A SMALL, EFFICIENT, DUAL-BEAM HEADLAMP.
from the belay ledge, seeing the anchors moving away, and even the yellow color of the sun-bleached slings. But the rest is gone until I lay below the climb-Whiteman in Rocky Mountain National Park-in the talus. Our brain somehow blanks the short-term memory after heavy trauma. I like to think of it as God's own defense mechanism. Like me, Mike had also landed standing and then crumpled. But unlike me, he was right in front of a small group of onlookers. Two of these happened to be Preston's mother and his longtime girlfriend, who'd come to Eldorado that day for closure, Preston had fallen from the same spot as Mike. He'd slipped from his jams, pulled several small pieces, and hit the pointed rock below the climb.
While I stood explaining my accident to Mike's family in a sunny hallway close to Mike's ICU room a few weeks after his fall, 1 couldn't help but feel nervous. Mike was still in and out of reality, so I'd come to meet with his family-to share a survivor's perspective. Even as I told them what Mike's recovery might be like, even as we discussed dark realities like brain injuries and amputations, the strange fact remained that Mike had lived while Preston had not. Even though the sun shown through the windows, I felt a cold sweat on my neck. I hoped that because I'd gone through something similar, Mike and I would hit it off. I was wrong. My second visit, alone with Mike, was a total failure.
The day was hot, but I froze as I walked into the glaring sun of the parking lot. I felt I might puke, unable to shake the feeling that I'd overstepped my bounds,
On a warm July day, two weeks after meeting Mike's family, I stood next to his bed, waiting for him to look at me. Mike was awake and a nurse was cleaning his tracheotomy tube, but he wasn't in a position to see my prosthetic leg. I talked, explaining that I'd been hurt but had returned to climbing. And that's when I showed him my artificial leg, expecting a warm, "Cool!" or something. But Mike simply looked at my leg and turned away. His leg had already been amputated, and I thought seeing me standing normally would help.
I like it when people like me. Most people feel this way. But here was a man with a lot of anger, seemingly pointed at me. The conversation dwindled to nothing, broken finally by the nurse saying Mike was tired. I excused myself and went to look for my family.
The day was hot, but I froze as I walked into the glaring sun of the parking lot, I felt I might puke, unable to shake the feeling that I'd overstepped my bounds. I was beginning to understand Mike's stony reaction. Who was I to say things would work out? Really, I didn't know the first thing about Mike or how his life might go. The meeting continued to perturb me.
So with more questions than ever swirling like a spring storm, I did what any sane climber would do. I went and led that first pitch.
AFTERWARD, AS JACK AND I WALKED out of Eldo that day, I reflected on my quest for meaning. It's not, I realized, that the rock or the mountains care, because quite simply, they don't. But they do seem to have a (ife, a personality, on certain days. Sometimes when I plug my hands into a crack, I know there will be no falling that day. Other days, I know I'll be scared dawn to dusk. The day I fell in RMNP, I had a weird feeling in my belly. Had Mike and Preston felt "off," too? I might
never know, but it makes me understand how close we all tread to the edge-that one small mistake can change or end your life. That we should listen to those gut feelings.
The thing that stuck with me is the way Mike greeted me - or didn't. I stay in touch a bit with the family, and I have a huge amount of respect for them all, but it made me rethink things. Just because Mike and I are both climbing-accident survivors doesn't mean he'll look to me for help. Maybe we shouldn't stick our noses where they don't belong. Tiien again, just off the heels of the summer 2009 death of my friend Craig Luebben, I'm reminded yet again that we band together in these times because we have to. It gives us a feeling of not being alone, that others share our values and outlook.
After Craig's funeral, someone told me, "He died doing what he loved." I responded, saying that that was a stupid, overly simplistic way to view a horrible situation. Craig was dead, and his wife and daughter had tost the most important man in their lives, i'd known and climbcd with Craig for 13 years, and I was confident that given the choice to climb or be a dad, he'd have dropped climbing in a heartbeat. It wasn't until October of this year, a month after Craig's death, when a friend explained what she thought that aphorism meant, that I got some closure to both Craig's passing and the Werk Supp accidents.
In Craig's case, it wasn't that he was climbing, but that he died living a life he'd chosen, not taking a "safe" desk job as an engineer (as he could have), but still pursuing climbing and working in the mountains. That, I realized, is why climbers want to help each other after an accident-because in some form we've all made the same choice Craig did, just by being climbers. When the band comes together, I'm reminded that we are truly a small tribe and that this is but a short trip. Stay safe out there, and I'tt do the same.
Craig DeMartino is based out of Love!and, Colorado, as a photographer and climber. He listens to the inner voice always.. .especially when it points him to coffee.
BY JUSTIN ROTH
A FEBRUARY 19 PRESS RELEASE from the New York Governor's Office announced that New York plans to close 41 state parks and reduce service at another 23. This in an effort to bridge the state's unprecedented S8.2 million budget gap. Included on the list of parks to be closed is Minnewaska State Park, in the Shawangunk Mountains, home to Peter's Kill and its nearly 200 high-quality boulder problems on pebbly, bullet-hard Shawangunk conglomerate (the same rock found on the classic Gunks routes of the neighboring Mo-honk Preserve, which is privately owned and thus not affected by state closures). Loved by local pebble wrestlers, Peter's Kill contains problems like Mentos (V4), Tiger Style (V7), Dwarf Toss (V8), and Kadejha (V10). Closure would likely mean that anyone caught on the premises could be charged with trespassing, and, of course, climbing would no longer be an option in Minnewaska or any of the other closed state parks.
The proposed closure would affect all of Minnewaska—Peter's Kill being only a small part-which contains vast amounts of rock, full of potential for both routes and boulder problems. "Minnewaska Is probably the largest banned public-land climbing area in the country," says Jason Keith, policy director for the Access Fund (accessfund.org). Keith and the AF have been working to open climbing on the rest of Minnewaska land for years; the closure would represent a significant setback.
The NY State Parks closure is a part of Governor David Paterson's budget proposal, and still must pass the NY State Legislature before enactment. But in a telling move, the state has already started refunding camping fees for 12 of the parks slated for closure, according to a March 2 New York Times article.
The proposed closures in NY are troubling, but perhaps even more troubling is the fact that they're part of a larger trend. In 2009, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing most of California's state parks, and similar closures have been discussed in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Utah, and even Colorado. "It's not isolated to NY by any means," says Keith. A March 18 article in the Arizona Republic reported that the Arizona State Parks budget has been cut by 80 percent since 2007, with more cuts likely on the way.
in a time of recession, the idea that budgets are in need of tightening is not in question; however, state parks are not a good place to look for savings, in a study prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts, it was determined that, far from being a drain, the New York State Park System generates "substantial net economic benefits." The benefit-to-
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