Tuesday, December 22. 2009
I stood on the dance floor, wondering what I was doing. In answer to Brandon Flowers' poignant question: I am most certainly a human.
A lame human at that.
I had been invited to a dance/swimming party at the local rec center, and thought "what could I lose". In all reality, nothing. Especially since I made Jason pay for my entrance fee. At first I gave it my best shot to try and be normal. I moved my body rhythmically to music to somehow make an impression. This lasted about 20 seconds. Then I got distracted by the red and green lasers, and started to think "What color does red and green light make again?", which I pondered for a few minutes while the party went on around me. "Hey, dance" she said. Oh yeah, that thing we're supposed to do. I moved around some more in very Caucasian fashion until I noticed how incredibly cool the strobe lights were. This sucked me in for much longer than the lasers.
They weren't normal stroke lights, oh no. They were LED strobe lights, each with a set of red, green, and blue LEDs that could strobe at various intensities.
"Why aren't you dancing?"
"You know those strobe lights are probably capable of producing over 16 million colors?"
If the dance floor was designed to get people together based on the merit of how much control you have over your extremities, I was definitely breaking the rules.
"Evacuate the dance floor" was sung over the speakers. I obeyed. It was like cosmic bowling without the bowling, and now that I had analyzed the lighting system, I had lost interest. Jason had disappeared into the crowd long ago, likely he was on a quest to make people feel awkward. This was a favorite hobby of his.
I went to the lobby and did some people watching for a while. Laying on a couch on the outskirts of a crowd was far more comfortable for me than standing in the middle of one looking like a chimp wearing people cloths.
Jason came by and told me of his adventures in weirding people out.
All in the name of social experimentation. I decided to do my own experiment.
If social norms make one uncomfortable, the logical thing to do is break those social norms.
Jason's experiment involved a very active approach of going up to people and making them feel awkward (with hilarious results). Mine was far more passive. I made people come to me.
The dance was taking place on half a basketball court which was divided by a large curtain. The other half was vacated. I went to the empty court, used the symmetrical markings to find the exact center of the room, laid down, and watched the lights spill across the top of the curtain and dance on the ceiling. Who would ignore me, who would inquire, who would try to make me feel awkward?
I had quite a bit of time to myself, which was fine. But eventually they came. First were two guys who came and danced and skipped around me. I was not surprised that this was the first communal reaction, an act of superiority. Were they trying to make me feel self conscious? I raised my right hand, stuck out my pinky finger and thumb and twisted my wrist. This was enough to show they they weren't going to succeed and they left.
Next were two girls who walked over slowly and asked "Are you okay?" Honestly I hadn't considered that I might seem hurt or somehow sick. I mean, I chose the exact center of the floor to lie on. I said I was and they asked what I was doing, to which I responded "Watching the light show". They left before I could ask them if they wanted to join me.
Then came the girl that had invited me there. She ran across the room and before I knew it she was on the floor next to me. A fair response I suppose. She knew enough to not ask if I was alright. Jason came at some point and ended up a few meters away at a skewed angle. The girl's friend came too and they ended up doing push-ups or something. I had created a strange little world inside this sphere of social normalcy.
As I left, I saw the two girls that had come by earlier peek around the corner at me. Seems in all my passivity I was still able to shine brighter than the stars of the dance floor.
Since mid-week I had the plan to go ice climbing for my first time the next morning. I got home late, and organized my gear. I went to bed at 2:30 and got up at 6:30 so I could get to the Bridal Veil parking lot in Provo canyon by 8AM to meet my partners. I was early. Happens.
The thermometer screamed 16*F and I threw on another layer before exiting my warm jeep. Once a few of my partners had shown up, we stood around for a while waiting for a 5th. I threw on another layer. He never showed.
We made our way up to the climb, Stairway to Heaven. There was a guided group going up to the same area to teach the basics of ice climbing. I was glad that I had worked my way in to the outdoors community so I could avoid this for the time being. A few experienced partners that like you is all that you need and I had proven my fortitude in the past in other mountaineering pursuits. The waterfall was frozen mid-cascade so that it created a perfect beginner area with a walk up to a flat area about 1.5 meters wide on average that sat between the bottom two levels of the waterfall. This allowed for climbers to walk up and set toprope anchors without needing a leader, making for a great beginner area. But the 7 or so pitches above were great for those more experienced to get away from the crowded bottom.
As an experienced climber, I was able to help with the logistics of setting up toprope anchors. It was a new experience to chip away at the ice to try and find the bolts anchored to the rock beneath. I found a few and set up an anchor on them, while another in our party set up an anchor by slinging an ice column (that was later backed up by a screw attached to another column). We had two ropes to climb on. Suddenly a leader came up over the edge of the ice. I asked him how long the lead took, and he said a half hour. Wow. We talked and I said it was perfectly okay if he shared the anchor. Turns out he was the one who put the bolts in, so that seems fair. I rapped off the rope, which didn't quite reach the ground, and downclimbed a short step to reach the base of the falls.
As we took turns, I first belayed someone on one of our routes so I could watch his technique. He made it up the route in style, strengthened the anchor with a screw, and I lowered him off.
I tied in and took my first steps up the vertical ice, trying to remember everything I had "book learned" and put it into practice. Some of it pretty contrary to rock climbing such as "keep your heels down". I worked through the bulgy cauliflower ice which made for some fun climbing, and moved on to a more blank face. I scanned it with my eyes for good tool placements, sank them in a few millimeters, and pulled off, moving my feet up. And keeping my heels down. Lots to remember when it's not natural yet. I made it up without falling and was lowered off.
I spent some time talking to Matt about climbs we've done, or intend on doing. About why we do this. About how cragging and waterfall ice is to hone our skills for routes we want to do to summits. Good to see I'm not the only one who has that philosophy on climbing.
I went up one last time, after picking the right pair of gloves. I started to feel solid and get in the swing of things. Toward the top I was in a small indent, a few feet wide. I kicked my feet in about 3 feet apart, placed my tools above me. All 4 points were solid. I took a few moments to take it all in. I looked between my legs and the ice to see Matt on the other end of my rope, 50 or 60 feet below. The steepness was boggling, and the newness of being held up there by points on my feet and in my hands was outrageous. I smiled. I felt no fear. I laughed to myself and vocalized to no one how awesome this was.
I came down and realized how tired I was. I thanked them for letting me climb and went off home to take a nap. All in all an awesome, comfortable day in the mountains. Funny how backwards my comfort level is.
Friday, December 4. 2009
A lot of people don't understand my climbing of mountains. Why I'd expend the energy, or take the risk. Why I would skip sleep to hike for 20 hours or wake up at 4 AM to go up a 50 degree snow couloir for several thousand vertical feet. Yeah, it's a sufferfest. Yet for some reason I enjoy it. And I figure those who understand do, and those who don't just don't. I can't help you. Maybe one day you'll discover it, but I can't force you to.
But I do understand your point of view.
I fight laziness, I don't particularly like risk. One of my favorite hobbies is sleep. And I understand why you just plain and simply wouldn't care to stand on a mountaintop. There are plenty of things I don't care to be involved in that other people can't live without (football?)
A few years ago I was thinking about the fact that many (Most? All?) people out there have wondered what it would be like to fly. Dreamers for ages have longed for the feeling, which brought us airlines and thrill rides. I've thought about it many times. But then I thought about what the world would be like if we could fly. If it was normal, and we had always been able to. But say it takes a lot of effort, and a lot of people consider it too risky. It's not a form of transportation, but a thing to enjoy if you care to. I bet there would be people in this imaginary world that simply would not care to fly. Whether they are lazy, or didn't want to take the risk. Or they just had no interest in it because it's so commonplace. Everyone knows you can fly if you try hard enough.
So I wrote a song. This is about a guy who just doesn't feel like flying even though he has the capacity to fly, and all his friends are doing it. I pictured the person he's talking to/about as a free spirited girl, eager for excitement and thrill. Not ready to keep her feet on the ground. There is room for deeper meaning, but I won't touch on that in this blog. So I present to you Come Back Down by Ammon Hatch
Shameless Plug: If you like what you hear, become a fan of Eleventh Essential on Facebook to stay updated on this little project of ours.
Continue reading "I Understand What You're Talking About - New Music"
Sunday, August 30. 2009
Friday August 22th.
I believe my alarm went off sometime in the 7:00 hour. I don't know for sure because I told it to be quiet and went back to sleep. Another alarm went off at 8:15 and I knew it really was time to get up now. I had to convince myself, then Jason, but we dragged ourselves out of bed and into the car so we could start the days adventure.... actually hiking, for the first time on the trip.
Continue reading "Nothing More Than An Escape - Day 3"
Wednesday, August 26. 2009
Thursday August 21st.
It was 7:30 and I woke up to the sound of hammers. I suppose this is the problem with living in a newly constructed development. I don't know how anyone does it. I fought off the notion that I should get up for another half hour and then worked my way into Travis' office where he was already at work, being distracted by Jason. It would have been fun to hang out for a bit, but we knew it was in our best interest to get to the Tetons as soon as possible in the hopes of getting our backcountry permits. We hit the road at around 9:00, excited for what the day would hold.
The 4 hour drive from Logan to Jackson was a fairly interesting one. It was my first time driving through Logan Canyon, the first time in a long time I had seen Bear Lake, and then there were all the small towns dotting the route. Occasional roadside stands of Buffalo Jerky. We got to follow the Snake River for several miles through the mountains, watching rafters go over the rapids. Before too long (at least in hindsight) we were entering Jackson. We were both hungry, but decided to head straight to the ranger station to have the best chance of getting a permit.
Then we got a little lost.
Continue reading "Nothing More Than An Escape - Day 2"
Tuesday, August 25. 2009
It wasn't my fault this time. We weren't going to predict this one. But this knowledge didn't help the sting of disappointment we felt, and it certainly didn't help us figure out what to do now. I sat on the floor of the log cabin known as the Jenny Lake Ranger Station, and leaned up against the wall. I stared ahead, thinking. Occasionally my eyes would glance to the right and stare down the conditions board. "Owen-Spalding: Icy, crampons recommended for descent. Full alpine conditions". I wasn't in the mood to slip on verglas and fall off the Grand Teton. My crampons were more than 200 miles away. We were just not prepared.
Jason broke my trance: "Don't you really need to pee?"
I had forgotten. I stood up and we walked out of the ranger station. I intentionally left my backcountry permit on the desk.
Continue reading "Nothing More Than An Escape - Day 1"
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