Under the Cover of Darkness

There is a burgeoning sub-culture in our Squamish climbing community. It’s not the obvious; Boulderers are not taking to ropes, and roped climbers are not giving up their bolts. It has to do with darkness, something that those of us living north of the 49th parallel learn to live with a lot of. Each Fall, when we *sigh* turn our clocks back, darkness is really all we know as card-carrying 9-5 commuters. There’s simply no way to get home in time to catch the last rays of sun on still-warm rock. And so a sub-culture has emerged. Under the cover of darkness boulderers have begun sleuthing about the forest with crash pads and lanterns in tow, vibrating with unbridled motivation. Because let’s face it, you need a lot of motivation to pack-up and leave your warm house at 7:30 pm in the pitch black.

I emerge from the "Black Hole" as darkness falls and our session is just getting underway. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

I find myself totally smitten with the groups of boulderers quietly gathered around a lantern-lit boulder, discussing beta, listening to Odesza (because, when bouldering under the cover of darkness you must remain in a chill state of mind. No loud metal music here -- save that for the daylight). On any given cold and crisp night, there are three or four different groups of boulderers each huddled around their chosen nights objective.

Yes, I am emerging from a "Black Hole" which also happens to be the name of this problem and also perhaps, aptly describes my current state of mind. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.
These night warriors are not faint of heart; They are driven, they are motivated, and they are sending. I find this small, but perhaps growing sub-culture to be particularly inspiring. Many of these people have day jobs, have families, have children. They wear many hats and yet maintain a stubborn dedication to hard climbing. So much so that they/we have turned the dark, cold forest into our own personal bouldering gym. There is a lot of camaraderie among this ragtag group of bouldering outcasts. We hold a particular respect for one another knowing that sheer grit and determination is what’s bringing us together each night.

Yours truly on her project yet again. Photo, Kerim Ntumba Tshimanga.
As I type this post, there’s a shipment of eight rechargeable LED floodlights in the mail for myself and my crew of night boulderers. We will push the season to the bitter end, and almost certainly all under the protective cover of darkness. Allow me to insert a small public service announcement here. Don’t limit yourself to the literal or metaphorical daylight dear reader. Think outside of the box to achieve your goals. There is the tinniest segment of our community with the privilege of pursuing their goals in the daylight hours. If you are not one of these people, don’t let it distract you from achieving what you want. I have the highest respect for those who cannot make climbing their sole focus, and yet, achieve a standard matching that of the full-time climber. The mental fortitude required to compete on a similar platform as those who can climb all day, any day, is underrated and not applauded enough.

For inspiration, we need not look very far. Squamish local, Luke Zimmerman, has a full-time career, is a husband, and father to twin boys. Luke has quietly been ticking off every hard boulder problem in Squamish. Or take one of my favorite climbing partners, Jamie Finlayson, who is the founding partner of a custom construction company, a husband, and this-just-in…a father! Jamie might just be the strongest climber in Squamish. It’s people like this, who lead ordinary lives in a very extraordinary way that I find most inspiring.

I think, the first step to surpassing the perceived limitations of an ordinary life, is to think extraordinarily.  I enourage you all to give it a try and perhaps...get comfortable under the cover of darkness.

The Weasel, as darkness falls. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

Darkness cometh. Photo, Jamie Finlayson.

Kelly and I have recently taken to working The Egg by lantern. Photo, Kelly Franz.

Like a night vision, Kelly emerges from the darkeness to...get shut down on The Egg, as has been our luck so far. Photo, Sarah Hart.
The Egg, and a dark, dark hole. Photo, Kelly Franz.