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Following Mario Thru New Mexico

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Following Mario Thru New Mexico

Mario and I went to Hueco Tanks last January, and our eagerness for climbing got us kicked out on our second day at the park (Parked in a handicap spot). Luckily for us, Mario had heard about this cool climbing spot near Carlsbad, New Mexico. We packed all the gear up in the van and set off on the 2-3 hr drive. If you're not very familiar with Texas geography, Hueco Tanks is pretty much El Paso, which is a border town to Mexico. The state has check points and highway patrolmen that try and spot suspicious activity coming from El Paso, and Mario and I were in a bright Yellow van. The van is important because it is the IDEAL vehicle for transporting people and narcotics thru the border. 

Mario's narcotic's van.

Glamorous "Van Life"

Glamorous "Van Life"

So as Mario and I drive into New Mexico the speed limit changes from 75 to 70, and we just keep on cruisin' at 75 since 5 miles over the limit isn't usually an issue. About 10 minutes later the red and blue lights go up in the rear view mirror, and our smuggling empire would be found out (Smuggling quickdraws, ropes, and smelly climbing shoes).

Now this isn't supposed to be important to the story but Mario is black and I am white and I also look like i'm a young teenager despite being 20 at the time. The officer walks up to the window and asks Mario to step out of the van and put his hands on the side. Already i'm thinking "wtf he can't do that, what were we possibly doing wrong". After talking with Mario for about 5 min, he walked over to my side and asked me if what we were doing, where we were going, where we came from, and if we had any drugs in the car. "Rock Climbing, New Mexico, Hueco Tanks, and half a pound of Chalk" luckily the guy had a sense of humor. After it became apparent that the officer wasn't going to arrest us, he started asking us about rock climbing in general. One of the cool parts of being a climber is people usually can't imagine going up on high cliffs with a thin rope and your finger tips to keep you from falling. Mario told him about climbing gyms and the Climb Fit program he runs, was actually a pretty chill conversation after all the business had been taken care of. The officer sent us on our way and we went off to Sitting Bull Falls, New Mexico. 

Mario has a unique way of pushing me to be great, basically he goes and climbs something that is incredibly hard even for him, and then leaves his gear all over it and then goes "Hey, you gotta climb this route because all our gear is on the route..." and I get roped (no pun intended) into climbing a 5.13b after climbing 5-10 routes at my max already. So here I am on this 5.13b that is INCREDIBLY overhung, the climb is basically a very large cave or how a huge wave would look.

Mario, about 3/4 of the way up this 5.13b. If you can trace the thin black line back to where it meets the wall, that's about where I fell at.. 

Mario, about 3/4 of the way up this 5.13b. If you can trace the thin black line back to where it meets the wall, that's about where I fell at.. 

Blood is just finger tears. 

Blood is just finger tears. 

Basically this means that since I am "cleaning" the route (Meaning getting all of our gear off it) that If I fall I'm going to swing out into open space and not be able to get back to the wall. I get to about the 4-5th clip on the wall (20-30 feet up the climb) and I can't grip the rock anymore and I swing into the air. So to dumb it down, I am swinging about 10 feet away from the wall dangling from my next quickdraw which is about 10 feet above me. We tried "Boinking" (me trying to pull my weight up the rope.) for a little while to get me up to the next clip, but it didn't work. We basically rigged up an "ascender" with 2 prussic auto-blocker loops and a long webbing for a foot push. I think this might have been the only time in two years I've been legitimately mad at Mario haha. Here I am at 6pm inching my way up a rope to my next quickdraw, tired, hungry, and bleeding from most of my fingers hahah. 

Obviously I made it to the the next piece of gear and retrieved it and we went home, and the anger went away as soon as my feet touched the ground. I like this story because I can remember knowing the way to fix my problem with previous knowledge and gear on my harness, it just felt really cool. 

I'm going to try and write small stories about things on my trips once a week, I hope you enjoy :)

 

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Presence

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Presence

To be present sounds simple, but it is overlooked more than we realize. This isn't necessarily directed to everyone, but to the majority. 

Be present

Be mindful

Be aware

Feel everything

Well what the hell does that mean? You sound like a weirdo hippy dude. 

Yeah well just try it, it might change your life. If it doesn't then that's okay, just keep living no worries. To be mindful or present or aware really just means to pay attention. Pay attention to everything, all the details. When you wake up in the morning you probably have some sort of routine, almost everyone does, and that's okay. Wake up, alarm off, get up, make the bed, make some coffee, take a shower, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, and go to work (not necessarily in that order). Its like clockwork, automatic, every morning. Which is kind of cool; efficient, timely, and easy. Unfortunately its boring, lifeless, and so automatic that sometimes you can't even remember how you felt the entire time. To me that's just a little too depressing. I don't want to spend half of my life living like that. We are humans, we are endowed with these feelings and they are beautiful gifts that we should be more grateful for. We can feel so much if we would just pay attention. Go outside and look at the sky, it makes you feel so small and sometimes even scared. That's incredible to me, if you just sit and look at it and really feel it there's absolutely nothing like it. The same could be said of the clouds, the wind, the trees, the people, the animals, the stars, the moon, the mountains, the rivers, the rain, the grass, all of it. All of it brimming with life and with energy and emotion if you would just let it touch you. All of these things are invisible to many of us because we block ourselves inside of our daily lives. We get on autopilot and we just drive, or work, or do whatever we do and just forget about all of it when we go to sleep. The only things many of us notice are the things that happen directly to us. Pay attention and feel you surroundings, there are a million things probably going on around you at this very moment that if given attention could inspire some emotion or feeling or appreciation. You'll smile more and you'll be more grateful for all the things you have. It is an unbelievable feeling to be swayed by such minor things. Presence will make you happier, I promise.

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Knowing & Growing

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Knowing & Growing

I was sitting next to my friend and mentor Mario Stanley the other night and thought to myself, I didn’t know this person even existed last year, and now he’s one of the most influential people in my life. And that led to further thought of how much I’ve changed and how much my life has changed in a year. For one thing I wasn’t as fit as I am now. My hands would shake when I would hold my phone for too long. I was super self conscious about how unfit I was, and it’s embarrassing being a guy and not being strong enough to do certain things. I think I had maybe 3 friends that I kept in touch with out of all the ones I had in high school, and even then I would barely hang out with them. I was infatuated with the idea of being rich enough to do whatever I wanted. Wealth seemed like the only thing that mattered in life. And perhaps the worst of all of that, I had no idea what I wanted. 

    Knowing what you want seems so simple, but I’d wager that most college kids have no idea. I don’t even know what I would want as an end goal, but I do know what I want right now. I have a few puzzle pieces to puzzle that takes a lifetime to finish. I don’t think you can accurately know what you will want 10 years in the future. We all change, especially in youth. All I can hope for right now is that I can set a solid base for what my 30 year old self might want. 

    I’ve never thought of myself as an impressive person. I get asked now by new friends that I climb with about how I’ve progressed so quickly with my climbing. I tell them it’s “Mario Magic”, meaning I owe it all to my coach Mario to put it simply. Inside my head i’m thinking how in the world am I impressive to someone? Even friends I haven’t seen since high school have commented on how much stronger I’ve gotten. I’ve never been in a situation before where I’ve been impressive to someone else, and it’s really weird.

    It’s also really strange finding out what I want. Even though I don’t have an exact vision of what I want 10 years from now, I know I want it to involve climbing and the outdoors, and that’s 100% more than I knew last year. The funny thing is that, what I think I know now will be 100% less than I’ll know next year. I suppose it’s just part of growing to be constantly changing who you are. I just hope 10 years from now I can be good enough to inspire others to be great.

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Travel Nostalgia

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Travel Nostalgia

Today somebody asked me, "What was the coolest place you saw when you traveled?" I have never even thought about that before. I had no idea how to answer the question and it made me feel abnormal that I couldn't answer it. I've been on three road trips to the West Coast/Pacific Northwest and one trip to Pittsburg and Philadelphia. When I word it like that it doesn't feel like I've accomplished much as far as exploration. But the sights I've seen and the places I've been in between are unfathomable. Maybe that's why this question was so hard to answer? Or maybe it's because I'm human that this question irks me so much. Our emotions are rampant and beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder. Well maybe one day on my adventures this beholder wasn't feeling so hot and the beauty escaped his grasp. Who's to say this beauty that he missed out on wasn't the coolest place he'd ever been if only he had been more aware? It's impossible to tell the truth, and I hate giving unsure answers. I guess if I had to pick a moment in my life during my travels where I felt the happiest, it would have been holding the person I loved tight in my arms underneath the downpour of Tumalo Falls in Oregon. An incredibly unforgettable moment to say the least, but to the outward eye Tumalo Falls is hardly in the top twenty as far as statuesque destinations go. But I guess love might possibly be the most alluring destination that this world has to offer. Or perhaps not, who knows.

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Movies that Move Me

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Movies that Move Me

I am a very empathetic person. It’s easy for me to be watching a movie and insert myself into the place of the character on screen. Because of this, depending on the movie, when I leave the theater I am extremely excited or amped. So I thought I would list the 2 movies that stand out in my mind that really get me excited and why.

The first movie is probably in the running for my top 5 favorite movies of all time. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an awesome story. A quick synopsis; an average man, Walter Mitty, has worked for a magazine company who is shutting it’s doors due to the internet boom. Walter is in charge of the last cover photo but has misplaced it. In order for him to find it he goes on an adventure in search of the photographer. 

 

    What really stands out about this movie to me is this quote from one of the movie posters “Stop Dreaming, Start Living”. Those words sum up part of the problem I see in today’s youth. With Instagram and Twitter showing us super rich people going on amazing trips, it can seem as if the adventurous lifestyle wasn’t meant for regular people. When the truth is regular people live this way every day, they just aren’t in the mainstream view. Another part about the movie that stands out to me is the photographer, Sean O’Connell, played by Sean Penn. Sean O’Connell is this enigmatic character who, to me, is almost like the Dos Equis man, “The most interesting man in the world”. Sean O’Connell is the mysterious, adventurous camera man. They don’t really know where he’ll be next, and his life to many seems incredible. It’s only when Walter tries to hunt down Sean O’Connell that he starts becoming an incredible person too. His travels take him on many adventures most would consider meant for someone extrordinary . When he eventually catches up with Sean up in the mountains, there’s a moment that really caught my attention. Sean is on assignment to photograph a snow leopard, and when he finally spots one he only looks at it. Walter asks him why he didn’t take the photo, and Sean replies “sometimes I don't. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.” Sometimes it’s best that we enjoy the environment around us, instead of trying to show it to everyone else. A picture can only relay so much, to really understand something, you have to experience it in person. That is what adventures are. They’re experiencing moments and growing as a person. If you take an amazing picture of something in your travels, it may get a lot of likes, but those people won’t know how it really felt to be there until they themselves have. 

 

 

    The Second movie that makes me want to get out and explore is "Meru". This is a documentary as opposed to a fun fiction such as "Secret Life of Walter Mitty". It follows the story of Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk and their attempts at climbing Meru. 

    

    A little backstory on the movie:Mt. Meru is 22,000 feet tall. It has only been summited once. Conrad, Jimmy, and Renan are the only people to have ever completed the “Shark’s Fin” route. Needless to say Meru is an insanely hard climb, even for experienced climbers. The movie starts in 2008 with Conrad, Jimmy and Renan’s first attempt to summit Meru. They got extremely close but had to stop 300 feet below the summit due to weather conditions. This part of the film brought forth a realization for me. One of the marks of a great climber is knowing when to throw in the towel. These guys could have very possibly gotten to the top of the mountain that day, it was only 300 feet away. Though if they had, there was a high probability that they would have died on the mountain. It brings forward an important question that every climber must ask themselves. What is more important? Getting to the top, or coming back safely? Sometimes you can’t do both. The middle piece of the movie is comprised mainly of what Renan and Jimmy were doing in between the 2008 attempt and the 2011 attempt. Both men would go through near death experiences just a few days apart. Renan would fall off a cliff side, damaging his skull and spine. Jimmy would get swept away and survive a Class 4 avalanche. Both crazy experiences that each man would need time to recover from. Fast forward a few months and they’re all back together (Renan, Jimmy, and Conrad) on their second attempt on Meru. The second attempt is FAR more interesting and filled with adrenaline rushes than the first attempt. While already half way up the mountain their port-a-ledge breaks in the middle of the night. Luckily, they are able to jury rig up a fix for it and hope it holds for the rest of the trip. After that, Renan has a sort of half stroke, due to his head trauma from a few months prior. It leaves him not able to speak for part of the trip. Despite all of these problems the three make it to peak. The mountain really threw everything it could at these three men, but they pushed on. 

        To some people, seeing how incredibly hard these men pushed themselves to summit Meru would deter them from even attempting. For me, seeing them on that climb made me want to get out on a mountain as soon as possible. There’s a certain allure a mountain holds. A sort of dare, as if saying “I bet you can’t do it”. I think this is present in the minds of most climbers. The thing that pushes them to finish, to see if they really can do it. 

 

    Both of these movies capture the spirit of adventure. The epic-ness of exploring something new to you or to the world. Movies are an amazing way for us to escape to a new world for an hour or two. I hope that I do get to experience the same spirit of adventure like Walter Mitty, or the same ground breaking exploration like Jimmy, Conrad, and Renan did on Meru. Only time will tell, but for now I’ll continue to train and look for more inspirational pieces that make me push myself harder.

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