Archive for June, 2009

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Passing Away

June 17, 2009

Seems like death is in the air at the moment.  With the passing of the three very well known climbers recently (Micah, Johnny, Wade), then a friend’s friend passed away, and now a close friend of mine too: Chris Hale.

I really appreciated Chris’ presence.  He had qualities such as being soft-spoken, honest and up front about who he is, and calm that I notice and relate to.  We met while living in Gainesville, Florida, enjoyed many bouldering days indoors at the Gainesville Rock Gym and outdoors in Tennessee to where he moved.  Recently he went on a climbing spree around the country, climber-bum-style, and we kept trying to meet up but I put it off because of finishing my PhD.  He suprised me by being the only friend who was like: “chill Bruno, relax, don’t worry about it, we will have plenty of climbing trips once you are done with that.  Focus on that for now.”  I have needed that support and used his words in some dark dark times recently.

I’m really going to miss him.  At the same time, every climbing experience has always been about the friends I am with at the time and I have a knowing that he will be very present every time I step into the zone of climbing.  This is not thought based, it really is a felt-sense, and it is pleasant to feel that.

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Chris was working at Yosemite, having just recently started, and it seems that he was reported missing on Sunday morning.  On Monday morning his body was found near Mirror Lake.  Those are the facts.

Then there are the speculations.  The first person to tell me about his passing mentioned that she had heard that he was soloing.  Thus he most likely fell.  However, I then talked to someone who knows Yosemite like the palm of her hand and she was like “give me a minute, I’m trying to think of what he could have possibly been climbing there…”.  On a press release on Monday the park rangers say he must have fallen of while climbing but on Tuesday “a spokeswoman for the National Parks Service said investigators do not believe Hale was rock climbing at the time.”

There is some incompleteness for me still.  Aside from my desire for him to be alive the incompleteness comes from not feeling certain about the falling-while-free-soloing story.  Chris was a good climber, not super solid, his legs and arms would sorta jitter when he climbed hard, but I think he was a conscious climber.  I look forward to a more conclusive report on this.

http://www.gainesville.com/article/20090616/ARTICLES/906169894/1002?Title=Ex-Gainesville-rock-climber-was-pursuing-his-passion

Ex-Gainesville rock climber was pursuing his passion

By Christopher Curry
Staff writer

Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 6:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 6:17 p.m.

Christopher Hale enjoyed acting and playing chess, but friends say his true passion was rock climbing.

This week, Hale, 23, a former Gainesville resident and Eastside High graduate, died doing what he loved – traveling to state and national parks across the country seeking rock formations to climb and conquer.

“He was spending a few years of his life really enjoying himself,” friend Lee Friedlander said. “He was traveling and climbing. It was what he wanted to do.”

On Sunday, Hale was reported missing in Yosemite National Park in California, where he planned to spend the summer working and climbing. His body was found Monday afternoon. It is believed Hale fell from a cliff.

Friedlander and Hale met a few years back at the Gainesville Rock Gym, where Hale was well known and well liked. In the fall of 2006, Hale moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., the closest rock-climbing destination to Gainesville. Several months later, Friedlander moved there as well.

He recalled how Hale would invite friends up from Gainesville to go rock climbing in Chattanooga and then end up gladly hosting at least 20 people in his one bedroom apartment, cooking breakfast for them each morning.

“He was just a really, really nice guy, very giving,” said friend C.P. Santos, who also met Hale at the Gainesville Rock Gym.

Santos, who now lives in Colorado, said he last spoke to Hale on Thursday. At that time, Hale was excited about a summer job he had taken at Yosemite National Park and his plans to spend the next few months climbing there.

On Sunday morning , Hale, who was working for the park’s largest concessionaire, Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts at Yosemite Inc., was reported missing. Park rangers found his body at about 1 p.m. Monday and said in a released statement that it appears Hale fell from “an an unnamed cliff face above Mirror Lake in eastern Yosemite Valley.”

An investigation is ongoing, and the exact cause of death is not yet determined. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the National Parks Service said investigators do not believe Hale was rock climbing at the time.

Before reaching Yosemite National Park, Hale had spent several months traveling to climb at places like Hueco Tanks State Park near El Paso, Texas, and Bishop, Ca., in the Eastern High Sierras. Friedlander said Hale was apparently writing a book chronicling his travels.

Before he threw himself fully into rock climbing, Hale enjoyed acting, said family friend Chris Meyers, a Gainesville resident. Meyers said his wife taught Hale in the theater program at Eastside High. Hale also used to perform at the Hoggetowne Medieval Fair as a member of the Thieves Guilde acting troupe.

After graduating Eastside in 2004, Hale studied theater at Santa Fe Community College for a year.

His friends remember him as a subdued and quiet, yet very well liked.

“He was extremely popular,” Meyers said. “He had a huge extended network of friends.”

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com”

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Time to Return

June 11, 2009

To say that I have done very little exercise in the past 4 months would be a gross understatement; I have done close to no exercise… I was focusing hard on finishing my PhD, working every waking hour, and it still isn’t done.  It still isn’t done but I’m back to climbing and working out because some things are even more important than that 7 year journey that the PhD has been.  Together with the physical inactivity has been a spiritual inactivity; the hours spent behind the computer are nothing less than soul-numbing.  The sitting position does not lend itself to good breath or good circulation… I’m surprised I didn’t get bed sores on my ass.

Last night I returned from an awesome 6 day trip which inaugurated the return to physical and spiritual aliveness.  This trip started with a journey from Oakland to Flagstaff for the wedding of two good friends, Matt and Corrie.

WeddingThe wedding was at the Snowbowl and, despite the strong winds, it turned out to be a beautiful wedding.

The day before the wedding we went climbing at a nearby spot called The Pit.  This is a nice crag with cool features such as tufas and deep pockets; we went up some easy routes and enjoyed the scenery.  On the way out I was informed that Priest Draw was only a few minutes away!!  Super psyched I spread the word and the next morning we returned for bouldering.

We were impressed by the area, particularly by how vast it was!  Seemed like there were more and more rock outcroppings and awesome roofs the further back we looked.  Not having much time, we decided to climb on some of the first rocks we saw.  The climbing here takes some adapting; it is mainly roof climbing on deep two finger pockets with powerful dynamic moves.  I am just getting back into climbing after a 4 month hiatus so my power was very low and my skin felt soft and sensitive; however, I played on an excellent V8 (V7 if you know the key beta) called Wife Beater (shown below).

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Mike Palmer slapping Wife Beater

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Me trying hard on Wife Beater.

That night was the wedding and Max Z. in time to perform his best man duties; he arrived fresh from the Bouldering World Cup in Vail, Colorado, and was pscyhed to go to Priest Draw the next morning.  At 9am we were walking around the boulder field; the temperature was perfect and the sky was sunny and clear.  We hiked about a bit, warmed up on a super easy juggy wall, and just as we were about to explore the boulder field we saw a super cool boulder and our goal of seeing many different boulders suddenly imploded… beside this one roof boulder we found an awesome piece of rock which housed the classic line The Egyptian.

The Egyptian is rated V11 and was first climbed by the one-and-only Chris Sharma in the movie Rampage; most climbers are familiar with the scene in which Chris hangs from a double gaston on roof pockets and then swings his feet to the lip and scrambles up the rock, leaving the onlookers amazed.  We warmed on up easier lines to the right of The Egyptian and then filmed and shot photos of Max attempting and sending the classic line.

Below is a video of Mike P. sending a line to the right of The Egyptian.

Here is a sequence of a failed attempt at the crux move of The Egyptian:

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And here is the video of the send:

After the short visit to Priest Draw I headed West with the family.   We went across Death Valley and to the bouldering meca that is Bishop; I was expecting to find scorching heat but still thought it would be a good place to visit, to show Ursula and Kale’a, and to camp.  We found unseasonally cool temperatures and plenty of rain but enough gaps to enjoy the rocks and to hike.

Enjoying the view:

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Some morning yoga:

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A morning hike on Iron Man:

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After Bishop we headed up to Tuolumne Meadows, the Yosemite high country.  Our plan was to camp there and then drive to Oakland the next day but the campgrounds were closed… very very sad.

It is impossible to express how stunningly beautiful Tuolumne was… the air was pristine, snow blanketed much of the mountains and some of the meadows, the clouds rolled above us and there was plenty of wildlife.  We spent the whole time ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’, stopping the car and making plans to live up here indefinitely.

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We arrived safely at home and desirous to climb, camp, hike and just have a deeper involvement with nature… visiting it more often.  And personally, this marks the end of my 4 month leave from climbing; the membership at the climbing gym was unfrozen and today I started the return to fitness.

So stay tuned, more trip reports will be happening soon!