January 6, 2019

2018 : A Year in Climbing Up & Down

Climbing this year through two injuries, I'm less grateful for what I climbed and more thankful for who I climbed with.  Here's to the best partners, for catching my falls and pushing me to get up, come down, stay somewhere in between.     


January: Echo Cliffs California

Even though they'd never met, I had no reservations about taking these two ladies on a road trip to LA for a long weekend of climbing. They are both so accepting, warm and open to people and experiences.  We made so many good silly memories of funny conversations, delicious camp dinners, sunset filled hikes back from the crag, and this cold morning run on the beach which necessitated a onesie.  Hannah, I'm so grateful for our 6 AM talks, in the gym and sometimes on the phone from bed when we were too tired, sad, or full of some other emotion.  Lea, I treasure how naturally you give love and laughter...and the fact that you gave me immediate permission to post this picture.

February: El Potrero Chico Mexico

Caleb took me on my first multi-pitch trad climbs in Yosemite, so it was fitting to do my first multi-pitch sport climbs with him in Mexico.  When we first climbed together, I don't think you knew how new I was and though it became immediately clear I didn't know what I was doing, you were endlessly patient.  I so appreciate how you have stuck with me, always believing I have the capacity to do more.  Thank you for going 12 pitches with me, in so many ways.  I can't wait to see your daughter crush.

March: Bishop California

Over the three years we have gone to Bishop, my relationship to the place and to the climbing has changed and it only grows in deeper, more loving ways.  Like the best trips, I cherish the non-climbing moments as much as the climbing. This had so many: freezing feet in mud, Bishop locals, surreal winter landscapes.  It deserves a space of its own.  And so do these ladies, with whom I share not just climbing but endless group texts, emails and IRL conversations about everything.  We came together during a time of transition, and have continued facing change after change together.  I love that it makes me happy to spend time with them as a group, and with each one individually.

April: Yosemite

This is the trip in which I started feeling more comfortable climbing trad, and the trip in which I broke my ankle.  I love this picture, which was taken after the accident, because I remember feeling happy and grateful.  Even though I didn't know then how bad the injury was or how long it would take to recover, I felt lucky to have pushed myself and to have had people who supported me so much. Thanks Mike for giving us so many opportunities to learn and push, and your generosity in teaching your knowledge and sharing your love of trad.  I'm proud of leading that first sustained lieback pitch of Nutcracker, and breathing through Bishop's Terrace.

May: Climbing in a Cast

This month I stuck to climbing indoors, and I'm really lucky that what could have been a pretty down month for me turned out to unexpectedly good because everyone was so supportive.  This was the birthday party I had at Ironworks with my co-workers, who humored my request to climb with all of them.  Thank you to Rachel for constantly belaying me on laps, bedazzling my cast, for listening to me all day long all week long, for making me post-climb tacos because I was too tired to feed myself (I miss you so much).  To Melanie and Zen for getting me gelato and a pull-up bar, for always checking in, and for the BEST hugs.  To Sarah for asking me to take time off (I didn't but it reminded me I could always ask you for help) and for caring for me as much as you care for our patients.  To Cris for showing your girls so many forms of strength, and this group for making work such a strong community.

Spearheaded by Diana (see November), my friends surprised me for my birthday.  During a time when all is out of sorts, the way people continually showed up in my life is what put me back together.  Thank you to Kristina for your loyalty and over 20 years of friendship; to Lindsay and Marlene for running alongside me, so nourishing and strong. To Laurie for answering my Craigslist ad for climbing partners when I first moved to SF, and to Laura for being a role model of persistence through injury.  To Prathap and all my med school friends including my wife who made me a separate birthday dinner with three different cuisines and four mini-cakes, I feel so lucky to have learned how to take care from you.  And to Christine, who helped organize this surprise--you have been there through everything bad and good, and have made it all more full of love and ease.  I'm always surprised by the extent of your generosity, and never surprised that you give it.  I've never ever doubted how much you have my back, and every day I try to be as present for people as you are.  Thank you to this group for understanding what I was missing, and for filling me up so completely.

June (and all summer long): Emeralds Tahoe CA

In June, we went to the Emeralds for my first time back outside after my foot was free from cast and boot.  It was hard to viscerally experience how much strength I'd lost, but throughout the summer I kept coming back.  This photo is from the last summer trek there.  It's my favorite picture, and one of my favorite memories, of 2018. I had just dealt with a health issue, and was feeling generally unsure of how I'd be feeling physically.  With these ladies, I climbed the hardest I ever have. It was special to have them, each one so integral to my climbing life and personal life, on the ground as I fell often but eventually got to the top with the goal to come back.  To reiterate what I expressed at that time: Thank you Kate for a wonderland brain that pushes me to take intentional falls, and adopt a mindset of just leading every climb I want to climb, because why not?  This also applies to how you push us to bravely approach life off rock.  Thank you Jorine for showing me how to focus on the next hold and not the next bolt, how climbing harder routes outside are within reach and not because of height, and how to appreciate the beauty of a line.  Thank you for inviting vulnerability in each of us, and for reaching out to me during some of my most privately difficult times.

July: Colorado

My brother Duy got married in Idaho Springs. Even though it was planned very quickly in order to accommodate my mom's surgery soon after, every detail was perfect.  (Also, there were four cakes so I was pretty happy).  I learned that even though I have always known them, there is more to my family--individually and every diagonal relation to one another--to learn, explore, accept and love.  And that while there is a lot uncertain about the future, in the past there are memories like Duy holding my hand while crossing the street up until I was in college.  After the wedding, we climbed in three different places over three days: Clear Creek Canyon, Boulder Canyon, and Devil's Head. While this is something no one in my family would ever do with me, I love them for giving me everything that makes it possible to climb.

August: Dolomites Italy

Besides being the most breathtakingly beautiful place of the year, Italy was special for the time spent with the strongest climber I know who also happens to be the most humble.  Thanks to Taylor for being the first person to tell me why not climb with a cast, for always asking me whether I wanted to lead what you just climbed even if the route was grades beyond my ability, and for teaching me so much about technique and passion--not by telling me, but just by doing what you do.  And thanks to Andy for your stoke and ability to capture all the angles of climbing, and Aimee for sharing our parallel challenges this year--you'd think that the high point of our connection would be the Dolomites, but it's only gotten better.

September: Mt St Helena

A reunion of most of the ladies who climbed here together last spring. The area looked, and the rock felt, completely different after the Napa fires.  We've been through a lot of renewal together, and I love that about returning to the same places over time.  Irene, I'm inspired by the grace with which you move through change.  Also, thanks for my annual banana cream pie, and for all the ice cream and movie dates, and for finishing my beer (pretty much, for being the best boyfriend ever).

October: Red River Gorge Kentucky

This is Allison getting at her steep project.  She introduced me to climbing in medical school, and besides seeing me through that progression, she's seen me through pretty much every dramatic relationship and personal challenge since that time. Our week in your cabin--living a simply warm life of sleeping, eating, talking and climbing--encapsulates so much of what you give me all the time. 

November: Joshua Tree 


Diana and Drew got married in Joshua Tree. Their officiant talked about how a climbing partnership mirrored a marriage: taking turns, trusting, supporting.  I can say the same for my friendship with Diana.  We climbed in Nevada, Colorado and all over California together.  You are the only person I know who could spend a week climbing in JTree and then look this good getting married.  I love your multi-dimensional beauty, and I would've looked so much worse this year without you.  You do so much for me (and for everyone), it's hard to imagine you have three jobs on top of being my friend.  Thank you for not just showing up, but showing up immediately.  Also, thank you for being as committed to the belay as to the climb, for your incredible balance of support (belaying me with so much patience) and rage (telling all the guys spraying beta to shut up).

December: Red Rock Canyon Nevada

I ended the year in one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people.  I did my first leading outside with Toral here three years ago. Since then you've helped me grow in so many ways, by being somehow honest and kind at the same time. But what I've appreciated most is seeing you grow, how much can come from your constant love of what you value.  Things will always be up and down, in climbing and in all the rest, but you and this joy are still there.  Thanks for helping me re-find that amidst the darker, deeper stuff.


So 2018 was actually pretty great. Hoping for a smoother 2019, but if it's rocky, we have a lot to fall upon.

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