Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dave's Front Door

High fiving, balding and slightly fat white guys.

Are you really going to make me ride out there Matt?, Dave lamented as we stuffed our packs with climbing gear and food for the day.  My ass still hurts from yesterday's ride, he continued to complain as we strapped on our climbing helmets and shouldered our packs.  Oh joy, here we go on a Front Door Adventure! Dave grumbled as we  rolled down the driveway of his house and headed west towards the Snow Creek trial head.

Ignoring Dave's whining, I cheerfully pedaled onward into the perfect spring morning reminding Dave of how fortunate he is to be living within biking distance of some of the best rock climbing in Washington State.  I think I will just pedal standing up for the next couple miles, was all the enthusiasm he could muster in response.  I would have expected nothing less.

My relationship with Dave got off to a bit of a rocky start in Mrs. Baxter's class at the Lutheran Preschool in Snohomish in 1981.  Despite the fact that Dave has grown into fairly well-adjusted and benevolent adult, the truth is he was kind of a mean kid.  I clearly remember the day he denied me access to his "Super Heros Club" because I didn't have the right toy and sent me away to play tea party with the the girls in the corner.  My young self-esteem was crushed.  Dave eventually came around and took pity on me,  gave me a broken Superman doll and elevated my social status enough to be accepted into the inner court of 5 year-old boys who held tight control of the Prince of Peace playroom.
After High School, both Dave and I discovered climbing was a lot simpler and cheaper than women and dedicated our young lives to exploring the mountains of the the Pacific Northwest.  We cut our teeth on classic alpine routes of the North Cascades and managed not to kill ourselves in the process.  In the Spring of 2003, determined to quit sucking so bad at rock climbing,  Dave and I loaded my truck up and headed south to serve our apprenticeship on the granite cracks of Joshua Tree and the multi-pitch classics of Red Rock, Nevada.   That two month road trip culminated with our triumphant return to Washington and an ascent of Outer Space, the super-classic Grade III 5.9 on Snow Creek Wall in Leavenworth.  We had graduated to real climbers.   I took many leader falls that trip and Dave farted a lot; but we cemented a friendship and built a strong trust that lasts to this day.

We chained our bikes at the Snow Creek Trailhead, crossed the raging Icicle Creek and hiked steadily upward through a burnt out forest of Pine and lush green undergrowth.  Spring melt water cascaded down across the trial as we gained elevation and provided cool refills for our water bottles as the trail became snow covered at 2500 feet.  We dropped down and managed a crossing of Snow Creek via fresh log jams and stomped our way through the windfall and brush to the base Orbit, our selected route for the day.

After picking off the ticks that were burrowing into my legs, I quickly racked up and led up the approach pitches to where the wall steepens and the climbing becomes more serious.  The nervous hesitation and rust of winter ebbed as I buried my fingers in warm granite cracks, slotted gear and smeared the rubber soles of my shoes into the sharp edges of crystalline quartzite.  The wind blew hard and communication between belays became impossible, but hundreds of shared pitches over the years has eliminated the need for discourse.  I know that Dave will climb when the rope comes tight and he knows the anchor will be solid when he arrives at the belay.  I dare say we climbed seamlessly up the wall in the cool spring afternoon.

Several years have passed since Dave and I first climbed Snow Creek Wall and many things have change in our lives.  Much to the relief of both of our mothers, we are both happily married men and Dave is the proud father of a one year old boy.  While once a huge priority to me, rock climbing has moved to the periphery of my life as dictated by my choice to live a little closer to home and my self-imposed environmental ethics of recreation.  I still love climbing and the fluid movement and singular focus it brings,  but I am no longer willing to saddle up and drive a hundred miles for a few pitches of stellar hand jams.  I must admit though,  as we sat for a moment in the afternoon sun, alone on the top of Snow Creek Wall overlooking Leavenworth in the valley thousands of feet below I remembered how good it feels to live in the vertical world;  I miss climbing a lot.

I catch plenty of shit from plenty of folks for my Front Door Adventure show, but to tell you the truth I don't really care much.  I decided a while ago that I was going to do things a little differently, a little slower and little more sustainably.  I might never climb in the great ranges of the world, and I hold no delusion that riding a bike to the mountains is going to save the planet.  I do have faith though that a few people will take notice of a guy having a lot of fun making an effort to leave the world a little better than he found it.  Maybe one of those people will discover the richness that leaving the car behind adds to an adventure; that is good enough for me.

When Dave's ass feels better, I am pretty sure he will admit he had a good time rolling from his front door as well.  He has always been a great partner and I am thankful for his friendship.

That's how I roll,


 The original mountain bike.  The 1997 steel Specialized Rockhopper.  Dave doesn't understand how awesome and classic this bike is. 

Dave loves riding bikes to the crags.  I think he needs a bike with a little shorter wheelbase to maximize discomfort and misery.  Snow Creek Wall is the gray wedge just above the green roof.

The Forest Service was kind enough to install custom bike racks at the Snow Lakes Trailhead. No parking permit required.

The Sleeping Lady.

Snow Creek Wall.  Orbit hugs the left side of the wall and ascends through the roof at 3/4 height.  

No adventure in the Cascades would be complete without a log crossing and a little bushwack.

Dave is smiling because hanging belays are far more comfortable than his bicycle seat.

Davey, sending the crux in fine style.

A little runout and plenty spooky, Dave nears the belay of pitch four.

Dave looking out to the Bavarian Paradise of Leavenworth from atop Snow Creek Wall.

Oreamnos americanus.

Ixodes pacificus.  A.K.A Nasty Little Bastard

I took the Amtrak Empire Builder from Seattle to Leavenworth for $40 round trip (cheaper than driving).  My only complaint is that you can not transport a bike because the Leavenworth "station" lacks the infrastructure for a cargo stop.  Despite, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip over the mountains and Jill was kind enough to let me borrow the Engagement Bike for the week; a sweet multipurpose ride!

Emil Wolverton Svilar at one year old.  I know what young Emil will be getting for his birthday.

Here is where it all began.  Mrs. Baxter's Prince of Peace Preschool, 1981.

No comments:

Post a Comment