Transitions – Sore Knees & Homeless

Embarking on a year of adventure

One year off to travel. I’d been planning it for ages, and 2023 is when I finally made it happen. And after a pandemic, travel restrictions, and a soul-crushing year at work, boy did it feel like the right time to quit everything and seize life by the horns. By March, Chris and I had finally crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s: the money was in the bank, notice given at our jobs, and the move-out date confirmed. The plan (as much of a plan as we cared to make anyhow) was to spend the spring and summer in BC, Alberta, and the western United States, climbing all the climbs for which we never had time as responsible, gainfully employed adults. Fall of 2023 would see us off on the second leg of the trip – an extended tour through Southeast Asia, followed by a stint in Nepal in the spring of 2024 for more climbing.

We celebrated our newfound joblessness at the beginning of April with a backcountry trip, our typical celebratory escape. It was the last ski of the season, indeed, the last ski of an entire year, as we’d be spending the next 12 months chasing summer across the globe. A night of cake and friends at Kees & Claire hut in the Whistler backcountry was followed by a light ski mountaineering trip to ski Banana Chute off the aesthetic rocky triangle of Fissile Mountain. I tried to feel sad about missing a ski season the following winter, but couldn’t summon the sadness for some reason…

This trip was followed by perhaps our biggest physical challenge to date: completion of our first ever ultramarathon, a 50km trail race along the forest trails near Buntzen and Sasamat Lakes in Port Moody, including 2000m of soul-crushing vertical gain. It was the culmination of 6 months of training, a process I’ll characterize simply as ‘Advil, gummy bears, and podcasts’. Race day came and went: a horrible, rainy, miserable kind of day. We were soaked to the skin, surviving on potato chips, candy, and the high spirits of volunteers in Easter Bunny costumes urging us along at every aid station. But we did survive, and while we struggled to even lift our commemorative beer glasses later on for a toast, I’m proud to say that movement in the days after was surprisingly pain-free.

Post-race, we began a different kind of race: the mad rush to finish packing up our apartment for our trip. The week passed in a blur of boxes, Facebook Marketplace sales, and storage locker runs. Compressing our lives into the space of our Tesla, a robust, if not slightly cramped, adventure car, proved challenging, but it was oddly freeing. Our final few days in the metro Vancouver area saw us completing Sun Run 2023 and realizing that our knees were not even close to recovered from the ultramarathon. I regret my misplaced confidence in my body’s ability to recover!

Mid-April saw us starting the first portion of our travels. We drove to Christina Lake to stay with family for the week, taking this time to decompress from work and moving, and attempting to nurse our sore knees back to health. And, finally, it was time to dust off the neglected climbing gear. As all our free time in the past 6 months had been devoted to running, we found ourselves rusty and somewhat physically unprepared for the long days of cragging ahead of us. We spent the week chasing spring in the Kootneys, visiting Nelson, Castlegar, and Grand Forks, and experiencing anything from hot sunshine to hail on the rock, and even snowstorms in the mountain passes. As a week of unseasonably warm weather was about to roll into, we packed up the car and headed west to Skaha park to get a jumpstart on some climbing before meeting and staying with friends the following weekend.

Camping in Vaseux Lake Provincial Park, just south of Okanagan Falls, was our first shot at our new ‘climbing dirtbag’ lifestyle. For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘dirtbag’ in the climbing world refers to individuals that are so consumed with climbing that they shirk normal employment and live as cheaply as possible in order to devote more time to climbing, often living out of their vehicles or camping for extended portions of the year. Our first campsite of the trip allowed us to test out our carefully rehearsed car packing system – never has there been a Tesla so crammed full of stuff, and staying organized, with needed gear within easy reach, was a logistical headache. Vaseux also allowed us some relaxing days in which to practice both our bird identification skills (we *think* we saw many American Coots fishing on the lake in the evenings), as well as toughen up our fingers in the nearby rock climbing mecca of Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. We spent two days on the rock trying to shake off the early-season fear of falls while lead climbing, followed by some time hanging out in nearby Penticton, before meeting up with some friends at their family home on the north end of Skaha Park. For the next few days, we were treated to our own personal guide in the form of our friend’s father, Brian, a key route developer in Skaha Park, and a fantastic rock climber. The next two days spent on Skaha rock, checking out off-the-radar climbs in quiet crags, were probably the best I’ve ever had in three years of Skaha climbing trips.

The end of April brought with it the end of our spring in Canada. It was time to move on to the American leg of the trip. Crossing the border, we headed south to the quaint German town of Leavenworth for beer, bratwurst, and of course, more climbing.

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