Saturday, August 18, 2012

Follow Through

The Early Winter Spires and Liberty Bell Mountain.

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk.  That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
-Ernest Hemingway 

While many grand adventures are born several pints deep at the edge of the bar;  it is for good reason that many adventures are laid to rest at the bottom of the glass.  The packs are always lighter, the miles always shorter and the pitches always less steep when slurring through a fog of alcohol induced courage.  Over the years and through many partners I have learned to accept that when the rubber meets the road,  plans for grade V climbs have a tendency to get watered down to days at the crags, and multi-day traverses through remote ranges often diminish into an overnight bivy and a scramble up a local peak.  Likely, this is all for the best though.   

When I make arrangements with my friend Darin however, this tends not to be the case. 

Somewhere in the haze of a weekend of climbing and debauchery last summer, I threw the idea of a completely human powered ascent of Liberty Crack to Darin, and slightly to my surprise he actually seemed interested.  Fresh off my Mount Olympus odyssey and a little inebriated, I exalted the virtues of  alpinism by bicycle and the purity of a completely human powered adventure over the flicker of a smoldering campfire.  I took another pull off the bottle of whiskey, handed it to Darin and watched him  take the bait;  I have always been an exceptional bullshitter.  

Like many such conversations, I figured the sobriety of a morning hangover would likely ebb the enthusiasm of the previous night's high, but I should have known better.  Darin called my bluff and went home and bought a bike.  He began pedaling to work and going on long weekend rides.  He visited me in the city and we trained together.   We went to Index and he taught me how to aid climb fast without a cluster-fuck of gear tied in knots around my head.  He rode his bike from his house in Bellingham and soloed moderate lines in the Sisters Range.  In short, Darin went to work training.  

In early August Darin and I rendezvoused in Sedro Wooley and set out to accomplish a goal that was a year in the making.  I could elaborate on the details and try to explain the difficulty of pulling a trailer full of climbing gear 200 miles over the mountains the day Darin came to understand the term "pain cave".  I could attempt to rationalize how stepping out on rusty pins pounded in a detached block thousands feet off the ground defies all sense of self-preservation and logic.   I could tell a story of a woman who treated me like a homeless meth addict when I tried to bum a beer at the Blue Lake Trailhead.  I could try to describe of the pure joy of speeding down an empty Highway 20 at 50 mph as the sun rose on my back and Colonial Peak grew taller before me, or of the despair of Skagit headwind that blew at a steady 15 mph from Newhalem to the Sea. The truth is however, that my writing is inadequate to do these stories justice and my words would likely dilute the richness of the experience.  You just had to be there.   

I think the best thing to say is that many of my most special days in the mountains I have shared with my buddy Darin.  I am thankful for his unique ability to follow through.

That's how I roll,


Locked, loaded and Patriotic.

Never leave home without a set of Bubba Teeth.

I don't really need much excuse to take breaks while riding, but passing up raspberries growing wild in the ditch is just dumb.

Chip seal, crops and storms in the Skagit Valley.

The Old Skagit Highway is a nice bypass for cyclists off Highway 20 between Sedro Woolley and Concrete.

Definitely a theme for the trip.

Darin lit up like a little boy at Christmas when we arrived at Rockport and he discovered this relic of his youth had been lovingly restored.

With evidence like this, it is beyond me why the Satsquatch debate is still alive.

One of the best kept secrets and valuable natural resources of the Pacific Northwest.

Diablo Dam was completed in 1930 and once stood as the world's tallest concrete structure at 389 feet.  Still a pretty impressive place to stand today.    

Darin knows which way we are going....up.

Nearing the end of a long day we get the first glimpse of Liberty Bell from Highway 20.


Morning approach.  Liberty crack ascends near the left hand skyline of the right peak in the photo.

Pitch 1:  5:11 for some of us and a whole lot of A0 for others.

The Lithuanian Lip was named after Alex Bertulis who completed the first two ascents of the overhang in 1965.  Pretty wild pitch of climbing.

Long pitches of continuous cracks on good rock with solid gear characterize my lasting impressions of climbing Liberty Crack. 

More convincing proof.

Pretty nice to break up a long ride hanging out with these two.

Nothing quite as fun as sticks.  Testosterone poisoning. 

My lovely mother tries to talk me out of most of my adventurous plans, but the truth is she has always encouraged me to stick my nose out in the world and take chances.  I am thankful for her influence in my life.  


  1. Matt, it's Spencer here from CrossFIt Seattle. Just wanted to drop you a line -- I check up on your blog every now and then and I love reading your TRs and hearing about your adventures and perspectives. You have a great way of writing and capturing everything -- looking forward to many more stories to come!


    1. Thanks Spencer! Great to hear from you. Hope ls going well at Med School!