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.
As Jason's custom Chevy Astro van slipped out of gear and rolled to a stop on an isolated dirt road deep in the Henry Mountains in Utah, I was stricken with fear of getting stranded in the desert. The Horn is as remote as it gets. I'd heard horror stories of big trucks getting stuck on the 20-mile long clay road accessing the Horn, but I'd always escaped clean. We had made it to the second day, but could go no further. It was the second weekend in May, Jason and I hastily left Boulder at high noon on Friday in desperate need of fresh air, sunshine, climbing and creative inspiration. Looking at the smoking engine, I began to wonder if we should've climbed locally. It was Mother's Day, and she didn't even know I'd left town.
Standing in the scorching sun amongst charred trees where a forest fire blazed through years ago there was an eerie aura of looming death. Upon further inspection Jason discovered the transmission fluid was empty. Less than a year ago the transmission was replaced and the oil just changed. Before completely panicking Noah Bigwood pulled around the corner. He didn't have transmission fluid, but managed to catch a cell signal to call friends Dave and Emma Medara and daughter Sierra who were en route from Moab, just three hours away.
There was nothing we could do but wait. In silence, we loaded the pads and abandoned the van on the side of the road to climb. After a few warm ups, mindfully sinking my fingers into the "juggy" two finger pockets, the worrisome feeling of an impending epic started to lift.
The Henry Mountains are unlike any place I've ever been. The mystical mountain range is a lost pocket of the wild frontier--the last charted mountain range and home to the few remaining genetically pure and free roaming herds of American Bison. Shown to me in confidence by developers Noah Bigwood, Eric DeCaria and Jonathan Knight, this wild and untouched area is what my climbing dreams are made of. Massive orange, black and white streaked granite boulders of all angles, scarcely adorned with tendon-wrecking pockets and sharp edges. With minimal to no traffic, every problem is unchalked giving that committing first ascent thrill. The creative style requires a delicate combination of tension, technique, crimp strength and powerful precision. With no available medical attention, the climbing is serious and not for the faint of heart.
As I meandered through the rugged plateau of fallen trees, overgrown willows and aspen sprouts, the towering boulders were taller, scarier and more beautiful than I remembered. I was pleasantly humbled by the tiny holds and sheer size of the boulders I'd sent in the past (before I'd suffered a climbing-related injury), and overwhelmed by the dramatic features I'd overlooked. It had been two years, and everything felt new and exciting. The problems I thought were way above my limit were suddenly within reach. But there's never enough time or skin.
There are unexplainable moments in life that some would call acts of god. That day, the Medara family were the angels that delivered the miracle: three quarts of transmission fluid, which got us to off the road, back to camp that evening and out of the Henry Mountains the following morning.
For eight long hours, with seven quarts of cherry red fluid spraying out the back, we sat on the edge of our seats, coasting through the barren Utah desert into the twisting mountains of Colorado, expecting the worst to strike at any moment. The seventh quart of juice miraculously brought us home safely and now the transmission is wrecked. As I washed the layers of ash from my sunburned body, I laughed to myself imagining being stranded in the desert and how lucky we truly were. It's adventures like these that make me feel alive.