For your Munday, here’s some lore from my old buddy John Long (yo, babe!) called The Only Blasphemy. It’s a “gripping tale of a big free solo day with John Bachar, in Joshua Tree in the late 1970s”, read by him with a superb slideshow of images from back in the day, along with his modern take on what he wrote. If you’re into climbing, or history, or just plain old storytelling it’s a rousing way to start you week from one of the greatest adventure chroniclers of our time.
Since it wouldn’t be my blog without some insight, let it be known that Largo (Long’s nickname that means, well, long in Spanish but fits him much better than such a dull description) is the definition of larger than life. He’s large in stature, his voice is large, and his tales are, well, let’s just say he’s proponent of the “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” school of writing. Hell, for all I know he coined the phrase.
We’ve done a bit of traipsing together and Largo’s written about me, on more than one occasion. And while he’s one of my favorite writers I’ve not read those stories. Because I agree with his sentiment in such high principal that don’t need, nor want, to know how large a tale is being told. As long as I’m in the dark I can absorb it with child-like wide eyes and sweaty palms, just the way it unfolds under Largo’s pen.
This tale does bring back is just how much more common it was to free solo back then. Shoot, I’d climb things sans rope that were way too close to my limit all that time. I think most of us did. Maybe, in those days, we really were made of tougher stuff, or maybe we were crazy. In reality, I think it was just the way the sport used to be, so I can see how it was less popular. Regardless, the only blasphemy was once practically a rite of passage to becoming a climber.
Given we live in a world where politicians, media outlets, and just about every other source of information spins it however it seems best for their business interests, I’m more than happy for a guy who’s do the same for adventure. Most of us, in fact, are probably far too reticent about what we do, shunning it as “no big deal” and “stuff that anyone with a inkling for adventure could knock off between their favorite sitcom” when, in fact, outdoor sports do require some mettle and a higher sense of focus than does everyday life. And, when provided with such a reference point, Long begins to seem like a fly on the wall documentarian after all.
So when I’m out there in the high lonesome, with bulging forearms clutching mightily for dear life on the merest rugosity amongst a sea of granite so bleak that it looks like match sticks glued to a junkie’s mirror, I’ll take note that I’m playin’ it for keeps. Even if I’m only fifteen feet off the ground.
Then my mind will come back to reality as I hear, “Yo, there, buddy, you’re lookin’ a little shaky up there! Say, whattaya got to eat in that pack?”