Major Changes

I could write a book on what has changed in my life since I last made a change to these pages. Last we talked, I was a sophomore at Pitt, taking Chinese and bumping my trad leading up into the 5.6 range. I feel like I was a little kid then. Not that I’m grown up now by any stretch, but I certainly have a lot more experience under my belt. I went to Red Rocks in March over a year ago, got schooled by the big rocks, and went back to Seneca to hone my skills before the next attempt on something big. Over summer 2002 I worked in Pittsburgh, living nearly alone (my schedule was opposite that of my roommates) and spending 60+ hours a week at work. I climbed every moment that I wasn’t working and ticked off most of the classic 5.7s down at Seneca. My job was great. Besides working at Exkursion, I labored away as a Program Leader for the Western Pennsylvania Field Institute. I led hiking trips, canoeing and flatwater paddling, fished on Wednesdays….I was busy but had a blast. Most importantly, I created a safety management program in the form of a Trip Leader Handbook. One of the most gratifying moments I’ve had was this winter when I attended a WPFI leadership workshop, and the textbook that everyone was given was written by yours truly. One of my first real accomplishments.
So the summer passed by quickly, and soon enough I was back on a westbound plane. Isn’t it something, travel to the Far East takes me through Vancouver, or over the North Pole….but not until I return to the Western world do I actually travel east. So yes, I spend 4 months living in Beijing. As my experience in China grows more distant, I find myself reflecting more and more…..I still dream in Chinese, I crave good hotpot, and daydream about being back in the capital of the Middle Kingdom. China was a life-changing experience for me. I don’t know what it did, but I truly feel like I can do anything after my time there. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, climbed some awesome routes in grand style, learned to eat just about anything, and found a place where I can feel at home even when I am totally out of place. I want to go back…..but I don’t know when or how.
So now the plans center around climbing. Climbing and climbing and climbing. It is as if the mountains give me a release from the real world….and now I am trying to build my world around them. I hiked and climbed this winter in the Adirondacks, got a taste of snow slopes, -30degree below zero temps, and ice climbing, bought a pair of plastic boots, and sold my soul to buy a climber’s life. At what cost? A life of drudgery and office work? I don’t know. I will earn my degree, but I may as well toss it in storage after graduation. Fat lot of good a political science degree will do for someone who’s greatest aspiration is to start a branch of NOLS in China.
These days find me lounging about my ghetto palace. Ward Street is the place where I will live out the end of my college career. I’ll be sleeping on the floor here for a few more months, saving up bucks from Exkursion and climbing or paddling whitewater when the opportunity arises. Come June, I will head for the hills. The Tetons, the Wind Rivers, the Rockies, all must fall before the might of Sean Yaw and I. More than likely, we will learn a few hard lessons this summer, but I trust that 7 weeks on the best alpine rock in the Lower 48 will provide an invaluable wealth of experience, perhaps a few memorable summits, plenty of suffering, and maybe a worthy photo or two.
I am planning to more or less finish school in the Fall, then I will be taking part in a NOLS expedition to Chilean Patagonia. The mere mention of Patagonia will give any aspiring alpinists sweaty hands….it is home to the most aesthetic torres and worst weather in the entire world. For 75 days it will be my playground as we trudge through soggy river valleys, over crevassed glaciers, up stunning alpine peaks, suffer through horrendous mult-day storms, kayak the fjords along the Chilean coastline, and have the time of my life. At least, that’s how things are playing out in my mind lately.
Who knows what will come after that….could be a job in the NOLS office in Lander, a Peace Corps position teaching English in (a hopefully SARS-free) China, or who knows. I certainly don’t. But the two years I am swimming in now are a pivotal time in my life, and I am loving every minute.


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