Faces of Yosemite

Originally posted on December 18, 2017

I went back to Yosemite this fall for two months. Similar to last year, I rolled in without any plans and without really knowing who would be there. Despite the unknown, I felt so relieved to finally be back – as if I had lived the rest of the year in anticipation for when I would return to the valley.

I decided to work on a portrait project while I was there. The rule was to take a portrait of every partner I roped up with or bouldered with during my time in Yosemite. I rarely take portraits and it’s an area that I really want to improve within my photography. I’ve always felt incredibly self-conscious when taking portraits and tend to rush the moment without dialing in on my focus and settings. It was great practice for me to whip out my camera at the end of our day and try to capture the vibe of my climbing partners.

Below are the thirteen faces that I partnered up with at some point in Yosemite.

1. Caleb & Randy

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Like last year, Caleb was the first person to reach out to me on the first day I arrived. He and Randy invited me to crash at their site in Upper Pines (thanks Sandy!) and it was so fun to reconnect with these two goofs. The three of us roped up for my first climb of the season – a wonderful session running laps on Mr. Natural (5.10c). As usual, Caleb sandbagged our approach but Randy threw me a line to help scamper up the sketchy terrain that Caleb so easily soloed up in his Chacos. It was a really fun day, one I look back on quite fondly.

A month later, Caleb passed away in a skiing accident down in Chile. It’s one of the hardest losses I’ve dealt with since Ethan died, and I still can’t believe he’s gone. I look back at the month I spent with Caleb and Randy in Yosemite before they left for their trip to South America and I can’t help but feel so grateful that we got to spend so many wonderful days together before he passed. I miss him a lot.

2. Audrey

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My one true partner in crime. I used to live with Audrey when we both lived in Boulder, but now that she lives in the Bay Area it was great to climb with her each weekend that she drove to the valley.  We climbed Commitment (5.9) together, which is one of my favorite routes to do when easing back into Yosemite granite. I already miss our climbing dates like hell.  We’ve gone through a lot together and I’m so thankful to have her in my life.

3. Sara

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Sara and I simuled Royal Arches during my first week back. I had never climbed it before and she was psyched to scamper up it with me. We climbed it in just over two hours and had a blast. Sara has become a solid friend and climbing partner over the last year. We went into the Wind River Range together last summer for a six-day climbing trip. I love how well our skill levels match up and how much more confident we are as climbers when we rope up together. We climbed together a bunch in Yosemite and it felt great to really push ourselves. Sara is so calm and often quiet, but she has a fire in her belly for overcoming big challenges.

4. Jordan

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I ran into Jordan while cragging at the Chapel Wall. For some reason that I will never understand, he thought I would be a great partner to go do Border Country (grade V 5.12c) on Middle Cathedral. And for some reason, I said yes. It was a really cold day and Jordan witnessed the great junk show that is Eliza on her first biggish wall ever. But it was fun and Jordan onsighted, which was rad.

5. Woo

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My sister. I was so excited to show her around Yosemite for her first visit to the valley. I took her up Royal arches, we ran the Mist trail, hiked the Pohono, and lounged in the meadow. It was a quick trip and yet it was perfect.

6.  Sandy

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For those of you who don’t know Sandy, don’t worry, you will meet her at some point.  Everybody does. And Sandy is everybody’s best friend. We spent almost the entire fall together and she is one of the most generous, kind, and smartest humans I know. She also started her first day in the valley with barely any lead climbing experience and was soon crushing valley 5.9’s by the end of our season together. One of my favorite days was letting her lead me up Harry Daley (5.8) and Positively 4th Street (5.9). She crushed it.

7. Chase

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Chase was one of the best additions this fall. Chase was a friend of Caleb’s and I’m so thankful that he was introduced to the crew. We had some great bouldering sessions in Camp 4 and it was sweet to watch him onsight Drive By Shooting (5.12). He also ended up being a key friend after Caleb passed away. I think he needed us as much as we needed him and I will forever be grateful that Caleb brought him into our lives.

8. Sam

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British Sam. I met Sam on my first day in the valley. Caleb, Randy, and I snaked him and his partner on Mr. Natural. We all ended up hanging out on the ledge and I had great fun photographing him on the climb. Later on, we kept bumping into Sam in the meadow and soon enough he became a staple character in the group. One of my favorite days was when he took me out and taught me to aid climb. He got a bug in his ear after I had just started up my first aid pitch and I had to lower down to assist in removing the buzzing creature from inside his ear. That was a really fun day.

9. Tim

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My craigslist best friend. Tim and I first met in Boulder and he’s been one of my best friends ever since. I was psyched that he took a week off from work to fly out to the valley and climb with me. I wanted to show him some classics so we climbed Serenity and Sons (5.10d) and Absolutely Free (5.9). Despite the heinous crowds that both of those routes attract, we had a great time together.

10. Sanni

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This girl is just a bright ray of sunshine. She and Alex arrived to the valley late in the game but it was perfect timing for me. Quickly after meeting each other, we realized that we both were projecting Drive by Shooting (5.12) at the Chapel Wall and I was psyched to finally have a new partner to try hard with. We both sent after working the route for two days, but the real victory was an awesome new friendship with awesome new lady crusher. Can’t wait to climb with this chica again.

11.  Sam #2

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Sam! What a gem of a human. I was stoked to hang with Sam towards the end of my time in Yosemite. I first met Sam when I hired him as an intern at Sender Films, but it’s way more fun to be hanging out with him on the walls. He’s killing it in the photography/film world, too, and it was great to rope up with him at Sentinel Creek for a group cragging session.

12. Alex

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Alex and I have bumped into each other over the years, and so it was great to finally spend some time getting to become better friends. I have never bouldered so much in my entire life than during the time I spent with him and Sanni in early November. I also baked a lot of cookies and he ate a lot of cookie dough.

It was a good fall until it wasn’t. We lost too many really wonderful human beings this season and it’s been hard to come up for air. I’m really really grateful for the people I still have in my life and I hope I do a better job at showing those people how much I care about them. Love to you all.