All last Summer I collaboratively made long awaited plans with my life partner of three and a half years to move to a more rural location in Alaska. We were torn between Seward and Chickaloon. We researched job options, considered various ideas for our potential living situation, talked about fun things that we could do in each place. Eventually, we decided on Seward for a variety of reasons including access to the ocean, tons of mountains, trails, and canyons, local ice climbing, a local hospital, and proximity to my familial cabin in Moose Pass.
My little cabin in historical Gilpatricks, Alaska near Moose Pass
But, just like a movie that has a really happy sounding opening scene, things were not to be as we dreamed. Thankfully it wasn't because someone died or there was a zombie apocalypse but you can already can guess the situation was unpleasant at least for me since I have set the story up this way. We returned from a Fall trip to visit family and spend time on the Maine tree farm that has been part of my mother's side of the family since the beginning of the 1900s and began packing for our long awaited move. We both arrived in Seward without local employment, though I had been in contact with potential employers for several months. Eventually I got a job projected to start in the beginning of January, while my partner didn't get her hoped for employment in the emergency room and continued working intermittent nursing shifts in Anchorage. The strange thing was that in between these three day blocks of shifts she didn't seem too motivated to come to Seward to explore our new landscape or build community for herself. In fact she seemed a lot more interested in staying put in the big city and couchsurfing in between shifts. Confusion began to set in a little bit for both of us I think. We made a couple friends but overall, things felt a little slower and more difficult than we had expected. Eventually my partner came back to town but started looking at plane tickets to exotic locations and making plans to travel even as she paid lip service to building friendships and community for herself in our new home. Overall things felt difficult but I personally felt that we had overcome way more difficult obstacles during the course of our relationship. Unfortunately, at some point my partner stopped talking about how she was doing and turned inward, away from the collaboration and mutual excitedness for a shared life that we had been working on building.
The big surprise came on the day of our long term family friend's funeral, which it turned out was the day before I was to start my new job in my new home. It was a big day for a lot of people, especially for Lars' family. Lars Spurkland was a long time friend, local ski advocate, and his family was already missing him. Despite the sadness of the occasion it felt a lot easier to focus on all the amazing things that Lars had done in his 39 years and I looked forward to bonding with our shared friends and Alaskan extended family at the event. When my partner arrived I was excited to see her and wanted to introduce her to Lars' family.
But it turned out that she showed up at the funeral to let me know that she no longer wished to be together as a couple and requested a ride to Seward to get her things in preparation to exit my life without much of a trace or explanation, which she did the following morning. It just happened to be the morning I was to start my new job. Over the next couple days she came and went in Anchorage without a trace, removing her few remaining belongings from my parents home in Anchorage without speaking to anyone, moving like a shadow into our past. I helped her find a place to live, with her ironically moving back into our old shared home in Anchorage which had now been rented by my good friend Cody. Eventually it came to light that loneliness and depression led to infidelity, with an uncharacteristic six month spell of dishonesty on her part. The joy that life brings is a result of growing through our mistakes rather than pretending they didn't happen. At the time of course, my world fell apart and I felt utterly alone in our (my) new home....torn by feelings of inexplicable guilt and loneliness, unable to sleep. Ironically having my employment starting up gave me just the structure I needed to survive and helped me make some friends during that initial period of huge stress.. I hope that she finds her way and can forgive herself to grow through it. At least when I learned about the infidelity, all the rationalizations and justifications regarding the manner of her leaving made sense.
Within a few weeks things were starting to look a little brighter. Finally things froze up which was a lifesaver because we had a horrible snow year. I began to be able to remember who I was, that I was an OK person, that I deserve love. I joined in 'silly' community activities like the volleyball league and made some new connections. I explored the canyons in all my free time and looked for ice, finding a myriad of amazing routes with new route potential in many places and a lot of cool existing lines. All in all Seward and surrounding areas have given back tenfold with new joys found around every corner as you can see below.
Ice skating to cool ice routes in the backcountry near my cabin. Photo: Rachel Taylor
Pitch one of a potential new line (?) reminiscent of the classic Hollowhead back in Hunter Creek. I n absence of information, I gave it a personal reference of Hollowheart in honor of my struggles (WI4+ 180m). Photo: Rachel Taylor
The view of my backyard from the flats near Nash Road.
A spectacular new line I completed with Aaron Thrasher and Elliot Gaddy that we called 'Rhinestone Wizard' (WI5 350m) in reference to a cool jewel shaped rockwall nearby.
Pitch 4 of Rhinestone Wizard - Photo Elliot Gaddy/Aaron Thrasher
Aaron Thrasher soloing easy ice on a line we took to calling 'The Big Easy' (WI3 200m) - Photo Ben Chriswell
Aaron Thrasher and Ben Chriswell walking home from 'The Big Easy' which can be seen in the background.
A bunch of amazing boulders in an 'undisclosed' location near Seward.
One of another group of nice boulders in a different 'undisclosed' location near Seward.
More of the same. Overall, my approach to the many cool things I have found around here is 'show, don't tell.' So, if you want to take a look at some of the things I have been finding or doing, please hit me up and come on down to take a look. I promise you it will be worth it.
I've also gotten really excited about exploring new frontiers on my bikes, both around Seward and my cabin in Gilpatricks. Once I get my GoPro bike situation dialed in, I will look forward to sharing some footage with you all.
The motorcycling around here isn't too shabby either.
Finally, I had a lot of reservations about heading back overseas to Kizil Asker in Kyrgyzstan due to trying to build my new life and practice here in Seward, a little PTSD from my burials on my last attempt there with my brother from another mother Ryan Johnson. Black Diamond via Bill Belcourt threw down to help make it easier to decide to go with my new partners Benjamin Erdmann and Kim Ladiges. Just committed and got my plane tickets on Monday!
The Western Kokshall Too. Looking forward to heading back for another stab at hopefully multiple lines with Ben and Kim. Here's hoping for new love and continued explorations and route development here at home in Seward and Moose Pass as well! Yet again, climbing, you have saved my life. I owe you a debt of gratitude. And thanks for giving me the confidence to chase my dreams even when I am feeling a little bit broken down by life. My friends, thanks for being patient with me, it took a while until I felt competent to even share what has happened in my life with any depth. My coworkers, thanks for your flexibility in considering how to work out on call shifts while I am overseas! Now to get in killer shape to send in Kyrg!