24 Aug The View from the Top

Despite the current heat wave sweeping Southern California, I really wanted to spend time outside this weekend.  Luckily I have friends and climbing partners who are just as ridiculous as I am! Haha.

On Saturday we went to Echo Cliffs, where I was pretty excited to jump on a new project for the first time, Meager and Weak 5.12c.  My first attempt was pretty rough.  The beta on the lower half of the climb, which feels like one crux move after another, definitely took some working out. But I was happy to see myself going for the moves and taking falls with no issue, which was a big improvement over recent weeks!  I felt strong, both mentally and physically, and on my second attempt, even came close to sending the route!  I had to hang at the fourth bolt when I got my sequence crossed up, but the rest of the climb went smoothly after that. I felt like this route was really suited to my climbing style and I’m super excited to get on it again soon and see what happens?!

On Sunday morning I drove to Marshall to go paragliding. I felt a little nervous, as a hot, high pressure day would mean a fair amount of turbulence. Flying in Alaska the past few weeks was amazing but fairly benign compared to Southern California, so I wasn’t super confident in my ability to handle the rough air. Thus, I decided that I wanted to fly later in the day, when conditions would smooth out a bit.  Since I had time to kill, Despite the hot day, I decided to hike up to launch.

Because it would be a potentially turbulent day this meant I had to carry my full kit up with me, including the 15 pounds of ballast (extra weight) I use when flying in stronger conditions.  In total this meant I would be hiking with 60 pounds (more than half my body weight!) – in the 100 degree heat.  People thought I was crazy! Haha. Maybe I am!  And I certainly wouldn’t recommend that everyone hike under these conditions, but as I’m already in good shape and was well prepared with water and proper attire, I didn’t think hiking would be unsafe for me in any way.

I took it slow, drank a lot of water, and rested in the shade from time to time, but I won’t lie, the going was tough! I had never hiked in that amount of heat or with that much weight, making every step exhausting and painful! But at the same time, I just LOVED it.

I’ve always enjoyed hiking and flying, but my time in Alaska really brought this to a new level. Hiking and flying nearly every day made me realize just how much I love the self-sufficiency of it all.  The going might be slow and difficult and painful, but I love being able to fly and travel long distances relying only on myself and what I can carry.

Flying is very similar to climbing in that way; scaling a cliff or summiting a mountain using only your determination, your body, and the resources you can carry; it brings about such an amazing sense of strength and freedom, as if you can go anywhere and do anything, as if this entire world is somehow within your reach!

And so even though the hike was difficult, I was still feeling pretty great when I reached launch!  To top it off, I arrived with enough time to get two flights in.  The first was fairly turbulent but I did really well fighting through my nerves and staying up for as long as possible.  After that I took a late sunset flight.  The air had smoothed out by this point, but was surprisingly buoyant and I had an amazing time soaring around the mountains until the sun went down.

I love having opportunities to really push myself further and this weekend was definitely one of those times; from taking falls on one of my most difficult projects to date, to battling the heat and the turbulence.  To me, the effort expended is reward enough in itself, but I have to admit, the view from the top certainly doesn’t hurt!