30 Pitch Project: Episode One
For more than half my life, yes I can say that now, climbing has first of all been my creative outlet. I don’t paint, play music, act, take photos with a creative eye, or anything else in the artistic category. So, climbing it is. All the aspects of traveling up and down big hills, the pointer and steeper the better, I find alluring. I think my favorite part of this art is that there is no evidence of it. There is no paint on canvas, no sculpture, nothing except for footprints or ski tracks. The art is in the experience. It’s like all other art, but it’s in reverse; you start with the masterpiece (the mountain) and you (the climber) creates the image in their own mind creating each pixel with each step, hand jam, or carving turn. Like with all art, the more you practice, the more the artist becomes the art and the art becomes the artist. The line between the two becomes less defined, revealing the beauty of each. This is true of the climber and the mountain. The more the climber goes to the mountain and travels through it the more the climber and the mountain become one. To the climber this is the flow state, to the artist this is the flowstate.
The creativity for the climber is seeking out, creating, new experiences. Onsite climbing, or first ascents for many represents the pinnacle of this art form. Alex Honnald has taken a new form of travel, free solo, into very familiar terrain to create his art. As with all art, the beauty lies in the beholder, so let’s not pass judgment on A.H. Instead, let’s allow Alex to practice his Art freely (pun intended). For myself, this has taken on many forms and I am sure will continue to evolve as I grow as a climber.
Due to COVID-19 (how many times have you heard that statement?) instead of traveling to the desert south west and the pacific northwest to climb and share my art with my clients as a guide, I find myself looking to home. Places that are so familiar I feel at home even on the crux pitches. Cannon, the gem of Franconia Notch, is New England’s largest cliff, and even with its walk-off descent feels incredibly alpine in nature. For reasons I’m not sure of, Cannon is probably my favorite place to climb rock and ice. Maybe it’s the fascination with how the cliff formed, bursting out of the ground after glaciers stripped away the earth above, allowing the hot semi molten granite to expand and cool into a mountain. Maybe it’s the perfect crack systems. Maybe it’s the impeccably clean white granite, or the intense green of the lichen in the sunlight, or the updraft keeping me cool on hot summer days. Maybe it’s the way the sun rises over the Franconia Ridge, its orange glow washing down the cliff bringing its warmth with it. Maybe it’s the variety of climbs: how VMC Direct Direct can feel like a big wall, or the Whitney Gilman one of the most beautiful ridges in the U.S., or the excitement of the runout on the Half Moon Crack of Vertigo, or how I can lose myself on the superb pitches of Mobey Grape. This place is starting to sound world class, eah? It’s probably all those things, and that it’s in my own backyard. Spending time, stuffing my hands and feet into perfect splitters is my way of pushing my creative process forward.
The next evolution of this creative process that I found myself drawn to is leading 30 pitches in a day on Cannon. The seed was planted when Tommy Caldwell freed two ElCap routes in a day. The Nose and Free Rider are both about 30 pitches each. Tommy climbed 60 pitches in a day! Including many pitches of 5.12 and some 5.13. It was an incredible feat of climbing and athleticism. Tommy’s project was a culmination of many smaller goals he had set for himself over time. Each goal being well worth the effort in the pursuit of his own art. Every goal attempted, failure or success, was Tommy’s way of self expression through his climbing and each one helped prepare him for free climbing two routes in a day on ElCap. I do not mean to compare Tommy’s achievement to my goal, it was simply the inspiration, the proverbial seed. 30 pitches on Cannon because ElCap is about 30 pitches. Cannon because I feel so connected to that place. I am sure that future goals I set or projects I undertake will in part be influenced by the experience of trying to free 30 pitches on Cannon in a day. In the words of AMGA IT Member Silas Rossi, “you are the best you have ever been today, because every day you climb makes you better, so no matter what you are always the best you have ever been”.
So here I am, at home, not doing my art and bursting at the seams with a need for my creative outlet. So as I build a new treehouse for my daughter, repaint the entire house, custom make trim for my entire house, re-stain my deck, spread much, and cut down trees for firewood, and, and, and my mind is churning on all the different ways to complete this project. Even though I’m home with my family and not climbing on Cannon, I look forward to continuing to post updates on this goal of the future. For now it’s time to train, dream, prepare, and be good citizens and not go climbing. Will you will join me in sharing your motivations, creative outlets, and dreams in an effort to keep the hope alive during this difficult time.
Wishing you all well,
MMG Owner, Lead Guide