One of the strange things about climbing is the number of climbers who want to write about it. I too felt the urge. I didn’t want the experience to disappear, but how to describe it? If I stayed with the facts, the page was clear, but cold. If I said how it really felt, the page ran hot with embarrassing confessions. I couldn’t get it right.
I combed the library shelves and read the mountaineering classics. In some of those books, I came across photographs that made me say to myself, “Yes, that’s it!” Towering, icy peaks, smooth walls with ant-like climbers on them, haggard faces after frosty bivouacs; those indelible images told the story as effectively as words could. I realized I could show what it was like, and not have to explain it.
So a camera strap was added to the clutter of slings around my shoulders. I started talking less and seeing more, watching conversations, parties, and gear sort-outs through my viewfinder, waiting for the images to appear. I caught some, but many got away.
Camp 4 was the launching pad for our adventures. Sometimes, it was a refuge from them. Here, plans were made, teams were formed, and the rest of life was lived. An odd kind of history was happening each day, and every night the quicksilver of our experience slipped through the cracks in the tabletops and disappeared into the grimy dust below.
Born and raised in California, climber, photographer, and author, Glen Denny, was part of the first group of climbers to use the now-famous Camp 4 as a base for exploring the granite walls of Yosemite Valley. This is an edited expert from his book, Yosemite in the Sixties.
For more of Glen’s work, check out www.glendenny.com
There is a magic in our open spaces, the wild places where each step further feels like one closer to home. They exist as a refuge, a place for stories told in paddle strokes or miles walked. Across the breadth of a continent, from ragged mountain ranges to coastal lowlands, the number of places to explore is only rivaled by the number of ways that you can do it. Woven into our national identity, they are a touchstone of beauty and freedom, handed down from one generation to the next.
In this country, we have just over a million square miles of public land, and that’s something that just thinking about, never fails to stir my imagination. With such a vast amount of acreage out there, it is easy to feel disconnected from what happens in a place you may never have seen or been to, but it is important to still realize that we all have a voice in how it is managed. I think the recent protests of Shell’s arctic oil exploration are a good example of that. Not very many people will ever visit that part of Alaska, but nevertheless, thousands have spoken up for what they would like to see done.
Closer to home, the Rogue River watershed, where I work as a guide, has been threatened by the looming specter of industrial-scale nickel strip mining. Raising public awareness of that is what inspired me to begin a career as a photographer, and has been a tremendous opportunity to view the strength of a community’s voice in determining how our land is managed. The recently introduced Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act is a direct result of the public outcry to the proposed development of an iconic watershed and has been an inspiration to continue working to introduce people to the wanderland
they did not know they had.
Nate Wilson is a Northwest based river guide, photographer and writer primarily focused on projects in nature. For more of his work, check out www.natewilson.photo
When I’m moving through mountains on foot, I sometimes imagine that I’m knocking with my feet on the soil below, knock-knock-knocking with every foot strike like knuckles rapping on a padlocked portal made of earth and rock and gravity. With every knock, I imagine asking the dirt underfoot, “Am I worthy of returning yet?” Now I’m not wishing to die; it’s more that I wish fiercely to live.
Perhaps it’s because, with a regular practice of trail running, our soft animal bodies swing life and limb so intimately close to earth’s cadence. Perhaps it’s written calligraphically into respiration and lactic acid rise paired with a planet that roars past us and right through us, stinging our retinas as we dash along singletracks of the unasphalted, the unmodified, the untamed.
So I ask, as deep ecologist and poet Gary Snyder once did: How edible am I?
Am I giving back to the planet a body that’s been unused, atrophied from couches and cages, repressed with anger and narcissism and conformity? No, I wish that feast upon nobody. Instead, I aim to be as edible as possible, to be worthy of that inevitable return to earth. After all, gravity always wins.
With every wilderness outing, I attempt to discover more humility, more insight into the ways this planet revolves and evolves, churns and composts itself anew. I try and honor those who lived here before me, and to fight for protecting the last honest places for posterity. Because when it finally comes time for that stuff beneath the mountains to let me back in again, I aspire to return to the soil at least, mildly, palatable.
So I keep running. I keep knocking. I keep living.
Nick Triolo is a writer, filmmaker, activist, and sponsored ultrarunner living in Missoula, Montana. He’s run across the Baja peninsula in a day, finished sub-19 hours at Western States 100, and has won the Oregon Trail Series. Learn more about Nick’s projects at the Jasmine Dialogues Blog