Monday, December 5, 2011

New Moon

Almost seven years ago I tore the ACL in my left knee. A straightforward surgery but not a short or simple recovery ensued, much of which, I recently discovered, I blocked out of my memory. I vowed to take good care of myself, to never again go through that, and yet here I am, not in Australia discovering the routes of Arapalies, or cragging on steep limestone over Thailand's beaches, or having an adventure on the granite of Patagonia. No, I find myself in Los Angeles, learning how to walk. (And to fly, but we'll get to that...) Maybe the universe is trying to teach me patience. It's never been my strong suit.

Supposedly a strong time for change and new beginnings, on the new moon of last month I had surgery for the second time on my knee. Since then, I have spent the better part of this month on the couch. But in an effort to keep my mind active even if my body couldn't be, I started up both french and flute lessons again. And helicopter pilot training. I'm slowly getting back to physical exercise- first arms & abs, very gentle yoga, one-legged indoor climbing (which is ridiculously difficult and totally hilarious), even water aerobics in the community pool. But nothing lifts the spirit, quite literally, as flying a helicopter and leaving the craziness that is LA far below.

If there's one thing I like about southern California though, its the food. Maybe its the Italian in me, but food plays a central role in my life, as it should, both as a source of energy for the body and soul, a connecting force of culture and community. And here the sun shines and crops grow year round. I love spending hours wandering the farmers markets and a couple of months ago on my drive south I stopped at Esalen near Big Sur for a few days to participate in an organic agriculture workshop. Building a compost and harvesting vegetables for dinner in Esalen's garden:

Holiday season is upon us, and that means sharing special meals with family and friends. I find it even more special to know where my food comes from.

Eight months ago this started as a rock climbing blog but looking back I see it has become anything but! I hope someone finds some inspiration, or now has some to share with me!

Somewhere over the rainbow, Yosemite awaits.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Season of Cinnamon Rolls

Sticky rolls, cinnamon buns, call them what you will, I'm addicted. Many people need their morning cup of coffee. I crave sugar instead, usually in the form of a large glass of smooth orange juice, but I'm a sucker for the sweetness of sticky ribbons coated in subtle spice. Frosting or caramel, nuts or not, they are a perfect combination of butter, cinnamon, sugar and soft doughy goodness.

Living in Yosemite Valley, I have made a habit out of biking to Curry Village many mornings, racing the tourist rush at the coffee counter to score a $2 overly-sweetened but somehow most delicious cinnamon roll. This was a spring and summer filled with scrumptious cinnamon rolls on the road: indulging in the stacks piled pretty under glass and drizzled thick with caramel at the Garden Cafe in Mendocino; sampling locally-baked varieties at the farmers market in Squamish BC; remembering childhood Christmas mornings in New Hampshire when Dad would bake a half-dozen tin of quick-rise bites with icing for dipping... but my favorites are still those created by Morning Glory Bakery in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Making peace with the mountain goats in Leavenworth, WA

Sunset at Smith Rocks, OR

Solitude at Lost Rocks, CA

A lonely drive south from Squamish involved a quick surf session in Mendocino and my first skydive, in Lodi.
I arrived back in Yosemite in time for the Facelift (a big trash-collecting party sponsored by climbers) and then proceeded to rack up for my first El Cap ascent this season, only to be turned back before even beginning due to my nagging knee injury and now impending surgery which will take me out for six months or more. Not sure what's harder to heal, a busted knee or a broken heart. Each pain seems to amplify the other.

Six months on a rollercoaster road. A season of sweetness, a season of sadness.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sea to Sky

August was a month of unexpected adventure, of going with the flow, living by and learning from the water: soft yet powerful, ever-changing and unpredictable, capable of renewal without repetition, at once infinitely complicated and simply part of our being.

I am generally not good at dealing with change, and this month was full of it. Complex and expensive logistics to get into the Cirque made it impossible to find a partner for a Lotus Flower Tower mission. And no Bugaboos this year either, first due to weather delays in July, then due to a knee injury in August. Faced with sitting in Squamish for the rest of the season, I resorted to one-legged yoga and tippy kayak trips in the Sound.

A good friend shared a sweet semi-secret spot by Howe Sound, perfect for practicing yoga, and for keeping me in tune to the schedule of the tides and the moon.

Deep dark waters and swift white currents generate fear, yet still blue seas and serene clear streams create calm. Being immersed in water can make me panic; gliding on top, skimming the skin of the sea brings pure peace.

Patience and flexibility can be rewarding. I feel so fortunate to have been invited on an amazing adventure to the Canadian coastal mountain wilderness. Two ferries, a few hours of driving, and a sailboat cruise up pristine waterways to accompany the team at base camp. It was the perfect setting for me recover- surrounded by incredible people and scenery, abundant home cooked food at the loggers camp, slack line practice and machete trail clearing work, gentle yoga by the roaring and silt-filled glacier-fed river, and my first trip in a helicopter!


Watching ephemeral whirlpools form along the dock with the ebb and flow of the current, breathing in the sounds of the living river… makes me wonder, what surprises are in store next? Patience...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Oh Canada

Okay, so I flat out don't know the words to the Canadian national anthem. And even if I did, I can't sing. But I still won a backpack at the Squamish Mountain Festival for running up on stage and making a fool of myself. Totally worth it.

Driving north was restorative. The feeling of hot soft sand under my feet at the mouth of a river, the healing smell of the saltwater, twirling silky smooth wild grasses in my finger tips. A couple of days in Mendocino, savoring the sea and season. Fourth of July festivities, morning jog through the Headlands, afternoon soak in a hot tub at Sweetwater spa... followed by a couple of days in Portland, Oregon, fresh food and yoga, working on the art of doing nothing, relaxing and reading.

Here's to random people from the road: Mindy the flutist, practicing The Rite of Spring, which carried out into the breeze and drew me in to her home to ask for a lesson! Cat the surfer girl, who I hope to meet up with on my drive south at the end of the summer when the water is hopefully warmer. Spencer from Santa Cruz, setting off fireworks with friends on a beach that lured me off the road for a rest stop on Cali's Lost Coast.

It's been a rainy July in Squamish and still doesn't really feel like summer. But the Chief campground has a great community and I've enjoyed the company and sometimes climbing time with partners from all over the world (lots of chance to practice my French!), especially Nick from Canada, Nina from Austria, and Siebe from Belgium. We all took three day ferry bound getaway to Vancouver Island for overhanging limestone sport climbing above Horne Lake- a bit burly for me but a nice change of scenery and good times making smores and stick bread over the fire.

Despite all the wet weather, some climbing highlights from the month: stellar 5.10 multipitch routes on the Squaw with Mike and Inigo; my second time up the Grand Wall, this time cruising as a "tourist" led by Matthieu and Siebe; a challenging ascent of the twelve pitch 5.11d Freeway; my first climbs on the Apron (the classics Calculus Crack and Diedre) followed by a trip up the Buttress; plus several awesome cragging days, especially with Nick on the white granite splitters at Lower Malamute.

Still in Squamish, seeking sun and solace and apparently snow-- Next stop, Bugaboos!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Solstice

June was a sunny yet bittersweet month here in the Yosemite. Pangs of 'homesickness' for various places interspersed with local drama made for some trying times.

I miss east coast early summer mornings, a promise of humidity in the air, birdsongs in the breeze, sleeping pressed to the screens on open windows. I miss Fontainebleau, afternoon escapes from working in Paris, solo sunsets in the boulders. I miss Bar Harbor, Maine, hiking with my family, picking blueberries, ice cream and fireworks and movies together. I miss Dad, gone three years ago this month. And I miss a good friend. I think a Portuguese word- saudade- describes it well.

But June was also a busy month of climbing. With the all the snow in May, I only got in two longer routes: the Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock with Ashley and South by Southwest on Lower Cathedral Spire with Zach. In June I got on a wall- the South Face of Washington Column, first with Steve and then with Riley; repeated Serenity and Sons (been a few years) with Trevor; had a monster day with Mike on Royal Arches into Crest Jewel on North Dome as well as a rainy day adventure on the Caverns into slippery Selaginella; explored more obscure routes and crags; and attempted a Dolt mission, had my first taste of Astroman (first 5 pitches), and got in some great cragging leads (Manana 10d onsight, Finger Licken 10d, photo below, with a few hangs, Cookie Monster, my first 5.12 lead, with a bunch of hangs!) all with my favorite local ropegun Ashley!

So lots of fun on the rock and I learned a lot too: pull rap ropes with long sleeves and jug with long socks. I am not a slab climber: I don't have the head for it, or the calfs, and I don't much enjoy that movement (definitely a crack climb addict, though techny crimpy faces are fun too, on TR :) And while I like logistics and problem solving, I am not an aid climber. I need to work on managing fear and finding flow on lead. And finally, I much prefer to climb with girls.

The brilliant sun and warm temps in June were perfect for dips in the icy Merced and I spent a fair amount of time at 'secret' spots along the river. I also enjoyed a 14+ mile solo hike from Tunnel View to Glacier Point via Sentinel Dome with the most amazing views along the way. It's summertime now, and while a month ago I couldn't imagine ever leaving the Valley again, I need some space and so it's time to drive. But come September, I'll be back.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Snowy Yosemite Spring

The month of May has flown by so fast in the Valley! Rest of the world- are you still out there beyond these granite walls?

I have always loved Yosemite, from my first visit in the summer of 2007 when I scrambled up barefoot to the foot of the Nose in over 100 degree heat; to a year later in 2008 when I climbed it and spent almost two months here; to biannual spring and fall vacation climbing trips ever since. I still plan to travel and explore the next few years but I can feel already that this will be my new home.

I spent May working as a visitor information volunteer for the Yosemite Conservancy. I went from working in a pinstripe suit and heels at 50 Rockefeller in NYC to jeans and sandals in a yurt in Yosemite, and I couldn't be happier!! Now I wake up every morning to views of Royal Arches, Washington Column, and Half Dome outside my tent and sounds of the Merced River flowing by.

Its been a snowy spring here and I've spent more time on (or trying not to fall off of) my bike (key to getting around the Valley) than on the rock, but I'm still getting schooled on Yosemite granite.

And a few bonus pics:

From desk jockey and jet-setter... rock pirate and NPS volunteer!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sandstone Splitters

A week in Indian Creek, certainly too short a stop with so many splitter cracks!

I got my first 5.11 onsight trad lead: Top Sirloin. And my hardest trad lead to date: Coyne Crack 11+.

Many thanks to Marsha for the patient, positive, attentive belays!

leading Cave Route onsight 5.10+

leading Incredible Handcrack onsight 5.10

The full moon is magical in the desert, especially during a fireside jam session with banjo, guitar, fiddle and flute.

After a week on wingate in the Creek, Red Rock sandstone outside of Vegas leaves something to be desired. But getting way up off the ground on long routes with good friends is always an enjoyable adventure. I celebrated Earth Day with the girls on Solar Slabs and Johnny Vegas. Then spent Easter in Black Velvet Canyon trying desperately not to get blown right off the rock by the crazy wind! Thanks go out to Michelle for hosting- and good luck on the mountain this month!

The desert is harsh on the body, gobies on the hands and ankles, constantly dehydrated. So I spent a sweet week in the sun with family at my sister's place in LA. LA is a strange place- the beaches are busy even midweek; it can take an hour to drive a few miles; and car washes are a total experience.

Happy 29th Birthday April!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kentucky Candy

I have been lucky enough to meet some of the kindest climbing partners during my first two weeks on the road. And that has made this transition so much easier!

First stop: Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Many thanks to Daniel and Libby for making my first day awesome and for being such great hosts to me, a total stranger! Libby's getting ready for a thru hike of the Appalachian trail.

Next stop: the New River Gorge. Thanks to the crew at Roger's for taking me in on day 2 and introducing me to the New. Driving up, half lost, to Roger's Rocky Top Retreat late at night I briefly debated the sanity of getting out of my car to invade a group of beer-drinking strangers on a porch in West Virginia. Fortunately they were indeed camping climbers.

Third stop: the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Thanks to Jamie, Matt, Jasper (our 6-year-old Red River Gorge tour guide) and friends from NY for a fun time in the Red and to Marin for showing me the pump!! Marin's right, sport pitches really are like candy- sweet addictive easy instant gratification. I even got to experience the muddy madness that is a rainy weekend at Miguel's....

Massive thunderstorms the fourth night, no problem- I was warm and dry in my new home! Three days of driving and several Walmart parking lots later and I find myself in Santa Fe, a cute town filled with creative restaurants, friendly people, quirky shops and sunshine. After a yoga class and lunch in town, its time for dessert, climbing in the DESERT!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

Waking up to fresh snow on April 1st would certainly be a surprise, but this is no joke-- after the weekend I hit the road, the start of a long adventure!  I am leaving behind a 10 year career in international corporate real estate finance, moving into my car, and plan to climb as much as possible. 

‘So a blog?’ you ask.  I like lists, spreadsheets.  Concise explanations and calendars.  Occasional passionate postcards, my illegible handwriting jammed into a 4x6 rectangle.  I am not a writer.  Or a photographer.  But it took me three years of planning to pull this off, mostly to find the courage to make the change, and so I suppose it warrants sharing!

A corporate guided ascent of the Grand Teton in the summer of 2004, lead by two inspiring women Nancy Feagin and Amy Bullard, followed by my introduction to the quartzite cliffs of the Gunks in the spring of 2005 forever changed the course of my life.  In 2008 I took a much needed but temporary break from my job in New York, driving 14,000 miles by myself in four and half months.  During that trip I climbed in Zion, Yosemite, the California Needles, the High Sierras, Devil’s Tower, Smith Rocks, Squamish, Index, the Bugaboos, Lake Louise, Eldorado Canyon, Lumpy Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Tetons, and City of Rocks— a big expansion from my usual and much loved vacation stomping grounds of Red Rocks, Joshua Tree and Acadia National Parks.

Highlights of my 2008 trip included climbing the Nose on El Cap with Janet, a super strong and supportive fellow east-coast female and two one-day ascents of Half Dome: once all on lead via the easy but run-out Snake Dike with another great girl and a week later via the Northwest Face Regular Route with the best climbing partner anyone could ever ask for.   In addition to climbing, I stopped in Madison, Wisconsin for my sister’s graduation from vet school; to visit friends in Salt Lake, Jackson Hole, Portland and Seattle; for Chris and Bill’s wonderful wedding in Colorado; and to see the sights at Mount Rushmore, Mount Hood, Mount Shasta, Crater Lake, the Redwoods and Califonia’s Lost Coast.  Along the way I met some unruly characters and a few I hope lifelong friends.

The past two years I have split my time working in NYC and Paris, managing the company’s French investments.  I will miss summer escapes to Chamonix; quiet afternoons in Fontainebleau; weekends in the Verdon, Ceuse, Les Calanques, even Siuranna, Sardinia and Lisbon.  I will miss the energy of New York City and my quiet house in the Gunks, my comfy couch and bath robe, the delicious food of the Hudson Valley especially from Kira’s farm and at my favorite spot the Village Tea Room two blocks away.  But I will not miss sitting out on a bridge all alone, watching two separate worlds, belonging to neither.  Time to follow passion; rediscover persistence; visit places so few people on this planet will ever know. Time to climb!

Pick a place and join me along the way!  See my Three Year Plan