Who's Next? Me or You?

Every morning for the last week I sat and cried.  Today it started for Marc-Andre Leclerc. Then about Jess Rosskelley. And David Lama. Then Hansjorg Auer.  After that I thought about Tim Klien. And Jason Wells. I read a quote from Neils, then an article about Stanley.  I thought about Dean and Graham.  Matt Ciancio. I cried about Kyle and Scott.  All of them were friends.  

Then I gave a moment to think about Ueli Steck, Tom Ballard, Dani Nardi.  The Russian big wall project guys.  The guy who died in the rockfall in Yosemite.  Ryan Johnson died with Marc Andre, I didn’t know him so maybe it didn’t hurt as much.  Julia was a good friend of my friends and Quinn didn’t die but her life is changed forever.  Iñaki died on a wall I would have loved to be on.  All those guys in Patagonia las season.  Certainly I have forgotten both friends and acquaintances because I can’t keep it all straight anymore.

Of course, how could I forget about Hayden Kennedy and his lovely girlfriend Inge. A great friend who would be outraged and frustrated right now.  It is so hard to keep track.  It's beginning to feel like an empty room, photos and memories taken for granted are all that are left of friends, future plans, goals and ambitions.  

More than once this tragic news has come at a time where I personally felt I was functioning in high gear.  Fit, ready to strike, my whole life wrapped up in climbing, big walls, rocks and mountains.  So much to do, so little time, not enough money and too many places to go.  

My sails are full of wind these days, I have momentum and opportunities and a desire to see things through.  But what now?  Again?  Each time this happens a creeping, sinking feeling sets in that I am next.  What other option is there when this many people die in places I could have been, doing things I also do.  I am left wondering if there is any other option than dying in the mountains.  It seems inevitable, no matter how little I want it to be.

Jess was a good friend.  We didn’t share epic tales together or wild struggles in the mountains.  Not yet.  We never roped up or bumped fists before the pitch of your lifetime.  But Jess was a good friend.

I didn’t even know Jess that well perhaps, but every time we got together we picked up right where we left off.  He was a legend, from a family of legends, and the more I got to know him as a friend the more I realized he wasn’t the ‘fuck-it-all’ psycho I had thought him to be.  We met through The North Face.  And through 'the team' we quickly bonded over the complexities of trying to live some sort of climbing dream.  But also to live a life dream, the regular things; to own a house, have a wife, run a business.  To not be broke, because we both did that for long enough.  Those were the things we talked about on Sunday.

Jess was reasoned and level.  He calculated skills versus risks.  He took chances but not without a justification, not without understanding.  Life is about taking chances, Jess wasn’t afraid, but Jess wasn’t a psycho, few of us are.  Climbing was a huge part of his life, it was in his family, but we often talked about our ladies, and our dogs.  Supportive saints whom we couldn’t do it without. 

For the last week I woke up and cried.  I miss my friends.  I am lucky to have walked the path that led me to calling these great people, these great climbers, these great alpinists, my friends.  I am proud of them, I am sad for them.  I want to say I’ll never go back to the mountains, but I know it isn’t true.  I know I will keep going back to the rocks, back to the big walls, back into the mountains.  I do not want to die in the mountains, but sometimes it seems there isn’t any other way.

I am saddened, hurt and deflated with the death of Jess, David and Hansjorg.  We were all teammates through The North Face.  We hung out as friends at events.  We shared plans and ideas knowing we all had unique skills that brought us to that team.  We became friends.  It was a huge honor to think of these three legends as such. I am afraid to follow in their footsteps.  I hope I can return to the mountains, and return home, now and in the future.  Once again we must reassess and rebuild in the process of moving forward with broken hearts.