Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Alpine Mentors Group Development Session

photo Noah Mckelvin

- JD Merritt    (reposted from the AM site.)
From the 18-21st of April we kicked off the third round of Alpine Mentors. Eight potential mentees met with Steve House, Steven van Sickle, Colin Simon, and Buster Jesik. The previous mentees had returned as mentors. Topher Donahue was also able to meet up with us for a day.  We planned to have an “ice breaking” day rock climbing at Lumpy. The snowstorms rolled in, so we changed our plans from breaking the ice to trying to climb some of it. We got a pre-dawn start to climb mixed routes in Tyndall Gorge, skiing from the road. This was the first time in years I had returned to the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park, or RMNP.  After often making the trip up there to climb during college, my friends and I have come to pronounce it as: “Rah-Mu-N-Puh”. The climbing there is complete with cold, ripping winds, some longer approaches, and wonderfully featured rock. In the winter the crowds subside and RMNP becomes its best self. 

Day One

The first day I was paired with Noah Mckelvin and Buster Jesik. The buttresses of Hallett were covered in fresh snow and the place was looking very alpine. We climbed a crack system left of Bullet for two pitches of (possibly unclimbed) steep cracks and roofs. It was an interesting warmup, with everything from edging to overhanging offwidths, and even a roof clearing move that necessitated cutting feet and swinging on a mossy picklock. We continued on to the top of Bullet. If this is new terrain, I propose the name Hollow Point in reference to some rattly blocks I had to trundle.

Day Two

The next day I was paired to climb with Kat Vollinger and Steven van Sickle. The focus of this day was shifted away from harder mixed cragging, and would be an experience in efficient movement on moderate terrain. After picking out the Spiral Route on Notchtop peak, we finished the long approach and stopped to deliberate. It was unanimously decided that the approach couloir would be an unsafe proposition after the new wind loading. We instead scrambled a wind-scoured ridge across from Notchtop, finding interesting sections of climbing on frozen moss and broken gneiss. 

Day Three

After two days in a row of predawn starts, we all took it easy on our third day and went to Lumpy Ridge for a little bit of rock climbing and a lesson in rescuing the fallen leader from Buster. This was an important review for most of us. If you’re in doubt, ask your climbing partners if they know self-rescue and go practice with them. It’s vital for trying more committing routes, and can be a sobering experience--it’s not easy. There are factors outside your control in climbing, and knowing how to help an injured partner gives you a chance to manage the situations no-one wants or expects. For those of us who are guides, this stuff is a job requirement and by now second nature. For people like me who aren’t engaged in any kind of guiding, it’s important to practice self-rescue simply to become a safer and more dependable climbing partner. 

Day Four

 We closed out the day on some of the best pitches at the Book. This was a fun way to close out the session, and at this point everyone was relaxing and getting in good pitches on the funky, cryptic, and polished granite of Lumpy.
            I was initially nervous for what seemed like a “tryout” for some sort of alpine climbing team. Instead it was more of a social experiment. After a while we started to relax. Everyone got to know each other and did some great climbing. I’m psyched be a part of the next round of Alpine Mentors, and I’m looking forward to two years in the mountains with an amazing group. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Alpine Mentors 2016-2018

I'm happy to share that I was invited to the next round of Alpine Mentors. Started by the American alpinist Steve House, the program pairs younger climbers with some of the safest, fastest, and most experienced alpine climbers in North America. For two years I'll be climbing with Steve, Nik Mirashemi, Erik Rieger, Kurt Ross, and many other mentors. While there are others I wish were in the program too, I'm happy with the selection and look forward to a new era in my development as a climber and a human being. I'm thankful for this opportunity and I'm going to give it my complete dedication. At a certain point I realized I could no longer improve while only climbing with others of my age and skill level. as Mark Twight wrote:

"If you show dedication and desire, an inclination to learn, and some talent, many climbers will tell you or show you what they know. Even if they refuse to climb with you--and most will decline the honor--a mentor who knows the path you wish to tread can teach far more than any video, book, or school."

I've been fortunate enough to have many mentors, and I am thankful for everyone who's helped me along the way.  I hope to teach a younger generation of alpinists what I've learned, when I someday know things worth learning, and to repay a huge karmic debt.

I'll have some associated responsibilities, among them blogging on this site:

To celebrate, I'll post some drawings I did this past fall. This may degenerate into a rant as all posts seem to. One piece is the result of 8 hours of work. The other is the result of 30 seconds of work. I think I like the second one more. The climber-as-artist cliche may be the most pushed and most vomitous cliche in all of the climbing media. a la: "climbing is my art, routes are a mode of expression, the rock is my canvas, I can draw a line on the otherwise blank stone, these crimps were chipped by Jesus, I can lick my own elbows, etc."

But I like to express myself by actually drawing things. I don't think bolting sport routes is even remotely similar to art, in fact its just hard work with industrial equipment. But I like doing that too.
Self portrait, 2 by 3 feet, charcoal.
iris in detail.
30second gestural ink.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

By The Throat

    I don't do music reviews. Internet taste-makers are useless leeches feeding off of artists and deluding mindless consumers. They provide strong support for the view that music is simply a consumable commodity, so far removed from actual art that people need micro-divided genres and intellectual hand-holding to identify what they're supposed to "like".
    I do know this is an hour of anti-music(and terrifying but invigorating found-sound collage) I'll listen to again and again. As music goes, this conveys my ideal adopted ethos of pain -> fulfillment better than almost anything else. Especially worth a listen is the three part sequence of tracks at the end: "Through the glass of the roof", "Through the roof of your mouth", and "Through the mouth of your eye".
    This album is an evocative ecosystem of beautiful(and beautifully grating) sounds, with crisp sampled howls of wolves, subtle organic string sections, heavy metal guitar screeches, scorching+ripping drums, and string sections distorted and sampled until they take on the fire of growling animals: a frightened pack of wolves backed into a corner. How can these disparate parts make a whole? I have no idea but they do. The work shows great restraint at times. Its character swings from that of a tasteful film soundtrack to thrashing hardcore. Pairing this to a film would undermine and discredit the images that spring from sound alone.
    If you like ambient music with blood soaked teeth, this is worth a listen. Other albums by Ben Frost are just as good, and AURORA may be more accessible. I'd recommend everything by Tim Hecker as well. If this stuff isn't your thing, it's still worth a listen, because at some point everyone will feel like an animal fighting for life, and this music is a violent and even triumphant celebration of life.