Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Space Again

I’m sitting down at my writing desk this morning, in a new home, again. To count I’ve lived in six different homes within the last year. I don’t know if that explains why the words are coming slow this morning, but I think it is part of it. To really write I need to settle in, and get deeply immersed in a project. Like Jay-Z once rapped, “The more space I get the better I write.”

 The reason I’ve lived in so many different homes in the last year, is because I am a house sitter. It’s a career that has serendipitously come about, in a synchronistic way. I never planned for it to happen, but here in Durango, Colorado one has to be creative to survive. It’s a place where many outdoor enthusiasts want to live, and competition is high for any and all forms of employment. Plus house sitting is ideal for the writer, no roommates to distract, and typically the houses I watch are nicer than something I could afford myself. I get to pretend it’s mine for awhile.

 For the first time since February 1st I am not house sitting. I’m renting a place for a couple months from my good friends who recently bought a house. My room is large, there are pine trees and blue skies out my writing window, a current of traffic goes by the canyon road that the room is perched above, and I no longer have animals to attend to. Since February I have been responsible for 30 different animals: two cats, three dogs, four pigs, four horses, and 17 chickens.

My room is somewhat set up, and I’m delighted that I have a place for the books I’ve been shuttling around in boxes. But the mind, the writing, this morning my mind is getting used to a new place. I usually write the best once I am comfortable in a place. This morning I’m stumbling over my own words.

 So I take a break. I go downstairs and add to my coffee cup. My new roommate (one of five) is down there, we talk about climbing, he’s getting into it. We also talk about breakdancing, he is a b-boy. I’ve wanted to meet a real breakdancer my entire life, and now I’ve living with one! He mentions how there are very few people into breakdancing in Durango. He talks about how difficult it is to practice everyday, to stay on top of his game, and to stay motivated.

I think about this and how it compares to my writing. It is an endless challenge, one I have committed to meeting. Writing everyday, that is what a writer has to do. Today is a day of beginning. Great things will happen in this writing space. I just have to take this first step of stumbling, of daring to begin. The more space I get the better I write. I have space. I have time. I have the motivation to begin.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Avalanche

Yesterday I witnessed my first avalanche, while sport climbing at the Golf Wall, in Durango. I used the experience for my assignment for the creative writing course I'm taking at Fort Lewis College with the wise, Will Gray, a former editor at National Geographic.

The avalanche happened on the right side of this cliff (the one in the background).

Springtime in the Rockies; there were concerns that it would be too hot, but that spring day was absolutely perfect for climbing. We drove my spray painted, red, white and blue car up the winding highway towards the mountains, stopping after fifteen minutes to arrive at our destination, The Golf Wall.

We hiked through a slightly muddy trail, the sky was a silky, translucent silver; protecting us from overheating. We arrived at the wall, the first climbers. The wall, an overhanging chunk of limestone, blue, pink, and grey, not much of a site to see, but a playground to monkey around on for a climber, that can fill a day with a fulfilling workout.

We always warmup; it awakens the muscles as we navigate a familiar climb. The hands feel carefully on the slippery rock, the feet delicately placed in the same way a ballet dancer does; this is our dance. A golf course below is shedding its white of snow for green of spring.

Other climbers arrive; they blast techno music and make fun of each other. They are mutual friends, we are a tribe.

Then, a crack, and then a series of rumbles, like a mining boom and crackle, releasing.

“Is it rock fall?” someone asks.

“It’s an avalanche,” Jonathan says.

Across the canyon, it is an avalanche. It looks like a waterfall. Snow powers down the cliff, cascading with the power I’ve only witnessed in a raging river. Mother Nature flexes her muscles, and then we go back to climbing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Climbing Zine Manifesto

(our new logo by Mallory Logan)

In the very near future The Climbing Zine will be dropping the greatest zine ever, Volume 4. This zine will be available on eReaders, as well as in a full color deluxe printed version; our goal is to offer the best of both worlds. In conjunction with this we will be launching our new website, devoted strictly to The Climbing Zine. My blog has served as the informal website for the zine, but now it's time to take things to the next level.

While reflecting on what The Climbing Zine truly is, I typed up this manifesto. It articulates who we are, and what we represent.

The Manifesto

In an age when the power has been given to the people, we have come to offer up our own outlet for what rock climbing means to us, The Climbing Zine.

We were born on the rock face, in the moment, gripped, but so focused that our fear was transcended, and channeled. We climbed. We found the essence of climbing on the rock. We found a feeling like no other, a high, one of connecting with nature.

We created The Climbing Zine because we couldn’t find a source of media that told the stories of climbing we wanted to read. The culture of rock climbing is evolving and changing. We recognize that the only constant is change. The world is changing, how we interact, and how we tell our stories. Yet as much as climbing changes, its core remains the same. We’re beautifully human on a rock climb. We face our fear, and overcome.

We care little for numbers, we care for words, and we love a great story. As Alex Lowe once so eloquently and simply said, “The best climber is the one having the most fun.”
The Climbing Zine is a collection of memories of treasured experiences. It is 2012 and we are here to represent the soul of rock climbing, and take it back to the essence.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Only 250 words

I just started a Continuing Education Creative Writing course at Fort Lewis College, and our first assignment was to write about doing something active, in only 250 words. This is what I came up with, bending the rules of assignment to include what I did before yoga. I'll post all my assignments up on the bloggie blog.

As usual my morning was filled with house sitting chores, a couple murderous cups of coffee, surfing the web, and ideally some writing. Many days I wish I had only a typewriter in front of me. The simplicity is enviable.

Today my window for writing something while being insanely high on coffee is about an hour and a half. I have a yoga class that starts at 9:30 a.m. sharp. The words flow, a blog post about love, spring and writing. Writing about being a writer; certainly very blogger-like. I get close to my daily dose of a thousand words in. Long ago I made a vow that if I wrote a thousand words every day I would be fulfilling my personal legend. I learned that from a book by Stephen King. I feel more content on days when I get a good morning writing session in.

I also feel good when I do yoga. Somehow, the form of yoga I’ve chosen is very popular amongst women. It was started by a man, the ninety three year old, BKS Iyengar. Class starts and my mind races from the coffee consumption. Quickly we’re stretching our hamstrings, working out our abs, breathing, and the instructor is talking of the joy of spring.

The most memorable and enjoyable pose: hanging upside down, on the wall. My pelvis supported by a comfortable padded sling. Blood flows intensely to my head. My mind has reached a meditative state. The coffee wears off and yoga is in.

Spring and Love are in the Air, and The Man Who Quit Money

"Just another kid going through life worried that I won't be accepted. But I could do anything, you said that, and you meant that." Look What You've Done by Drake

When I looked at my organizer yesterday to make notes of what I need to do today, I was pleasantly surprised to see that today is the first day of spring. I am a dreamer, and spring is the opportunity to plant dreams, give them some nourishment and patience and see where they will go. Two of my dreams are to become a successful writer, and to find a beautiful lady to spend my leisure time with. This morning I feel optimistic about both.

This past weekend I met Mark Sundeen, an established writer, and author of the new book, The Man Who Quit Money. He was in town for a book reading at Maria’s Bookstore, here in Durango. He also crashed out at the place I’m house sitting at, along with Daniel Suelo, the subject of the book, the guy who doesn’t use money. Since I am an emerging writer who doesn’t quite make my living at it just yet, when I met an established writer, I typically bombard them with questions about “making it.” Every writer has their own little nuggets of advice, and the one thing I got from Sundeen was just to keep at it. He told me of his struggles and successes, as I absorbed every word he had to say. Sundeen appears to be on the road to success with his latest book, and I’ve really liked what I’ve read so far in The Man Who Quit Money. I will post a review up here when I am done with the book.

Another incident I wanted to reflect on happened a few weeks ago, back in the heart of winter. Basically it all occurred when the truck I was driving broke down. I was reliant on this beast, a big old Dodge diesel truck, because my car, The Freedom Mobile, could not get to the place where I was house sitting. The owners of the house left me their truck for when it snowed, and the road required four wheel drive.

When a vehicle breaks down one quickly reaches out to those close to him for help. I’m relatively new in Durango, so my network of friends reflects that; there are really only a handful of people I feel comfortable reaching out for help in a situation like this. I ended up calling my friend Andrew, who is one of my closest pals in Durango, and also happens to be a mechanic. The truck needed some work, so he gave me a lift to his place to spend the night. (My house sitting gig was 45 minutes from town, too far to ask someone to give me a lift out there.)

Anyways at Andrew’s place that evening, I had some time on my hands and decided to look through my journal. I write in it sporadically, and it contains three to four years of thoughts, journaling, and randomness. One thing I noticed was that I wrote a lot about pining for certain women, and for love in general. I also noticed when there were times when I did have a woman, and was in love, and I rarely reflected in my journal during those times. I think there’s a lesson to be learned there. When I had what I wanted did I take it for granted? Or is love just made for the sake of it, and there’s no reason to reflect?

Journaling is the form of writing that, for me, proceeded nonfiction essays, fiction writing and poetry. It is a kind of writing everyone can do, with no judgment from others. I know many people write in their journal and never show it to anyone. Personally I rarely show my journal to anyone. It is a personal place for self exploration.

Now that I am single again and spring is in the air, I can just sense the inevitability of love; it just has to happen. It is why we are here. It is scary, risks must be taken, but what is life without risk? What is love without risk?

A final note on risk, I am talking about the risk of the heart, not that risk one takes when they sleep with someone they took home from the bar. That is the worst kind of risk to take, have patience my friends, love is in your destiny.

And that quote at the beginning, that one is for a past love, you know who you are :)

The Climbing Zine is all up on the Nook

We're stoked to announce The Climbing Zine is now on the Barnes and Noble's Nook. Copies of Volume 3 are available for $3.99. We will have Volume 4 up there as well as soon as we publish, which will be really soon! I promise. If anyone buys this and encounters any weird formatting please let me know at This is all new terrain, and it's really exciting to be e-publishing. Cheers, Luke

To check it out click here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Dumpster Diving Rap

I wrote this rap with my good friend, Brian Malone. I thought it would be the beginning of my rap career, but in reality is the only true piece I've dedicated much time to. We really need to record it someday. Until then, enjoy the written words. word.

I was hanging with B
He looked over at me
He said where you wanna go?
I said dumpster diving yo!

So we got on our bikes
Thought we just might
Find a small solution
To consumer pollution

Soon as we arrived
We got in and dived
I found a red hat
But not only that
I got a red jacket
And a movie with Bob Saget

Dug a little deeper
Found two speekers
Complete with tweeters
Soon we had our fill
And we couldn’t believe this stuff
Was headed to the land fill

So I looked over at B
He looked back at me
He said where you wanna go?
I said City Market yo, but not inside the sto’ outside the back door

We heard the trash compactor was broke
But me and B thought it was a joke
But imagine the look of surprise
When just later we were eating apple pies

So me and B went back to our home
With enough grub for our domes
After dinner there was time to chill
And lucky for us nobody got ill

Later it was 11:30
So we went to the brewery
Saw this girl, asked her what brings you to Gunny?
She said you smell kinda funny
I wasn’t going to even ask
What can I say I get my clothes from the trash

Saw this other girl I knew
I liked her skirt it was blue
Things were going great until
“this is Nate he’s my date”

I tried not to worry
Cuz whats the hurry
They tell me theres plenty of fish in the sea
And theres lots of fine girls in gunny

So we walked out the drinking place
And a frown came upon our face
Our townies were missing
While the girls were dissing
Some drunk as skunk punks
Were taking our funky junks
I yelled I knew we should have locked em
Lets find those punks and sock em

But B calmed me down
He was like lets go down
To Loves

So we walked in the door to the store
No surprise to me
A new employee
Servin biscuits and sandwiches
B got his biscuit and added onions
At the last minute I was like lets get some Funions
B ate and said he was full
I opened up a red bull
B was like why are you sippin caffeine?
Give it a minute B you’ll see what I mean

Cuz when he was in the store alone
I went out to the pay phone
And put in two quarters
And called up these two girls

I just met em at Hartman Rocks
They were climbing the rocks
I just stood there drinking
Didn’t know what B was thinking
When the girls rolled up in a Benz

“I am Wendy and this is my friend”
Her name was Annette
A nice looking brunette
“Would you like a ride in our Benz?”
So with that we saw a way
To end our delightful Gunnison day

This poem was written with Brian Malone aka Malonalicious

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Remembering Adam Lawton

This last weekend my friend Dave Marcinowski and I travelled from the Western Slope of Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah, to attend a memorial for Adam Lawton, who was killed in an avalanche in British Columbia earlier this year. In addition to the wonderful ceremony up at the Alta ski resort, we paid our respects by climbing and remembering the light and spirit that was/is Adam Lawton.

Adam’s departure has been my most intense encounter with death. Because death is part of everyone’s lives, I thank him for the learning lessons that have occurred over the last two months. Someone had to go first, and in our circle of friends it was him.

That’s where I want to start, and what struck me so much, his circle of friends. I walked into the memorial, with around a hundred people or so, and only knew a fraction of those in attendance. Immediately I felt uncomfortable and wanted to sulk in a corner or something. Then I started seeing familiar faces, many I hadn’t seen in years, and the next five hours flew by in a whirlwind of fond memories and countless tears.

For me Adam Lawton was a verb, not a noun, he was the definition of engagement, of thrill seeking, soul searching, indulgence, compassion, love; he made me feel like I was his best friend when we were together. He had this impact on many, many people.

People spoke bravely, even when they were engulfed in crying. I felt a profound connection to their tears and words, and even though I’d never met several of them, they all knew the essence and spirit of Adam Lawton in the same way I did. My heart goes out to those who were with him and survived the avalanche. I can only imagine their pain and sorrow.

I could feel Adam’s spirit in the memorial, and met many new people. Adam had a way of bringing people together, and was always yearning to connect with people, and to get out of his comfort zone. I hope to be more like Adam in this way, for the rest of my existence in this body.

One of the many people I met through Adam, Todd Glew. We did a quick climb before the service in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

After we left Salt Lake City we decided to try to climb a desert tower, in Adam’s memory. We only had a few hours in the morning, the following day, because Dave and I both had to get back to our respective homes in Telluride and Durango.

We chose Castleton Tower, near Moab, because it has a couple of relatively moderate climbs (for the desert) and it is also incredibly accessible. We rolled into the campsite in the dark, and we were slightly surprised how crowded it was. There were several other vehicles, mostly college students on Spring Break. So we enacted the rule that we would just have to get up earlier than everyone else.

That is exactly what we did. We woke up in the dark, and quietly made coffee and bacon and eggs. We started hiking up to the tower just as the first rays of light were coming up, well before anyone else. I will forever think of Adam when I am in the red rock desert. When my feet are planted on its red dirt, when I look to the blue bird skies and feel the sunshine, and when I am sitting around a campfire with good friends. Adam loved the Utah desert, and the last time I hung out with him was at Indian Creek over Thanksgiving.

I try to keep up with Dave as we hike up through a wash, then to the climber’s trail that leads to Castleton. It’s such a beautiful, striking tower that soars some four hundred feet in the sky, nearly perfectly shaped with four equal sides, and obvious crack systems that beg the climber to enter. To the west are the La Sal mountains, the snow quickly fading with spring in the air. All around are other red rock walls and towers that seem to go forever.

Dave shouts, “We love you Adam” as I start up the first part of the climb, jamming my hands and feet in the hand crack. Every move is a tribute, and we talk about Adam, and reminisce at each opportunity. He’d done this climb, The North Chimney, previously, and it was a fitting route to do in his honor.

Higher up I yell to the desert, “This one is for you Adam,” as I exit the chimney on big hand holds and foot holds. The climb is over just as quick as it began, and we’re on the summit. We write in the summit registry, and place a sticker that our friend Lisa Slagle designed for Adam. It reads: This is what we do.

And indeed this is what we do. Adam left a void in many people’s lives with his departure. But we’re all still here for one another. The snowy mountains are still here, the desert is still here and the rivers are still here. And though Adam is not here in his body, his spirit lives on; I know this because I can feel it. We love you and miss you Adam.

Friday, March 9, 2012

One Last Winter Indian Creek Climbing Post

Well, the temperatures look as if they are going to be soaring in the Utah desert this weekend. On that note I wanted to publish one last piece about winter Indian Creek climbing, that I wrote for the Deuter USA blog. Here you go. Everyone be safe out there this weekend.

Indian Creek Winter Climbing; Finding Comfort in the Cold

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Creek and Canyonlands

Well it's March and that always means desert dreaming and climbing, at least for me. I just started a new house sitting gig at the base of our local crag, East Animas, for most of this month. So I'm sensing most of my climbing this month will be near my home of Durango, which is fine. April and May will be the months of travel this year, and I know I'll get my fix of the red rock desert then. Until that time arrives I'll be dreaming of past climbs and new lines. Here's some photos of Indian Creek and Canyonlands, from last March, with my great friend, Keith Brett. Enjoy. Note: photos are courtesy of Keith Brett.

View from the Broken Tooth Wall, my personal favorite at The Creek.

North Sixshooter sunset. Unforgettable.

The stunning and ever popular, Rock Lobster, with Inflictor to the right, a difficult finger crack, that is easily toproped from Rock Lobster, and occasionally led. Supposedly some stoppers are good in the Inflictor.

To the left is Tooth Pac, a mostly #2 hand crack, with one offwidth section (bring a #6 camalot). To the right is a shitty, sucker crack with no anchors.

The plaque of Tooth Pac. A much better warmup than the aptly named nearby Gingivitis.

The drive down the White Rim of Canyonlands National Park.

Yoga on arch in Canyonlands.

Pretty crucial to have a truck like Keith's to go down there. We drove for three and a half hours on 4 x 4 terrain to reach our objective, Standing Rock.

Standing Rock in the middle. Such a cool tower, the picture tells the story.

On the second pitch of the Kor route on Standing Rock.

Bomber desert anchor.

Keith Brett on the summit of Standing Rock.

Yours truly, rigging the rappel.


Rappelling off Standing Rock. Only five more hours till yer back in Moab.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spring is in the Air - Wild Mountain Honey

Another oldie but goodie, Wild Mountain Honey, one of the many chapters in my upcoming book, Climbing Out of Bed.

‘It’s a shame the single mountain women are complained about more than celebrated, for they are more beautiful than the mountains themselves,’ he thought, as two young women passed him as he hiked along Tony’s Trail.

All the cliché sayings he’s heard about mountain women. “You don’t lose your girlfriend you just lose your turn,” and of course the ever uttered, “There’s no women in this town.” A phrase he often heard from a fool’s mouth, while he sat on a barstool and a woman stood right behind him.

Though his heart had been broken several times, he still had to utmost respect for the mountain women. A wise friend once told him you can only truly live or love after your heart has been crushed. The hope of meeting another Mountain Honey filled him with desire and longing, as strong as a shivering person camping in the cold, waiting for the sun to rise.

He took another step along the trail, then he looked back to admire the women, as they rode by on their mountain bikes. They had the look: strong legs, shining faces, and beautiful hair that bounced down to their breasts. He recognized the two, married perhaps, definitely not available. Some say all the good ones are taken, but had these beauties not once arrived to the Valley single? They probably arrived in beat up old pickup trucks, perhaps intending only to stay for a summer in the mountains. Full of energy and life, wild as the wind, full of so much love that had to be met with the love of someone else.

He thought of what he wanted, what he needed, and what he had experienced before. There were the nights making love under the autumn stars; the wildest and purest emotions erupting into the most fabulous sensations he’d ever known. Then to wake up naked; freezing in the middle of the night, as he and his lover climbed into the pickup truck for shelter.

Then there were the endless winters without love, when he had no confidence to approach women. Followed by the birth of spring, and the rebirth of self, and knowing his confidence would be restored. He could and would again manifest love. That just as the birds always sing again, and the flowers will bloom, he would love again.

He took another step on the trail, it was June, but spring was still in the air. The flowers had yet to bloom in Crested Butte, but the sagebrush smelling as sweet as ever. With the current of possibilities of how amazing the summer could be, he looked down to the town of Crested Butte. A Mountain Honey, surely there was one for him down there. He had confidence in his steps, as town grew closer. He knew as summer grew closer, he was closer to the most fabulous joy on earth, romancing with a Wild Mountain Honey.

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