Free Solo: Dancing With Death

Dear JP,

The 40-year-old that you are now, you are never tired of seeking new adventures. Some men of your age would rather stay at home, watch the evening news,  or laugh on late night shows. You, however, never stop dreaming for more. You are restless and tireless in seeking new things to do, new goals to set, and new feats to celebrate.

You prefer to travel alone and create your own route of adventure. Lost in the sea of uncaring faces of the world, you spent more time traversing rocks and boulders. You try to be part of the crowd, but you can’t simply fit in. Finally, you find yourself right at home on the silence of the walls and the howling of the winds.

For a year now, you created special obsession to free solo — climbing mountain walls by yourself without safety gears. You fall in love to the physical movement of rock climbing – the joy of swinging between rock walls, propelling yourself upward, fluidity of movement, and freedom to your own route.

Assaulting those walls was never easy. You play your death cards with the Grim Reaper. Every step was an exercise of perfection. No mistake is acceptable. Clinging on those rock walls, you come to appreciate the strain of your arms and the burning of your muscles.

You like climbing because you don’t have to talk to anyone. You think of no one – not your lover, not your kids, not your work, not your friends, not your enemies – but yourself. Up there, you are your own adventure. No public glory. No cheers. No audience. Only yourself versus the mountains. Out there, you redraw your biggest dream to nothing but to reach atop so life’s clock can reset all over again.

People who follow your free solo stories thought you are a fearless fool. But you are not. They don’t see the amount of time and efforts that go with your preparation to do something difficult.

I hear fear when it whispers and roars inside you. Every climb, they never know that hours you spent in calming the rumblings inside you. They never see how many times you turned your back to a potential free solo climb because you are too afraid.

You are afraid that the weather may change, the wind may distract your focus, the route’s natural traps, your legs and arms may yield, or your endurance may not be enough to assault the giant walls.

But that’s fine. Fear is a perfectly natural part of this life and your adventure. Do not outsmart fear, or ignore when it beckons. It is one peril that should stand side-by-side in the pursuit of this dream.

Along this road you will have countless near misses. But you know the rewards of exploring your own limits. Don’t let anyone’s opinion rein and reel you in. The most important is – live your life in the way that you find most fulfilling.

In the coming years, climbing free solo will be the most important thing in your life. You will experience its joy throughout your life. No matter how many routes you climb, it will always be at the core of your drive. It will create you to be the best version of yourself. It will define the direction you have to take in the next few decades. It will be your goal and glory.

But this is not just a hobby. This is for a much bigger adventure. Your climbs today are just small routes towards your greatest lifelong dream — to free solo “El Capitan”, the iconic 3000-foot wall in Yosemite National Park. This is your lifelong dream. It is a long, slow process that requires you to constantly push yourself. But eventually you will befriend fears, and you will be climbing big walls that will lead to your biggest dream – the “El Capitan”.

The day when you finally free solo that great Yosemite Wall will be the pinnacle of this adventure. It will also serve as a significant reminder that no summit is more important than the long process of getting there.

Don’t forget, you are just a mote compares to the huge and adamant mountains that you will conquer. You can win but their glories will remain. Then you will understand that some perils are not meant to be annihilated. Some are meant for you to climb atop so you can see how wonderful life can be in different perspective.

This is a lifelong journey. Use it to learn and grow.

And JP, as you dance with death on your free solo adventures, don’t forget to enjoy the view.


One Comment Add yours

  1. SengOnLeave says:

    That’s the spirit! Continue conquering glorious mountains while, yes indeed, enjoying the view.


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