Pick up any publication pertaining to the sport of rock climbing, and chances are, you will see a smattering of descriptive chronicles highlighting the travels and adventures of the prolific scribe Abbey Smith. A climber and writer for over 10 years, Abbey travels extensively, financing her jet set lifestyle though her writing, allowing her more opportunities to pursue her love of adventure. Abbey has reported on a myriad of topics. From the exclusive hobby of vintage motor racing, to sassy, healthy-savvy posts on BeThree.com, to being on the editorial staff of the independent green publication elephant journal, a quarterly magazine devoted to living the "mindful life" through conscious consumerism, sustainability, eco-fashion and non new-aged spirituality.
Abbey's energy for writing is ravenous. When she speaks of it, her article ideas roll out of mouth in constant barrage without commas, periods, or other punctuation, but when placed in front of a computer, the word stream subsides into descriptive prose reminiscent of Joanne Harris. Dead Point Magazine is privileged to have her as a contributing blogger.
In the days leading up to my 28th birthday on March 18, I started to feel deadened by the monotony of my daily 10-hour work routine and restless to play outside. Since leaving Hueco Tanks in mid-February, I managed to strain my left middle finger and only climbed outside twice. I was clawing at the walls like a caged animal. My astrology-obsessed friends attributed my unsettledness to the first “Saturn Return” I’m entering, where the planet appears in the same place it occupied when I was born. Some people believe this period between ages 28 and 30 is one the most pivotal phases of your life, where you cross a major threshold from youth into adulthood. They say it’s a time of painful endings and passionate beginnings as the significant pieces of your life fall into (and out) of place. I don’t really know what to think about all that astrology stuff, but I do treat each birthday as the start of a new year. I turn inward to examine my present self, my true needs and evaluate the role I desire to play on the world's stage. To gain a better vision, I bought a one-way plane ticket from Denver to El Paso to spend my birthday in Hueco Tanks.
Just as I had hoped for, I woke up on my birthday to infinite blue skies and comfortable 70-degree weather. All the usual suspects were there — Ty Foose, Trevor Turmelle, Jason Kehl and “Billy” Elliott Grissom. As tradition, Ty assembled a birthday challenge that consisted of almost all new problems and possible first ascents, all on West Mountain. We warmed up at the Wall of Rumbling Rabbits on West Mountain, and then Ty showed us a new zone just 50 feet above with two established problems and two projects. My first birthday treat was The Tortoise, a stunning 20-foot highball with positive holds on a slightly overhanging wall, above a steep ramp that drops away. The committing heel hook near the top brought me into the present moment — and a smile to my face.
Later on, outside and left of the entrance to the Wall of the Rumbling Rabbits, Ty pointed out an undone line out a steep wall with one of the nicest pinches I’ve seen in the park. It was blazing in the sun, but I couldn’t back down on my birthday. Even though the fresh edges were painfully sharp, to brush, envision and execute a new sequence on clean rock is the most gratifying experience in climbing.
The ultimate gift arrived at the end of the day — a magnificent 25-foot V1 crack above the Ferrodactyl Boulder, near the dam. Unlike the typical orange huecos, the rock is solid and gray, and forms a super clean crack. The line is obvious and absolutely beautiful, and could have been climbed back in the day, but either way it was a new adventure. Just pure, enjoyable movement on raw, virgin rock in a peaceful desert: that’s climbing as it’s meant to be. As I savored the oasis of serenity, I realized that every good adventure eventually brings me back home, right where I started, just as it’s meant to be.