On the road, my mind slows down. The only task at hand is to get from Point A to Point B. This relaxes me. Listening to the hum of the car’s wheels on 395, the white-knuckled grip on my insides starts to loosen. I look over at Bri. Her foot is on the dash, and she spreads her bare toes wide and then scrunches them up as we talk. Oooing and ahhhing at the delicate pastel gradient on the horizon, she points to the sky. “That—that is the pink I want in beads.”
Four days earlier, a crew of us mobbed to the Monkey Bar boulder, the late afternoon Vegas sun casting deep blue shadows on the red sandy floor. Bri and I were visiting our friends Al and Bryana before heading west to Bishop for the second annual Women’s Climbing Festival. We were in Kraft that day to climb, but I was also there to take pictures for Bri’s new line of handmade earrings. We laughed as they climbed in front of my lens—“Can you hold that?”—their hands hovering over pockets as Bri turned the earrings towards the camera. We sprawled on the dotted sandstone like lizards, the desert sun warming our bones. There was some sending, too. We crossed to sticky pockets, locked off on jugs and deadpointed to matchbox edges, a sea of hands under us shouting words of encouragement.
Better than the photos, and sometimes even better than the climbing, is the banter and the nonsense. We live for it. The shit-talking, the jokes at our own expense, the loving teasing. We’re vulgar, we’re sarcastic; we like to think we’re funny. Our crew of 5 became 9 that day—we met an airline stewardess named Meg who joined right in on the banter and nonsense, we ran into familiar faces from Wyoming, and finally, we found our friend Flannery at dusk by the Potato Chip boulder. At one point, we looked around at each other, and someone said, “Wow, it’s not very often do you see one dude surrounded by eight women at the crag.”
After three days soaking up the winter desert sun, we threw crashpads into Al’s 1950s vintage trailer, hooked it up to her 4Runner and were on our way. As we drove, leaving behind the Joshua trees on the desert floor below, climbing the winding rode to Lida Summit and over Westgard Pass, we were surrounded by Bristlecones and Pines. I rolled the window down to take in one of my favorite smells: The winds of the Sierras. We were close. By the time we dropped into Big Pine, the grip on my insides had all but let go. I looked over at the girls, the air smelling of pine and snow whipping our hair about our faces, and smiled.
Climber, photographer and writer based in Brooklyn