...in the still shivering silence I find my soul | Trip Report

mellivora capensis Trip Reports

...in the still shivering silence I find my soul

12/29/2020- As the temperatures dropped into the single digits, my wet ropes began sticking to the surface of the rocks it touched. When I would finally pull my anchors free, the entire rope would come down in one stiff and frozen icicle that I would have to work loose. The rapidly freezing temperatures first truly grabbed my attention when I lost my grip on the frozen rope and it began to slip through my brake hand while I descended a near vertical 60' rappel. I lost control instantly and I plummeted toward the earth in the darkness. Thankfully I was only 5-6' above the ground and I landed squarely on my feet. I laughed out loud and told my guardian angels to take 5, and then uttered a prayer of thanks and shook it off.


"Don’t dwell. Fear is your friend. Breathe. Smile. Don’t lose your ability to think and mitigate the risks of the next obstacle. " Trying to balance a presence of the moment and a detachment of emotion, these peptalk‘s kept me moving and on track. I thought my adrenaline was high enough prior to that, but then the degree of singularly exquisite concentration I suddenly found was tantalizing. I felt high. I couldn't stop to think of food or drink, just one step in front of the other. Keep moving. Moving to keep my body temperature up in my wetsuits that would stiffen and freeze when I stopped moving to work on my ropes or an anchor. I was madly infatuated with this moment. 

I had been snowboarding all the previous day and I drove to the trailhead through the night. or at least that was the plan. I ended up pulling over around 1:45am and sleeping in my car in a truck pull-off along HWY 70. I drove the rest of the way when the sun came up. So naturally I got a late start into the canyon and with limited winter daylight, I knew I had a lot of ground cover before darkness fell.


All of my better judgment told me I shouldn't have gone into that canyon earlier that day, but something drew me in there. Not feeling driven by my ego or a reckless arrogance, I felt an odd sense of self-confidence. A compelling draw to a proving ground that would change my fate for the better. Even though I knew what was at stake, I also believed in myself. Advanced marginal anchors, winter conditions...and going in alone…

 "I’m all in." I say aloud. Then I back my hips over my steel-spiked feet posted on the lip, descending down the first rappel. No going back, only forward. "Get some." I felt the narrative in my head was like I was living an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. My vision sharpened and the predator inside of me took over and stalked down the canyon. Focused and hungry.

The pressure of time working against me was delicious. The slick and exposed conditions would prevent me from down climbing or even traversing what I would be comfortable doing in the summer time. I would rappel what I normally wouldn’t, and carefully work my way through the potholes after breaking the ice off the surface of the water.


The breathtaking light that met me seemed unearthly as I came out of a deep narrow section to a momentary opening before another large descent. I turned my headlamp off before setting up my fiddle-stick anchor under a lone pine, and just enjoyed the contrasting shadows cast by a silvery lunar glow. innumerable stars glistened silently across the blanketed shimmering landscape. The views seemed to have no limits. I let my eyes adjust with my headlamp still off and just enjoyed bathing in the experience while I worked my way down across the keeper potholes and through the arch window of this beautiful 200' multi-pitch rappel. I would do 17 rappels in all that day rather than the normal 10.


Walking out of the dark canyon that late night under a still and starlit sky was like seeing for the first time in my life. My two-wheel drive car couldn't make the unplowed road so I hiked a few miles back to where it was parked on the highway and went straight to the finest establishment or flea-bag motel I could find open at that hour to eat, drink and sleep. I didnt even care that my 3rd Arbys sandwich was getting wet in the shower as the red dirt washed off of my cold body and collected at the bottom of the tub. I was awoken by room service the next day around noon when i missed my checkout. Turns out that when i walked barefoot in my wetsuit into the hotel the previous night, i forgot to bring anything else with me from the car. I left it crumpled in a puddle of muddy red sand on the bathroom floor all night and I wasn't putting that thing back on...so a towel it was as I strolled through the hotel lobby and parking lot. I could hear my mother voice imitating Mary Poppins. "Cheeky!"


These weren't unfamiliar physical experiences, but the first in such a large continuous culmination. I learned so much on that particular trip. Much about the canyon and this sport I love, but so much more about myself. The solitude and intense focus forced everything secondary out of my mind and I was left with my inner self-dialogue. It scared me and woke me up to what had been festering beneath almost subconsciously. It exposed and surfaced the ugly parts of me that I had been afraid to face before that. Demons of the deep. I now felt reborn and found an unfamiliar peace and unprecedented internal silence.


I refocused and doubled down on all that is good in my life. I stripped away the garbage and refuse that seemed to cloud my mind and let go of the unwanted parts of my life. I let go of the toxic relationships that held me back and found my people. More importantly, I found I could be self-assured and happy with the man I am and stand confidently alone. Strangely enough, I lost my appetite for listening to metal music. It’s just too loud now. I immediately set out on building a new course toward personal freedom, simplicity and spiritual development. Over the last 19 months I have been happier than the previous 32 years of my short life.

I’m glad I listened to the voice that lured me into that proving ground and that God saw I came out more alive than ever before.



mellivora capensis


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mellivora capensis Trip Reports