Archive for December, 2017

Joshua Tree Climbing Break to Get Away from the Thomas Fire

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

I had to evacuate my place in Ventura before dawn on Tuesday morning of last week due to the Thomas Fire after a long, harrowing night. That very morning I worked several hours remotely to make sure digital communications were made about the state of the non profit I work for and those we serve and how others could help. I finally managed to grab some sleep in the late afternoon but the rest of the week proved just as busy.

Aside from keeping tabs on donation and help efforts for work, I also monitored the status of my neighborhood and those of my friends. I remained on mandatory evacuation orders. It was touch and go for four days but by Friday night I learned the mandatory evacuation for my neighborhood and the city wide boil water alert had been lifted and my landlord confirmed the house was still standing. I decided that I would honor a previous plan I had made to go climbing and take it as a mental break from the trying week. Luckily, some of the things I managed to pack before the mandatory evacuation had been announced was my personal climbing gear…well, and enough various camping equipment that a co-worker of mine had proclaimed, “I’m going with Eileen!” that first traumatic night of the fires.

Though I was tired – once I got to Joshua Tree and saw the blue skies, and could take a deep breath of clean air – I knew I had made the right choice.

Here are a few photos from the trip:
Me on a crack climb at Belle Campground

John Long chalks up on a climb in Joshua Tree
Climbing Legend John Long chalking up in style.

Tom and Michelle being belayed by John and Todd. Alan looks on.
Tom and Michelle being belayed by John and Todd. Alan looks on.

Rockgrrl (Eileen Descallar Ringwald) and Largo (John Long)
Me and John Long chilling at the base of the 10d

Team Rainbow Puffy
Team Rainbow Puffy!

Todd Gordon on his way up the friction climb
Todd on his way up the friction climb

Here’s the complete set of that Saturday and Sunday.


Monday, December 11th, 2017

I looked at the route before me, and put my hands on the rock. I didn’t really see the next hold, but I lifted off anyway. I knew right away I wasn’t doing it right but I couldn’t remember the sequence. I tried something and fell.

I couldn’t believe it – I had never fallen on this route before, not even the very first time I had tried it. It was an overhanging climb with multiple holds that I once thought would be my next red point. But I had come off before the first bolt while on top rope. My arms felt weak and useless. I was humbled but incredibly happy. I was back outside without restrictions. I was climbing.

My last post on here is dated January 2014. I haven’t climbed consistently in about 3 years, and not at all for most of 2016 and most of early 2017. The reason why is nothing as dramatic as a spectacular physical injury, but as a casualty of the all too common death throes of a long term relationship. I mark that day – touching ground again too soon on a route that I had never fallen on before – as my re-entry into climbing life.

In the past few months of this year I’ve been edging ever closer to climbing again. In the summer I went stand up paddle boarding enough times that I considered buying a board. I joined a few hiking groups and went on a lot of new-to-me hikes. I even went on a great backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierra. And finally, though I mark the day falling on the route as my re-entry point into climbing, my first real time out climbing again was just simply going to Ape Wall in Malibu Creek with friends. I wore a new harness because I couldn’t fit in my old harnesses anymore. I didn’t have much climbing gear to my name but I didn’t want not having a harness stop me in case I was invited to climb again by someone with gear. I was shy about getting back into the climbing world. I knew I still had friends and could likely just find a new partner to climb with but couldn’t bring myself to impose and didn’t have a climbing gym close enough to get to on a regular basis. So, going to Ape Wall was a big step for me. I knew I was far from climbing shape but figured just hiking out was a good thing to do. I didn’t do much that day but it felt good to just be out making new memories.

That same month was when I headed to ghetto wall again, got on my old route and came off humbled. It was enough though, enough to make me feel some of the “old me”. I have been sharing these adventures behind the protected walls of Facebook, too shy to post here. A friend of mine who follows me there mentioned that I seemed to have gotten more adventurous. This friend was one I had made a long time ago in the video game industry world and didn’t know me that well. Back when I had first added her as a friend, I used to not use Facebook at all – sticking mainly to Twitter and of course sharing on – so it was no surprise she didn’t know this side of me. She was shocked when I told her I used to climb all the time and had even been sponsored. To me it was a wake up call as to how long I had been away from just “being me”. A “me” who loves the outdoors and being with people who love it as well. I started climbing again, and getting back in touch with climbing friends. I started going on weekend or longer trips to familiar places and learning how it felt again to be on different types of rock, and different types of climbs. It felt great to get sore muscles again, and not just aching joints because I was abusing my knees by doing the weekend warrior thing. But what really felt great was feeling the healing the outdoors was bringing me and learning that the friends I was making or reconnecting with – that those friendships had really always been there if I had only reached out – even if I didn’t know my route anymore – and just started again.

I’m going to be posting stories and photos from this re-entry period, with some of my thoughts on how hard it is to start climbing again after stopping. The posts will be chronologically out of order for the most part. For now, here’s a collection of photos from my reentry period: