Well, if you take into account the 300+ sunny days/year, amazing proximity to a myriad of "local" climbing areas, rock type and styles... I guess there's more than just a few things that I'm grateful for.
I've been climbing long enough that WHO I climb with has changed a lot...
It all started with Ryan. We'd head down to the 8th Street Gym after school where I was inspired and awed by guys like Arin (also proving that if you were a champ climber you got CUTE girlfriends) and Dana (The Caveman), and amused by guys like Lance (crazy enthusiastic (bushwhacking to find remote ice in Cheyenne Canyon) and hilarious) and "F-ing" Scotty (I'll still never know how Ryan survived that trip to Devil's Tower). Anyone who thinks that this wasn't the best climbing gym in Colorado Springs will have a hard time backing it up. Ryan got me onto the "US Sport Climbing Club Team" where in exchange for setting routes and other labors, we didn't have to pay to climb. We weren't meant to be gym rats - Ryan and I would get smug looks on our faces when we'd arrive for a gym session and have red Garden sand caked on our shoes from the day or two before. Although Ryan would get out climbing with anyone he could, I was pretty exclusive with him for a while.
The first expansion of our core partnership was to Dan and Jeff Russell. Their enthusiasm didn't falter even after witnessing the crud Ryan and I would get psyched on - Monument Rock!?!?! Dan and I totally wasted any learning potential in Physics class by only reading our Climbing magazines... (Ryan made up for everything with Mr. Gordon by being his superstar in Physics Bowl). Jeff's fearlessness still makes me shudder. Dan used his media skills to document and represent the Colorado Springs area climbing with his website (coloradospringsclimbing.com) which was pretty much our little crew's showcase. It's still cool to talk to people who remember the site and thought it was helpful and inspiring, even.
But all good things have to end... Now that I look back, as much as I hate to admit it, I was the first one to take a step away from the crew. I found a new muse in my future wife and climbing definitely took a back seat for a little while... Other great guys filled in my slot, notably Mike Sherwood and Brian Shelton. Then Ryan took off to school in Golden, where he expanded his friendship circle and found targets for his insatiable appetites for new rock. Dan's truck accident, Ryan's fall and Jeff's move left me feeling pretty lonely in the climbing scene.
I sought out the climbing spark in Todd and Jeremy, which lead me to Jerad, Chris, Codi and Glenn. There was even a Climbing Night or two where there were actually 6+ people in attendance in my humble basement! But that also couldn't last long...
So a few months ago, I found my climbing circle in need of resurrection. Again. This time, the lead came through the Ute Valley Bouldering Competition. A friend who took pictures didn't know how to get ahold of some climbers who were there, and asked me to find them. I obtained Dave Jones' (LordScience) email and we got together for a Ute Pass session. I guess I passed the "Tool Test" and started to be introduced to the Henchmen... Byron (Tojo), Hayden, Brian, Chris, Nick... Oddly enough, Byron's been in the Springs for years and we just didn't cross paths until one frigid, wet day at the Blowouts. They might all think I'm a loser, but I love climbing with these guys. They've introduced me to new areas, new motivation and new outlooks on climbing. Here's how I know that I'm getting a taste of the old days: I'm getting asked to go climbing and having to turn them down - a stark contrast to me hounding everyone I know without a peep in response!
This is just an attempt to put down what went through my head when I saw this poster:
If I had seen it a year ago, I would have immediately disregarded it because it involved the SCC gym (just old 8th Street stereotypes here...) and didn't have a clue about those involved. Because of the scene in Colorado Springs, because of the openness and genuine awesome spirit of guys like Dave and Byron, I'm "in the loop." I've seen the problem on the poster at Newlin Creek because Byron gave us the tour. I know Hayden's been finding and sending tons of new lines. I want to support them and celebrate their successes. I even know Keith from when he was a Web Developer for HP, just dreaming about if he could give up working for the man. I take special pride in the fact that I think I'm the only climber that Keith's been around that was banal enough that he didn't even bring his camera when we went climbing at Shelf Road together. Hopefully it's just because I'm that ugly... (there are actually a few Keith shots of me at the Garden and Ute Pass, carefully hidden away in the archives...)
Anyway, I'm so grateful to still be climbing - with friends and family that make that possible.
Props to all of the organizers for Colorado Springs Access '09. It's benefiting the Access Fund. You can have all of my beers. Go.