About two hours ago I exited an Ace Hardware store carrying a newly purchased two-and-a-half-foot crowbar, as well as a six-inch wire brush. Then I strolled to an outdoor equipment retailer and purchased three United States Geological Survey Topographic Quadrangles: Scab Creek, Horseshoe Lake, and Fayette Lake. After achieving that end I took out my cell phone and made a call to a friend with the hopes of securing the loan of both a hacksaw and a metal file. I was intending to modify my Petzl Grigri belay device to help it function as a tool for rope soloing.
Upon hearing my request the friend, Mike Nerby, asked just what in the hell I was planning. I told him about the DIY alteration and he asked for my reasoning. This is when I got elusive, because you see, I know the location of treasure: high-quality unclimbed rock routes…
Nigh on one month ago, while evacuating by foot a suicidal student from an outdoor education course I was working in the Wind River Range of Western Wyoming, I looked up. My jaw dropped. Above a crystalline creek chock full of athletic brook and rainbow trout, sat in patience a 100-foot cliff with an angle of repose slightly greater than vertical. Slashed across its face, like the remnants of a swipe from some mythic she-bear, screamed four cracks. They all trended left as they rose from the ground and they all begged to have the lichen, bat shit, and odd loose rock cleaned from them (thus the crowbar and brush). They all begged to feel the desperate fondling of human hands and feet. At least that’s what my mind projected onto their existence.
In this day and age, when so much of the earth’s surface has been desecrated by an unwieldy population of people, finding the unknown, the untrammeled, is a rarity. So while I like Mike, I don’t trust him, because we all know that secrets, like laws, are made to be broken. I want to collect my booty and reap the benefits. I want to make my mark on the land and have folks thinking, dreaming, enviously, reverently, about me making my mark on the land. Call it arrogance, call it ignorance, call it miserly, call it what you will—I’ll call it fun and I intend to see it done, by me first.
After some prodding, Mike smelled that I wasn’t about to divulge my destination, and was nice enough to offer the use of his utensils. I waddled over to his garage and did the deed. I put a beer—a sixteen-ounce High Life—in his hand and bid him farewell. I sought out the closest computer and checked the weather: high seventies, possible afternoon thunderstorms, gusts up to twenty miles an hour.
Perhaps in three days’ time I will be in a more benevolent mood. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, look up.
Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.