and is made of 850 fill down. It’s ridiculously light, and ridiculously warm for it’s weight based on the high quality down that it’s filled with. For some perspective, Patagonia’s Ultralight Down Hoody weighs 269 grams and is made of 800 fill down. The Spicy Jacket is one of the lightest down jackets on the market right now. No joke!

Like I said, I’m generally a very warm person except for my extremities. I struggle to keep my hands and nose warm so I always travel in the mountains with a lightweight pair of gloves and headband. The Waterproof-Enough gloves are simple and “waterproof enough” that I can scramble around on a glacier without turning my hands into wet, cold prunes. I’m also a big fan of headbands, which double as a sweatband when I’m burning calories and a nose warmer when my nose is frosty early in the morning.

This is probably old news to most of you out there now, but the MEC Travel Light Pack series is incredible. I use these packs for alpine running, alpine climbing, and everything in between. They’re light, and simple. The pack displayed in the image here is the newer version of the Travel Light Daypack. It’s made of a lightweight 40-denier nylon which means it’s not super durable, but for the price and weight savings you can afford to have a couple waiting in the wings for when you tear through one. Buy these things in bulk people.

For alpine running missions I never really carry much water at one time. Why carry two litres of water when you will be jumping across pristine mountain creeks all day. I recommend traveling with a 750 ml HyraPak Stash, or maybe even less volume than that. Depends how long you can comfortably go between rehydrating. The HydraPak bottles are all designed to compress and a 750 ml Stash weighs less than a 1L Nalgene. Even if you decide to forego a backpack altogether during your mission, you can easily compress the HydraPak bottles to either carry in your hand while you run, or stuff into your pants or bra while you scramble.

I am a huge fan of Julbo glasses. I feel like a superstar wearing them, maybe it’s because they’re all designed in France and have that certain “je ne sais quoi”. The Julbo Breeze are my glasses of choice for mountain activities as they have a small frame for small heads but wide lenses to ensure maximum coverage of your sensitive eyes. They’re also made with photo chromatic lenses, which I am not going to try and explain here, but if you follow this link the fine folks at Julbo do a much better job of explaining the technology. Simply put, the lenses change from dark to light depending on the environment your in. So, if you’re in the trees, the lenses are light for better visibility in low light conditions. If you’re on a glacier the lenses are darker for better protection from the strong reflection.

I do most mountain running missions wearing my Scarpa Rapid LT’s. They’re a hybrid running shoe and approach shoe that incorporates the elements of approach shoes we love, sticky rubber, high traction treads, and durable composition, but also are made to be worn all day with a running shoe last. I wore my current pair for the whole season of mountain missions last year, and have still not worn them out.

No mountain running “system” would be complete without my most cherished and necessary piece of equipment, my iPod Shuffle. I don’t go on any adventure where a little suffering is anticipated without my Shuffle and the ability to blast Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber to help get me through the pain.

Alpine Rock Climbing System

My alpine rock climbing system incorporates many of the same elements of my alpine running system but adds a few more pieces. The commitment factor increases when you’re 10 pitches up an alpine route with 10 more to go and having the ability to hunker down, should weather come in or you find yourself getting benighted, is paramount.
The Constantia Pant is about as light as I’d go for alpine rock climbing, I can’t layer a long john under these, so I’d want to be sure of a warm forecast. The Constantia is another cutting edge, no-one-else-is-doing-it, kind of pieces from MEC. It’s a technical softshell pant, but made in a skinny silhouette. They are fabricated from Schoeller, one of the most widely recognized and respected soft-shell textiles available. The fabrication makes them extra bombproof, with incredible 4-way stretch. Wearing these pants is kind of like wearing tear resistant tights into the mountains. All these features make them quite versatile for alpine rock climbing, cragging, or even bouldering.

The Constantia Pant goes to Skaha. Photo, Robb Thompson.
I pair the Intensity Bra with the T1 Long Sleeved Shirt. The MEC T1 series is my perennial go-to for colder weather high-output activities like alpine climbing and skiing because no matter how much I sweat, once I stop moving the fabrication dries out super fast meaning I stay warmer. And, I should add, the adorable floral print really gets me. I always wear the simple long-sleeved crew because I hate having too much “stuff” around my neck when I add additional layers. So, if I wear the long-sleeved crew, I can easily pair it with a mid-layer without choking myself from too much bulk around my neck.

My mid-layer actually does double duty as a mid and outer layer. As an outer-layer, the Obsession Hoodie is lightly insulated and made of stretchy weather-protecting Schoeller. It has mapped insulation along the upper arms and chest to help keep warmth in while sitting at belays, and unlined stretch Schoeller around the forearms and shoulders where your jacket generally makes direct contact with the rock while climbing. As a mid-layer, the breathability of Schoeller makes the Obsession Hoodie effective during cold pre-dawn starts when I wear my down layer on top. As extra safety I carry the Spicy Jacket, because it weighs next to nothing, and can easily be added on top of everything should I get cold at belays or heaven forbid we get benighted. A small side note, I recommend having a Spicy Jacket in both a body hugging and lose fitting size. The body hugging size will be great for adventures wear you’ll be throwing it on over a t-shirt and the lose fitting size will be great for wearing over a base and mid-layer at belays.

I’ve also included in here a pair of Atlas 370 Nitrile Gloves. My good buddy Dan, who’s kind of like the mad scientist of alpine gear, discovered these gloves that were originally made for fisherman types. They have an extra grippy coating on the palm of the hand making them great for climbing easy rock pitches if you’re hands are super cold at the beginning of the day. They also weigh next to nothing, and are cheap enough that you can trash a pair in one trip and not feel guilty about it.

Even though it looks funny, and let’s be honest, it does look funny, the Petzl Sirocco Helmet is the best climbing helmet I’ve ever owned. It’s incredibly light, 165 grams as opposed to 300 grams of the Petzl Elios helmet. I’ve even seen the Petzl rep step directly on the top of this helmet and watch it bounce back up. For fast and light climbing, there is no helmet better and more durable than this one. So, just get over the fact that it looks funny, and wear it.

I have been a huge fan of the Petzl Hirundos harness and use it for all applications of climbing, sport, trad, and alpine. It’s the perfect combination of comfort, weight and functionality as it’s light but still maintains two gear loops on each side.

For alpine rock climbing I typically wear the Scarpa Reflex Velcro shoe. It’s flat last makes it super comfortable for wearing all day. When buying shoes for the mountains always keep top of mind that you’ll be wearing them all day, stuffing your feet in all kind of cracks, and by the time you’re halfway through the day your feet will have swollen to twice their size from all the beating up. The Reflex is also a super light and simple shoe, weighing 216 grams as opposed to the TC Pro at 494 grams. Weight matters people, especially for us girls, so pare it down where you can!

Rock Climbing System 
(though not really a system, so much as just a cool looking outfit) 

What I wear when I go rock climbing around my home here in Squamish really comes down to pure aesthetics, but if I really think about it, there are some important elements of function in there as well. My absolutely favorite climbing pant right now is the Sanchalia Pant. When I was in Chamonix several years ago I fell in love with the Alps, but I also fell in love with the French climbing jeans made by Simond. These jeans were articulated for climbing, had 4-way stretch, and an elasticized cuff. All the important elements of a climbing pant, and they were totally flattering too. At the time, I just couldn’t convince myself to buy a pair, probably because I’d already blown my budget on pastries. When I caught wind that the MEC team was briefing a similar idea, I was stoked. Behold Ladies, a pair of jeans that look great on, but also perform well on the rock. This is the epitome of peak to street fashion. I should add, an important component of any rock climbing or bouldering pant for me is an elasticized cuff. There is nothing more annoying than trying to heel hock, or find a small foothold while you’re pumped but being unable to do so because the cuffs of your pants keep getting in the way.

I keep repeating myself but, I sweat a lot so I almost always climb around in a tank top. This season I discovered the Sequence collection, which is made of performance polyester but includes a spandex jersey fabrication making the tank feel soft like cotton. The Atlantis color that I have displayed here is my favorite because the material is slightly perforated giving it some texture.

For belaying in the trees, or warming up I wear my Campfire Hoodie which my friend Sheri calls a “snuggie” and she’s kind of right, it’s like being swaddled in a million puppies. This hoodie is so pretty, look at the colors. They’re incredible! I like this outfit a lot, not only because it includes all the important elements of stretch, technical fabrication, and versatility, but it’s also something I’d wear around town. And that’s important to me.

Thanks to MEC for the swanky gear "systems" images. And naturally, thanks for my buddies, climbing partners, and incredible photographers Robb Thompson, Jamie Finlayson, and Rich So for all the other pretty images. MEC posted a condensed version of this blog post on their own blog, here. That was fun, let's do it again next year!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

An image by Kay Nielsen from the Norwegian children's fairytale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
I've brought you along, dear reader, on a journey these last four years. It's never been my thing to pretend, I don't like leading you astray as you follow me through life. Sometimes it's been super awesome, and sometimes it's mostly just sucked. My life isn't perfect, nor is anyone's despite what we might think sometimes.

So with this in mind I guess I'll just share this with you; I said good-bye to my best friend, someone I loved more than anyone, a while ago now. Closing this last chapter of life has been the most difficult period of my 35 years. I've done my best to travel this road with as much grace and dignity as possible, but I know that I've made mistakes. I wish there was a template, a series of steps one could simply follow to boldly move forward into the new paradigm, but I just don't think there is. 

As I look back on the last half a year I can see themes building, and though it's painful to analyse, I think it's an important part of the process.

Probably what shines through the strongest is how integral the mountains have been during this change. I've felt an almost constant nagging to be in motion since we parted way, and the mountains have been my one source of joy during these last months. Surrounded by my friends, running against the wind in an alpine meadow, feeling the cold snow on my face, hearing the sound of a glacial stream, powder turns, sweat running down my face, being run out, all of these things bring me one step closer to peace, and I need this right now. In the mountains I feel a connection to the past, but can live for the future. 

Strangely, social media feels as though it has a place in this analysis. Ah social media, that giant black hole of validation and affirmation. I've inundated you with images and stories of adventure, which on the surface is so fun and light-hearted, but at its root is my own subversive attempt to find solace and validation in my achievements as I've struggled to come to terms with who I am now. I don't want you to think my life is one blissful adventure to the next. I don't want to coerce you into thinking I'm anything more than a girl who really likes to climb. Sure, I'm driven and I get out a lot, but I'm not Lynn Hill, Ingrid Backstromm, or Ines Papert. Glossy images of beautiful places can be misleading, and I'm no hero. I just happen to have friends that take pretty pictures, and maybe a slight inclination towards photography myself.

It's easy to confuse social media with a news source. Let me assure you, my social media channels are not a news source, I do not do anything news worthy. I do however have a strong desire to share stories and images of my journey. And it's been a journey! I don't know why, but maybe in part, it helps me process everything that's transpired. I also hope that through my own story, you too can find comfort in difficult times. So, if you feel I've lead you astray, please accept my apology and know that I'm here for no other reason than to say, "I've done it, and so can you!" I won't be offended if you don't feel like following my social media posts, but if you want to join me on my journey of life, then saddle up dear reader cuz it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

I guess I'll just close by acknowledging that the life that I had forged for myself in the company of my best friend was beautiful. We experienced success, failure, happiness, and sadness together, as I'm certain you've experienced with those you choose to love as well. I know my 35-year-old-self well enough, to know that I become easily overwhelmed with difficult times. For me, these periods seem to have no end, and the pain seems permanent. But for goodness sake if 35 years has taught me anything, it should be that pain never lasts. The goodness of my past is part of me now, it will always be there, but the goodness of my future is just around the corner.

Kay Neilsen
I don't want to wait anymore I'm tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there's music and there's laughter
I don't know if I'm scared of dying but I'm scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I've got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on

And you've just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can't worry 'bout what's behind you or what's coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong

I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I've made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won't take the easy road

I've woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am

Something good comes with the bad
A song's never just sad
There's hope, there's a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I've made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won't take the easy road
~ First Aid Kit

I have a lot of catching up to do on my blog, because let's face it, I have been busy! To begin, let me share some photos and short stories from the people and places that have helped me find my way.

This past summer, I sort of became a runner. Running might just be the most emotionally stabilising sport out there. In fact, this quote kind of makes me chuckle, “I love running. I’m not into marathons, but I am into avoiding problems at an accelerated rate.” ~ Jarod Kintz. As you'll see, most of my alpine missions became more of an alpine "running" mission than a climbing trip. I hate heavy packs, and nothing gets me more psyched than racing up a mountain in a day, on a trip that would otherwise take 2 days. Maybe I also just really like wearing my alpine short shorts and a tank top while scampering around the mountains.

Rich and I decided to day trip Castle Tower (2675 m) in a remote corner of Garibaldi Provincial Park in late July. Living in Squamish, Garibaldi Park is my "backyard" so it only seemed natural to sleep comfortably in my own bed, wake early, race up the mountain, and return home in time for Pure Breads. I always leave the calculations to Rich, and he says we travelled about 40 km, gained 3000 m of elevation, and managed 10.5 hrs car-to-car. Castle Towers is generally completed as a two or three day adventure.

OK, maybe this picture was posed. Photo, Rich So.

Morning mist, and alpine short shorts. Photo, Rich So.

Running on to the Helm Glacier, which should be noted, is almost entirely gone. Eek! Photo, Rich So.

Rich scrambling with Garibaldi Lake below. Fun fact about Garibaldi Lake; At it's far northwestern end lava flow from nearby volcanoes formed a natural dam creating the lake. One day, when we have the earth's-biggest-earthquake this natural barrier will most likely be broken, releasing the lake and taking out my dear town of Squamish. Crazy! Photo, Sarah Hart.

Me, making a couple of technical moves as we near the summit. Photo, Rich So.

Yup, that's all she wrote for this mountain adventure, alpine short shorts, my beloved Spicy Jacket and my pink Travel Pack. So light, and so nice. Photo, Rich So.

Rich about to tag the summit. Photo, Sarah Hart.

That's me. Photo, Rich So.
The following weekend was another alpine running mission. This time, with my good friends Kelly and Julie. There's a cool new hiking trail around Rainbow Mountain, across the valley from Whistler. The trail, I believe it's called the Skywalk Trail, is great for running and pops you out at Iceberg Lake below Rainbow's East Glacier. The ridge scrambling from there is super duper fun.

Kelly scrambling along Rainbow's long East Ridge. Photo, Sarah Hart.

My buddies. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Kelly looks out across the Whistler valley. Photo, Sarah Hart.
Elise is my soul sister, and spending time with her always brings me peace. In September we ran/scrambled Mt. Tszil (2377 m) in the Joffre Lake area. This is an awesome mountain running adventure, I'd recommend it to anyone. With the recent trail work on the Joffre Lakes trail system, running to the third Joffre Lake takes no time at all, and then you're in the alpine!

Elise on the summit of Mt. Tszil, overlooking the Pemberton valley. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Yes, this shot is about as cliche as it gets, and also kind of ironic. Photo, Sarah Hart.
After all that running around, I was apparently, at least according to Rich, ready for something a little slower. So I joined Rich and Nick on a two day "fast packing" trip around the Pinecone-Burke divide, in Pinecone-Burke Provincial Park. It should be noted, the park incorporates some of the traditional territory of the Katzie First Nation. It's an incredibly fun high alpine ridge scramble that circumnavigates Pinecone Lake. We were above treeline almost the whole time, but for all the nerdy specs of the trip, we'll have to wait for Rich to finish his trip report. I should add, with these boys, nudity is pretty much guaranteed as you'll see below.

Rich's naked butt, and a beautiful alpine tarn. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Naked again. Rich and Nick jump into Pinecone Lake after dinner. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Our bivy! Photo, Sarah Hart.

Nick's naked butt, and some mountains. Atwell Peak and Garibladi are visible in the distance. Photo, Sarah Hart.
One last mountain running adventure to wrap up the season. I'd just raced the Rubble Creek Classic, one of the oldest organised trail races in British Columbia, dating back to 1985. The course travels 25 km from Chekamus Lake, through the high alpine of Helm Creek Meadows and then down through Rubble Creek. It's an institution and only a small number of racers are permitted each year. I felt lucky to make the roster and even luckier to experience my first runners high during the race. I was on top of the world. Though, it's hard to know if it was the chemicals coursing through my body, or just the Taylor Swift pumping through my speakers. I will run this race every year now! Following the race, Rich, Kate and I ran/climbed Blackcomb Buttress, on Blackcomb Peak. 

Not the best weather for a scramble up Blackcomb Buttress. But, whatever. Photo, Sarah Hart.

Kate traversing onto the buttress proper. Photo, Sarah Hart.
No report would be complete without a few stories and images of my first love, bouldering. I spent countless hours in the forest around my home picking away at my projects. I love climbing. One of my favourite climbing partners, Jamie Finlayson, always comes prepared with his camera. So, below are a few of his images, along with one from my friend Andrew Querner

The Weasel. This wiley weasel had evaded me for years, and years. Some problems just really get under your skin. This past summer I finally sent the thing. I love to hate this one. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Method, a test in technical skill, and falling. This problem is awesome, but will require some serious focus, which is not my strong point. Photo, Jamie Finalyson.

The apple of my eye right now, Permanent Waves. This route was established by my hero Jim Sandford way back in 1993. It's one of the most stunning routes I've ever seen, and I am totally infatuated with it. Naturally, it plays to my strengths with a gentle 5.12 warm-up to a V9 boulder problem. Photo, Andrew Querner.
And here's my other obsession, The Black Hole. I came painfully close to sending this problem last fall. I'll be back for it this spring for sure. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Black Hole up close. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

The Weasel up close. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Under the Cover of Darkness

There is a burgeoning sub-culture in our Squamish climbing community. It’s not the obvious; Boulderers are not taking to ropes, and roped climbers are not giving up their bolts. It has to do with darkness, something that those of us living north of the 49th parallel learn to live with a lot of. Each Fall, when we *sigh* turn our clocks back, darkness is really all we know as card-carrying 9-5 commuters. There’s simply no way to get home in time to catch the last rays of sun on still-warm rock. And so a sub-culture has emerged. Under the cover of darkness boulderers have begun sleuthing about the forest with crash pads and lanterns in tow, vibrating with unbridled motivation. Because let’s face it, you need a lot of motivation to pack-up and leave your warm house at 7:30 pm in the pitch black.

I emerge from the "Black Hole" as darkness falls and our session is just getting underway. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.


I find myself totally smitten with the groups of boulderers quietly gathered around a lantern-lit boulder, discussing beta, listening to Odesza (because, when bouldering under the cover of darkness you must remain in a chill state of mind. No loud metal music here -- save that for the daylight). On any given cold and crisp night, there are three or four different groups of boulderers each huddled around their chosen nights objective.

Yes, I am emerging from a "Black Hole" which also happens to be the name of this problem and also perhaps, aptly describes my current state of mind. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.
These night warriors are not faint of heart; They are driven, they are motivated, and they are sending. I find this small, but perhaps growing sub-culture to be particularly inspiring. Many of these people have day jobs, have families, have children. They wear many hats and yet maintain a stubborn dedication to hard climbing. So much so that they/we have turned the dark, cold forest into our own personal bouldering gym. There is a lot of camaraderie among this ragtag group of bouldering outcasts. We hold a particular respect for one another knowing that sheer grit and determination is what’s bringing us together each night.

Yours truly on her project yet again. Photo, Kerim Ntumba Tshimanga.
As I type this post, there’s a shipment of eight rechargeable LED floodlights in the mail for myself and my crew of night boulderers. We will push the season to the bitter end, and almost certainly all under the protective cover of darkness. Allow me to insert a small public service announcement here. Don’t limit yourself to the literal or metaphorical daylight dear reader. Think outside of the box to achieve your goals. There is the tinniest segment of our community with the privilege of pursuing their goals in the daylight hours. If you are not one of these people, don’t let it distract you from achieving what you want. I have the highest respect for those who cannot make climbing their sole focus, and yet, achieve a standard matching that of the full-time climber. The mental fortitude required to compete on a similar platform as those who can climb all day, any day, is underrated and not applauded enough.

For inspiration, we need not look very far. Squamish local, Luke Zimmerman, has a full-time career, is a husband, and father to twin boys. Luke has quietly been ticking off every hard boulder problem in Squamish. Or take one of my favorite climbing partners, Jamie Finlayson, who is the founding partner of a custom construction company, a husband, and this-just-in…a father! Jamie might just be the strongest climber in Squamish. It’s people like this, who lead ordinary lives in a very extraordinary way that I find most inspiring.

I think, the first step to surpassing the perceived limitations of an ordinary life, is to think extraordinarily.  I enourage you all to give it a try and perhaps...get comfortable under the cover of darkness.

The Weasel, as darkness falls. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

Darkness cometh. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

Kelly and I have recently taken to working The Egg by lantern. Photo, Kelly Franz.

Like a night vision, Kelly emerges from the darkeness to...get shut down on The Egg, as has been our luck so far. Photo, Sarah Hart.
The Egg, and a dark, dark hole. Photo, Kelly Franz.