HMI Gap: Settling into a new normal in Utah

Rock Climbing Group

Written by Heath Lawrence, Christina Klyce, and Becca Schild

In the American Southwest, I began a lifelong love affair with a pile of rock.” –Edward Abbey

During the last section of Utah, it feels that we’ve entered into a rhythm with the sun, rock, and community that feels like our new normal. We’ve developed a routine around camp, taking turns with various chores and cooking meals within our tent groups. We’ve also taken on more leadership and decision making for planning each day. Each LODizzle (Leader of the Day) solicits input from the group on what they want to focus on for the day and then makes a decision of where to go and how to use our time for the best learning. At dark, we’d come back to camp to play a game, have a class about environmental studies, or even walk to the Big Bend boulders for an evening bouldering session.

We also have spent the last two weeks to apply the climbing skills we’ve been learning and practicing to summit some of the most classic desert towers. In pairs, accompanied by one instructor, we woke up early for our big adventure. Hiking to the base of the climb was both exciting and intimidating – how would it feel to have so much more exposure while climbing 300 feet, one pitch after the other? Did we feel confident in our movement necessary to climb long desert cracks? These questions resolved, however, once we tied into the rope. Over the course of two weeks, all of us were able to summit Castleton Tower, Ancient Art, or climb to the rim overlooking our campground.

As we prepare for our departure to Patagonia, we are excited about the many novel adventures before us. This next leg feels so unfamiliar, we actually are going with little to no expectation.  However, we’re sad to leave this life we have settled into, watching the stars late at night, enjoying laughter and stories around the campfire, and connecting to a landscape that felt so foreign when we arrived. There is something so vast about the desert, creating a feeling of emptiness at times. Even the cracks that we climb; you are literally climbing the void between two sandstone faces, using your body to fill the space that isn’t there and create a hold. However, over time, this void becomes a part of you, leaving a deep imprint on your spirit and your body. As we travel to Patagonia, we will bring the desert varnish and sand with us, literally etched into our clothing, gear, and our suntanned faces.

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