Dirtbag Urban Dictionary Definition
"A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communally and generally non-hygienically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle.
The best examples of dirtbags and dirtbagging are the communities of climbers that can be found in any of the major climbing areas of North America--Squamish, BC; Yosemite, CA; Joshua Tree, CA; etc."
I’d gone from Project Manager to a dirtbag, albeit it only temporarily, and absolutely loved every second. In Squamish, I wasn’t alone. I was part of a community of extraordinarily diverse, like-minded and fundamentally genuine people. We all came from different walks of life but were united through our passion to break free from the shackles of conformity and pursue our passion - above all else. Fuck work and the modern-world bullshit to the detriment of your health and wellbeing - although, ironically, I had to work my ass off for years to afford the privilege of dirtbagging in North America.
Some dirtbags, usually the big wall climbers, seized the day at the crack of dawn and were scaling the Chief - a towering 700m dome of the granite which looms over the population there to worship it, like an immortal deity. I took a more relaxed approach. There was no rush. I had all day to do what the hell I wanted and I wanted a gentle pace of life in paradise, mixed with some truly world-class bouldering.
Rushing really kills the vibe dude.
After waking up, I’d open both sliding doors of my Dodge Grand Caravan and lie there absorbing the views and let the fresh breeze gradually reinvigorate me. On one side I had the natural magnum opus of the Howe Sound - a faultless landscape of deep blue fjords abruptly framed with soaring slopes of deep green, tree laden mountains and depending on the weather, topped with either a perfect azure sky or a more tempestuous one. The effort to turn my head 180 degrees was well rewarded with a view of the looming Chief.
I gradually mustered the energy to brew a coffee and create the biggest breakfast burrito my van larder would allow. During this time, I’d gleefully exchange greetings and plans for the day with all the other dirtbags as they began to surface.
After this morning ritual and determining who was keen for what, I was ready for the main event. I’d saddle up with my pad and day’s provisions then make the short walk to the boulders with a gaggle of others.
An unfathomable density and variety of immaculate granite boulders are strewn underneath the Chief, shrouded by the lush majestic forest. When you enter beneath the forest canopy, the temperature dips and the atmosphere switches. An instant transition occurs from the epic magnificence of the British Columbian landscape to the cocooned pristine ecosystem and delightful gloom of the forest.
To put it bluntly, I was absolutely fucking besotted with the bouldering. The boulders are sculpted into masterpieces which require the climber to combine technique, precision, finger strength and sometimes power to surmount. They force you to not be aggressive but really challenge how you approach a boulder problem. I’d try not to project anything for too long and just mill around the boulders trying to tick off as many classics of all grades as I could.
Once I’d given my fingertips and body a damn good thrashing, I’d amble back to the parking lot. The other dirtbags were rolling in too. Eventually we’d gravitate into dirtbag circle, like a hippy circle (South Park fans will understand this) but with more purpose. We’d while away the evening by sharing food, drink, talking about the day’s exploits, shooting the shit and generally have a fucking whale of a time.
That was a standard day. I’d repeat the next day and the day after - as did all the dirtbags. We continued for a long as we could. There were also plenty of non-standard days, like raving in the forest or swimming in Brohm Lake.
For me, Squamish embodies everything I love about climbing and being outdoors. But, it also taught me an alternative way of living a happy life. You don’t need a full-time career, a mortgage, bills and the pressures of modern life. You can break free, sell up, live in a van and pursue your passion – earning just enough to sustain the lifestyle. Is it hedonistic and selfish? Is it unsustainable for a lifetime? Fuck yeah, of course. But it’s totally worth it, if only for relatively short time.