Life; and Death

Well. It’s over.

A simple, but costly mistake ended the trip, and now I’m retreating home with my tail between my legs.

Here’s what happened:

My project in Maple Canyon: Wyoming Sheep Shagger (5.13d)

We had climbed our last day in Maple Canyon, and decided to leave for Rifle, Colorado; about a 6 hour drive away. We packed all our stuff and hit the road; excited, eager, and inspired by youthful tenacity. As we left I had several things on my mind: the van, the climbing, and budgeting. The van had been having a small issue with the gas cap, which had led us to spend more money on gas than was planned. Also fresh in my mind was punting off an easy move past the crux on my project, I was distracted and stress. This combination led to a stupid mistake; easily avoidable, yet fatal nonetheless.

I forgot to check the oil before we left the first gas station.

As we were driving I was so concerned that the fuel meter would drop suddenly that prepping the rest of the vehicle just slipped my mind. A stupid mistake, one that will haunt me, and caused brutal consequences.

As we descended into “Devil’s Canyon” Utah, the van’s RPM’s bottomed out, and we pulled over. After about half an our of contemplating what to do, and trying to get the van running again, we called a tow truck. 90 minutes of 35°C heat passed, and the truck showed up; and we made our way to Green River, Utah. The mechanics there wouldn’t touch the van, and recommended going to Grand Junction, Colorado; 100 miles away. After 8 confusing, disorienting, and potentially more damaging hours, we made it to Grand Junction; but not without seeing someone push another car across a red light at a 4 lane highway intersection, and having the tow truck break down with the van attached to it. Each with a good deal of heat exhaustion, and delirious from lack of food, we couldn’t wrap our heads around what was happening, or figure out a way to get around it, so we hunkered down for the night at a hotel. In the morning we trekked over to the automotive shop “The Foreign Aid” where the van had been left, and chatted with the owner; Steve. Steve informed us that the van was basically dead, and after a lengthy conversation with my folks, we came to the conclusion that it was not worth saving the van. Heartbroken, ridden with guilt, and still somewhat delirious, Mika and I (with the kind aid of Steve) spent the rest of the day making travel arrangements, and shipping everything we could take out of the van back to my home in Nelson.

This morning Mika flew back to Vancouver, and later today I will begin my two day journey back to my hometown; Nelson, flying through Denver, the Calgary. Distraught, lost, alone, and feeling naked without the van; I can’t help but feel defeated boarding my flight. The trip is over, the van is gone; and its 100% entirely my fault. Words of encouragement, and help coming from friends have said, “It’ll be an experience to remember, you’ll learn and think back to it as a crazy adventure you once had”. But I can’t help feel that my adventure wasn’t over. I was just halfway through my intended trip, gearing up for one of the most historic sport climbing destinations in North America, and was stopped just short; 1 hour shy of Rifle. I’m not ready to go home.

Again, life works in mysterious ways. Quoting a pot smoking crusher from Maple Canyon, “Just like sending, life means nothing, but it means everything”. I don’t know what this is supposed to mean, or what I’m supposed to learn from this experience other than I should be more diligent, but hopefully it’ll make sense someday.

For now, signing off.

-Tosh

The Next Chapter

Time has an amazing way of slipping by. The first leg of the trip has all but passed, and it felt like no time at all! The second coming quickly… and I’m not looking forward to the 12+ hour drive…

The last couple weeks have been super fun; but of nothing much to report about. That’s why there hasn’t been a post in a couple weeks! After we came back from Smith, Kyle and I hit Squamish for a week; experimenting on different routes in an entirely different style. After a week of getting back into “burly” shape, we hopped in the van and drove to Kelowna.

I always feel more comfortable when I’m out of the city. I suppose that’s a result of growing up in Nelson: an 8 hour drive to big cities in either direction (Calgary and Vancouver). There’s a moment on the drive to the interior that symbolizes calm for me; when I know I’ve passed the limits of noise, and business that rule the city. The long stretch of highway out of Chilliwack and Abbotsford leads to Hope, where usually the clouds reach over, and create a mist in the wide valley; the mountains ahead racing away from the dark, damp coastline. Ten minutes out of Hope, and I can feel the breeze, the buzzing in my head goes away, and the colours in the forest are more saturated, perhaps richer. The sky clears, the mountains loom, and suddenly you realize how small Vancouver is. The open road beckons, pulling outward like a small boat slowly making its way out to sea.

toshrtb18
Just Go Climb (V10), Boulderfields Kelowna. Photo Owen Smith

The van slowly made its way up the passes of the Coquihalla highway, and up the dirt road guarding “The Fields”. We left Vancouver with more than enough time to arrive with several hours before dusk, yet our trip was long; and we arrived late into the night, setting up camp in the dark. Waking in the morning to 400 climbers roaring and ready to climb was exhilarating! With many friends from around western Canada, it felt like a reunion of sorts; Rock the Blocs 2018! The day was awesome, and luckily I was able to put down some super fun problems, and landed myself in second place in the competition!

Besides the comp, I was able to watch Miles Adamson put up some sweet looking highballs, chat, and be guided around to boulders by some of the locals. Kelowna holds so much potential for bouldering; perhaps more than anywhere else in BC! The amount of climbing that I have done there in the last two years has barely touched the majority of the popular areas… and there’s still more to be seen! Not to mention the boulders awaiting a first ascent. Astounding… and beautiful… and hot! I’m going back in the fall…

Dan Beland on Def-Con1 (5.14a) in Maple Canyon

Now we’re back in Squamish, and I’ve been able to connect with my family for a few days of climbing.
Next week I begin the second leg of my journey; Kyle has left for Leavenworth, and I pick up Mika early next week, and we head to Maple Canyon in Utah! I’ve never been there before, and I’m super excited to check it out!

Partner Profile - Mika Hosoi
received_1669383889808402.jpeg
Mika on the Big Show in Squamish BC

Like most of my climbing partners, Mika and I know each other from the youth competition circuit. Though we’ve both competed on the Climb Base5 team, and the youth national team: Mika and I haven’t spent much time together outside of climbing. Through similar interests, friendships, and motivation, our paths have joined, and I’m psyched she’s in for the ride!

An insanely talented, and smart climber; Mika tends to wow all who watch her at high level competitions. Able to bring her best in high pressure situations has led to her being Youth National Bouldering Champion three years running [sorry Mika, it might be four I don’t remember!], several Youth Lead National podiums and wins, and appearances in Semifinals at Youth Worlds. An unbelievably accomplished climber on plastic, Mika still has yet to show all her potential on real rock, and I’m psyched to be a part of her journey!

Divorce

So… it didn’t work out.

I think the route and I are both a little heartbroken really… we almost had everything.

I lie. I wasn’t really that close on White Wedding. My highpoint was up in the second crux, pulling through the “hardest move”, however I never felt as if I was going to send. The route is long, and unrelenting; although I made significant links, and felt strong on all the moves: it wasn’t meant to be.

whitewedding
Photo: Jason Karn

There’s an awesome part in Chris Sharma’s video of Biographie where he says, “When its the right time to do it, I’ll do it.” I didn’t come to realize my situation before it was too late. I was obsessed with this route, but only obsessed with doing it. Kyle gave some words of advice on the matter; saying that I put pressure on myself to do these hard routes, which is good! But I have to be able to find joy in the process even though I might not send, not just being psyched on the possibility of sending. As I’ve said before; releasing control is hard for me, and I’m trying to learn. Overall, I find it hard to walk away from this route. Part of what I identify with is tenacity to get things done; but I have to accept these things take time.

Smith night

Although we have been blessed with unlikely weather in Smith Rock, our luck has run out. Tomorrow the temperature begins its steady incline into unbearable, as does most of the North West. However, I much like the idea of spending hot days in the forest of Squamish rather than here in the desert. It’ll be sad to leave Smith; The community of climbers and dirtbags we have found here are welcoming, and fun! Redpoint Climber’s Supply has been our daily hangout before we climb, and we’ve got thoroughly enjoyed our time there. From eaves-dropping on Terrebonne drama, to watching countless hours of “Parks and Rec” on American Netflix; we’ve enjoyed the entertainment.

smith bright
Photo: Kyle Murdoch

But for some reason it feels time to go home. Part of “home” for me is Squamish. It’s where I graduated high school, got my first real job, quit my first real job, and learned that a life on the road was possible. It’s where climbing as a way of life solidified itself in me, and a community encouraged it. I am forever grateful for what Squamish has given me, and for what it has yet to give! I’m headed back with the main objective of trying “Pulse” (Canada’s first 5.14a) on the “Big Show” wall at Chekamus Canyon. Several other climbs make the list, and I hope we can get to all of them before I have to leave again!

permanent waves2
Photo: Fiona of Permanent Waves (5.13d)

Marriage

“So you hit that pocket with your left hand, before you come into the lower one, then you drop knee, right?”
“Yeah”
“I think I’m going to cross into the higher two finger, then use the crimp out left…”

One of the best feelings in the world: dialling in the beta. Pure obsession has taken over our minds as we discuss which micro-nubbin to step on, and how to hold each sharp, glued pocket.

A climb called “White Wedding” has captured our attention; a long, thin, and famed route in the Aggro Gully. First graded as one of Smith’s first 5.14’s, shortly after the first ascent in the 80’s, a pocket was drilled in the second crux. For almost two decades it was climbed with the drilled pocket, holding steady a grade of 5.13d. Recently (as we learned from locals in the gully) the pocket has been filled; and the original grade of 5.14a has been reaffirmed. This creates one really long move from a three finger crimp to a bad sloping gaston, then another balancy stab to a thumb catch, and then a “thank-god” hold. Still a significant section above guards the chains.

looking at ww

Among all the cool things about this climb, one is that it’s gotten Kyle stoked! Prior to this climb, motivation levels had been on an all time low for Kyle, and it’s really exciting to see “Magical Murdoch” start to show his tricks. After quickly deciphering the entire route, he very easily cruised through the first crux on his second go, yet slipped at the end as the light was fading in the gully. The fire still in his eyes, you can hear his psych when he speaks about the route. As many climbers from BC know: when Kyle is “on”, he’s on, and there’s no one stopping him. Today Kyle “one-hung” it, which is colloquial terminology for falling once, and then climbing to the top. Today was harder for me, I struggled to link the route, but ended the day with both crux sections sent entirely.  Even though today had some of the coldest temperatures of the trip (highs of 16 degrees Celsius), we came unprepared, and “numbed out” on the climb, retreating to the local hangout spot (and wifi access) Redpoint Climber’s Supply in Terrebonne, about five minutes outside Smith. Beaten, bloody, but not defeated, we’re going Continue reading

Control Technique

Freedom was something I didn’t know I valued until I realized just how much there was to have. Watching towns, cities, and middle-of-nowheres go by in the rearview mirror is addictive, almost as addictive as the rock climbing in the places we go. After driving through the rolling prairie hills of southern Washington, and northern Oregon through the night, Smith Rock has not disappointed. Basically perfect temperatures, and ever beautiful rock have spoiled us silly. The sheer amount of good climbing to do is staggering, and many of my dream projects live here; this will not be the last trip to Smith. Some climbs are coming together, but we definitely have more projects than ticks at the moment!

34463895_1684748891644866_2239984496092905472_n

Despite the feeling of freedom in a place so beautiful, there is something pulling me away from fully enjoying my time here. My way of dealing with these things is to write about it; so here it goes:

I’m not present. Right here and right now, looking at perfect tuff rock in beautiful Smith Rock park: I am thinking about what routes I want to try next month, how I will do those routes, how other people have done those routes, or what I’m going to have for dinner that night. Although this trip has been eye opening, and relaxing; that was also the goal. To escape school, escape from the routine, find a higher level of motivation, and really, to find freedom. Actively I am trying to relax, and “enjoy the process”; but the truth is: I’m not. I’m so wrapped up in how I want things to feel that I am suffocating how I actually feel about climbing, about the traveling, about being; and just feeling frustrated that life isn’t perfect. Frustrated that there are things outside of my control. But if I have learned anything from being a comp climber; it’s that you only concern yourself with things you can control, and don’t worry about everything else. Luckily, here on the road, “everything else” is beautiful. Everything else makes my life, my perspective, seem small and insignificant. Everything else shows that there is beauty in things you can’t control, beauty in something that takes YOU in its wake, not the other way around.

As a climber, its hard not wanting to have control. Every move, every hold: you want to know if you’ve got it. You want validation for work put in. Learning to let go, to accept that you DON’T get to decide: that’s hard. And I’m learning, and I’m certainly not done learning. But boy, what a beautiful place to learn.

34395354_1684743464978742_6788619728895082496_n

The First Week

I usually don’t feel scared when I leave the house; but fear pounded at my chest as I locked the door to my apartment in Victoria for the last time. Fear that I’ve forgotten something important, fear that I don’t have a solid plan, fear that I don’t know what I’m doing.

But I’m positive that that’s a part of it. Fear and doubt are experiences, and this trip is about growing and progressing through these experiences. They are important to my growth, and I am psyched and willing to push past more comfort zones like those ones!

Permanent waves

Our first week has been awesome. Hot, but awesome. After a brief photoshoot in the Squamish forest with MEC, I dropped Lucas Uchida at the airport shuttle, and picked Kyle up from his house in Port Coquitlam; then we hit the road.

Van Tosh+Kyle

Bubbling with excitement, we eagerly climbed well past the sunset, and found ourselves walking back in the dark; which ended up being our daily routine. During the hours of 11am and 4pm Skaha park temperatures rose to 30 degrees (C) and the rock was virtually impossible to climb. Trying to avoid heat exhaustion, we’ve used the lake as much as possible, and followed the shade around the bluffs. Nights here have been incredible: with beautiful clear skys, and the moon shining down on our busy camp set up. Being in the van is such a pleasure. I’ve never slept better, never felt more relaxed, never been able to just chill as much as I have been the last several days in the van. From the crackling speakers pumping out classic rock tunes on long drives, to whipping out the Coleman stove and cooking lunch in a parking lot; I feel at home.

This part of the trip has been really fun as we’ve been able to connect with several other comp climbers/friends from the coast; Mika, Chloe, Sophie, and Hunter. Having a group to share laughs around the campfire with makes the heat somewhat more manageable.

The main objective while in Skaha is to send “The Replicant” (5.13c/d). The route becomes progressively harder in a steep roof up until the final 3 moves; a hard boulder problem which we both fell on several times. On the last day here I put it down; a multi year proj that I probably wasn’t strong enough to send until this year. It feels good to have a hard tick under my belt before heading to Smith Rock tomorrow!

101 Days

“You know the day destroys the night

Night divides the day

Tried to run

Tried to hide

Break on through to the other side”

Any way you cut it, Morrison was right. This day will pass and the next day will come. The dawn will break and the sun will rise again, just as it did the day before. But there’s more to life than the daily grind, and someday you won’t be able to avoid it anymore. Sometimes we have to find our own challenges so that we can really “break on through” to something else.

tosh+van
My name is Tosh Sherkat; I am a 19 year old competition climber living in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; and I’m about to break my daily grind with 101 days on the road in my 1992 Volkswagen Westfalia van. For the past five or six years I’ve been competing on the Canadian youth competition circuit; attending events, and striving for a spot on the National Team. Last year was my “break through” season: I finished on the podium at both National events (bouldering and lead, third and first respectively), attended Youth World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, and finished fourth in bouldering at the Pan American Youth Championships. This season I have “aged-out”, which is the colloquial term used in the comp climbing community for youth competitors who are now too old to compete in youth, and thus move into the open category (19+).

2017 podium
Like many climbers fresh out of the intensely competitive, and engaging youth competition scene; I found myself a little lost. I attended a semester at University, and continued to train for climbing, but dealt with injuries and setbacks. In the end I felt no closer to what was my “next step”. Due to an injury I wasn’t able to compete at Open Boulder Nationals, which put the World Cup circuit out of the cards for this year; I just wouldn’t be strong enough.
A lack of motivation like I’ve not felt before crept over, and slowly I was starting to question the possibility of continuing my climbing lifestyle. And then… a jewel fell from the sky! A perfect red jewel shaped like a camper van with the back bumper missing; and suddenly I knew! My parents (who are awesome and more than deserve most of the credit for my success as a climber) offered to lend me their van for the summer; how could I say no!?! With generally less motivation for competitions, and the possibility of spending the summer in Europe for the World Cups now gone; the van, the escape, and the chance to prove myself on REAL ROCK seemed like a new beacon of hope for my motivation.
In the climbing world, climbing 5.14 means almost nothing anymore. The pros send 5.15 almost every week, Adam Ondra just sent 5.15d, Alex Megos just became the third person to climb 5.15c, and there are 10 year-olds that climb harder than me! My goal this trip is to climb 5.14, and I know that’s not groundbreaking, but it is for me, and it’s the next step in my progression as a climber. In a world where only about 15 people (Tommy Caldwell states in The Push) make money from just climbing, to climb professionally means you must be a household name. Now, I know I’m not at the level of those climbers; I’m just a young aspiring climber in Canada! But I want climbing to be my life, this is my passion and it would be insane not to follow it. After a semester of university I realized how much I enjoy writing, and the writing process; and many of you know this if you follow my Instagram (maybe you think I like writing TOO much), so this blog is a way for me to continue to grow as climber, a writer, and hopefully as a professional. To push myself out of my comfort zone, but also share my motivation and passion for the sport that has given me so much. This blog is about growing up, aging-out, and breaking through to 5.14! It’s about 101 days on the road.

Partner Profile - Kyle Murdoch

IMG_0279

Kyle and I have known each other for a long time. We first began competing together at 13 years old in the Youth B category. Both scrawny and shy teenagers, I don’t remember talking to Kyle much… not out of competitiveness, just out of shy and youthful fear. As our years progressed together, so did our friendship; eventually we trained on the same team, and became frequent climbing partners.
Kyle is quite an accomplished climber. Climbing Division Bell (5.13d) at the age of 14, consistently achieving podium and winning at National events, Kyle has anchored himself as one of Canada’s best young climbers. As sharp as a whip, Kyle will crack a joke just as easily. His sense of humour and ability to make what others might call a “technical crux” look easy, makes falling on those same moves feel even worse! A truly kind and thoughtful individual, Kyle has been my go-to climbing partner for several years now.
I still remember the first “climbing trip” we ever did together; we had both competed at a lead competition in Squamish (where I was living at the time), and I offered for him to stay a night and climb in the forest the next morning. With our skin and muscles trashed from the day before, Kyle and I headed out to the base of the Chief to try a problem called “DJ Pump Daddy” (V10). With both of us searching for our first double digit boulder problem, there was lots of psych to try this boulder; a heinously long and crude link of easier climbs into the classic “Gibb’s Cave” (V8). After an entire day of falling on the last move at least 30 times each, we gave up; sweaty and tired, swearing at the rock, and cursing our bleeding tips. On our way home, we decided to quickly go for a run up the iconic “StarChek” (5.9) multi pitch. Ending the day in the fleeting light, with substantially easier climbing, we bonded over exhaustion, and our climbing trips have felt like a continuation of that ever since. From battling sub zero temperatures on a March trip to Skaha, to 9 hours of getting lost driving through Seattle in the pitch black, Kyle and I have pushed through.
I’m really excited to share a month with Kyle in the van, hopefully this trip will have some more reasonable temperatures, less heinous driving time, and lots more sending!