Like so many of my friends in the climbing community, I only see them here and there. Despite the distance or irregularity of our contact, we have friendships forged in moments of intensity. Moments of trusting your life in their hands, unwaveringly and unquestionably. With Neils it was the same: Yosemite, Patagonia, the desert somewhere, maybe in Vegas where he once fixed his truck tire in my front yard because it had the tendency to come off every 100 miles or so.
Like so many of my friends in the climbing community, Neils has died.
I was standing at Cafe Rio in St. George, waiting in line with a hundred mormons and all their kids. It was such a normal place, a normal thing to do. And the news of Neils death felt almost normal as well. I felt numb. The information bounced off me. It barely penetrated.
“Ah, fuck” I said.
This is no way to react to a friends death, but the last two months have been so heavy. The last 12 months have been just as bad. The deep rooted, hard to pinpoint feelings of depression that come in waves after death were just fading following the death of Hayden and his wonderful girlfriend, Inge. I had just begun to understand what the loss of Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson means to me when going big and trying hard, dangerous objectives in the mountains.
So again we are faced with the fact that our friends die living this life we are obsessed with. Again I must look within and find the why, find the limits, find the reason, find the meaning.
I will miss Neils. Our conversations were often deep and powerful for me. I was regularly left questioning my life, my actions and my motivations. Neils lived his life from a raw and powerful place, full of emotion and internal drive. His actions and motivations were from his heart, always. Neils was one of the greatest and most able American big wall free climbers alive yet he shunned any publicity. He would never allow that to influence his drive for climbing or his way of living.
I know that our friends who have died would not want us to quit, to stop pushing or exploring the edges. We are a group who lives our lives in that space, we are not like most, we thrive on those boundaries and the idea of pushing them. But while we do that, lets make sure we use caution and care, lets be careful so that we can not just push those boundaries today, but also push them tomorrow.