Friday, September 06, 2013

Remembering Ryan

**The following events happened exactly 5 years ago. Tip back an IPA tonight in memory of a man who is gone but will never be forgotten. What you are about to read is an excerpt from my book, "Leaping into Lovers Lane."

The hike up to the base of Goat Wall left him wiping his brow. The load in his backpack was much lighter this time since he wasn't burdened with the weight of climbing hardware. He had only brought his climbing harness, shoes, rope and a few karabiners for the rappel descent. Still, the twenty-minute steep approach was not for the faint of heart, nor the out of shape.
After removing his backpack, a gentle September breeze swept up from the Methow Valley and flapped his sweat-drenched T-shirt away from his skin. Lost River flowed three hundred feet below on the valley floor, twisting and turning its way through sparsely populated Mazama, Washington, located on the North Eastern flanks of the Cascade Mountains, emptying into the Columbia River and hundreds of miles away into the Pacific Ocean. The sights and sounds of the Methow Valley filled his senses as the sun kissed him.
Makiah, our twenty-five-pound miniature Australian Shepherd, was panting too.  The big steps he had to take during the scramble up in the talus field were enormous leaps for her. Yet he didn’t need to assist her, she had made it up on her own. He’d contemplating shaving her fur - especially since she was miserable in the late season summer heat. But fall was just around the corner and she'd be more than a little humiliated without her signature shaggy coat.
Squinting up at the rock, he quickly found his rock-climbing route, Prime Rib on Goat Wall. Rated a moderate sport climb, where metal bolts are drilled into the rock face, the climb gains a total of 650 feet. He knew exactly where it started since he had researched the climb quite a bit. That morning he had spoken with Brian Burdo, who had developed a lot of the sport climbs in the Mazama and surrounding area, including Prime Rib, and received a first hand account of what to expect on each portion of the climb. He was so confident in his choice of climb that day that he left the climbing guidebook back at his one room rustic cabin about a mile up Lost River road. He was, after all, an expert and experienced climber, rope or no rope.

Climbing suited his athletic and compact frame. His strong, muscular hands could cling onto the smallest rock features while his body contorted sideways. He could flex his core so tightly it would momentarily suspend him, weightless on the rock. Not only was he built for rock climbing, but also his pain threshold and ability to transcend through discomfort allowed him to push the limits.

Pushing his limit happened every time he encountered rock. Each and every time he approached rock he would show up ready to improve his climbing through sheer grit, determination and hard work. It provided a portal to his nirvana: improving himself through climbing.

His confidence had grown as he gained experience climbing in countless regions around the world. Over ten years of practice, rocks had become extensions of his body. Everything in his life revolved around climbing. All vacations were at climbing destinations; he frequented climbing forums and all of his friends were climbers. He lived, breathed, and slept climbing.  He would climb with such passion and become so obsessed with what he was doing, that in those moments, nothing else mattered.

Armed with information on what to expect on the Prime Rib route, and knowledge that the climb was rated well within his ability, he decided to climb without a partner and the added protection of using a rope to ascend.

He set his backpack down, pulled out his climbing harness, shoes, rope, and chalk bag, and took a big swig of water. Sitting down on a flat rock, he took off his approach shoes and carefully slipped on his tight climbing shoes.
"You stay here, Makiah."
He didn't even bother to tie her up. He didn't need to. Makiah was well trained and did as she was told. Plus she rarely wandered and always stayed within earshot. He stashed his backpack near the base of the climb and left Makiah with some water. He slung a seventy-meter rope over his shoulder, crisscrossing it around his chest, and secured it with a series of climber knots so it wouldn't impede his ascent. He planned on using the rope to descend. He chalked up his hands and with that he started to climb up the loose adventure route. This was it, one last climb before heading home to Seattle after spending a week in Mazama. One final climb to top a fun filled week full of recreation in the Pacific Northwest.
Makiah watched as her owner started the ascent up Goat Wall, and once he was out of sight she dug herself a comfortable spot to wait and keep careful guard over her owner’s backpack.
She was the last being to see him alive.

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