Thursday, April 17, 2014

Time to Reflect

It's been a month, most of my injuries have mostly gotten better. I can tell because I'm no longer sleeping 20+ hours a day like I was a few weeks ago. I can also tell that I'm not quite there yet, because I'm still feeling the urge to sleep 12 or so hours a day and getting tired pretty easily.

I am no longer in Bozeman, Montana, I came back to Israel a week and a half ago and have been working on recovering at my Mom's place. It's funny really, how life slows down on you when you really can't do all that much. On the one hand, I've got tons of time, I spend most of it in bed or on the couch. Energy is low and I really hope that the doctor will let me start weighting my foot again in two weeks when I go back for a checkup. More than that, I've got my fingers crossed that the low energy levels I'm having are mostly related to a lack of physical activity and that once I start physical therapy, they'll bounce back pretty quickly. I've got a group I'm supposed to be guiding that lands five weeks from now and if there's one thing I know about recovering, it's really good to have a target to aim for, and that's mine at the moment.

The last post I wrote was all about what happened that day, one month ago and since that day I've had a whole lot of time to sit around and analyze the event, a lot more so than I had when I wrote the post, still totally exhausted and somewhat dazed after a head injury.
First of all, I realized how lucky I am that Nadav not only survived the fall, but had no significant injuries and was able to haul me out of there, a process that took about three hours. Had he been hurt even half as badly as I was, we may have had a true epic on our hands figuring out how to get ourselves to the car and then the hospital.
Secondly, I couldn't have asked for a better partner than someone who is not only cool headed but also both a wilderness emergency medical technician and has spent years of his life teaching rescue technique to find myself in this predicament with. Again, I'm convinced I got the best case scenario here.
Third, a whole community of people that I had only recently met came together to help me out, starting in the hospital, followed by the week I spent on the couch and then with Nadav who helped me drive all the way to Minneapolis and Rotem, my brothers amazing fiance who flew in from NYC to help me with the rest of the drive to DC. Tim and Irit that hosted us in Milwaukee on our way there and of course my Dad and Renee and her brother Eric that all helped me unload the van and pack for Israel. Being on crutches really sucks but I can only imagine how impossible it would have been if I had needed to figure out all that stuff on my own!

What would a blog post be without at least one photo? I was going to put up some shots of stitched up hands and swollen feet but I decided that this picture that Phil Lester took on my last skiing day before the accident was a lot prettier looking. You can see more of his photos here.

People often ask me about being back and forth between two pretty different places, Israel and the states. I have come up with a kinda smirk answer that I usually use, it's called International Displacement Syndrome or IDS for short. Sometimes I add words like Chronic or Acute to the beginning of it just to spice things up.
Really though, for most of the last few years I've managed to live life ping ponging back and forth between Israel and the US and for the most part those transitions have happened at moments where I felt I have hit a dead end doing something and needed to change things up.
Most of the time this has worked out really well for me with just letting these "chapters" of life sort of run their course, maybe it's the fact that I sort of got "dumped" out of this chapter and expedited back to Israel that has me sitting here cycling through existential thoughts, or maybe it's the time in Bozeman spent experiencing a place that has a healthy community with all of the things I love to do within a short distance that has led me to start thinking that if I really need mountains to be happy in life then I should find a community in the mountains somewhere.
Maybe it's the fact that in Israel, we're all stuck in the same basic season all year and hurting ourselves overtraining on limestone sport projects while trying to push into harder grades because we've climbed everything else already. In any case, I'm not sure exactly why I'm using my blog as an outlet for these frustrations but I am certain that it's time for me to spend more time away from here and come back with more clear expectations and ambitions.

Since getting back to Israel, I've had a chance to hang out with a whole bunch of friends, most of them had heard about the accident last month already but for some reason, despite them having read what I thought was a pretty clearly written blog post, have been saying things like "Oh, I read your blog, the picture of the broken helmet looked really scary... but what happened?". In the shortest possible explanation, we were standing above an ice climb and a small avalanche (or just a lot of loose snow) came down and sent us falling over what we had just climbed, About 50 meters in total.
Sorry if I used too many technical terms without explaining them, I'll try to keep things more reader friendly for the general non climber audience in the future.

In the end, it's back to the same conclusion. Broken bones get better in the end but it looks like IDS and wander lust are for life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Plans change fast

Life is funny that way, the big things always catch you off guard.
Two days ago, Nadav and I had planned on going to ski at Big Sky for the day. By the time we got up we decided it was a little too late and that we should instead head up into Hyalite canyon, the ice climbing area right outside of Bozeman, that is a little faster to get to and doesn't close like the ski resort does.

At about 10:00, we left Bozeman for Hyalite, it was supposed to start snowing later that day but instead it was already starting to come down on us when we hopped out of the car at the trailhead.
We had decided to go climb a mixed route just to the right of the dribbles but for some reason we ended up turning uphill a little early by mistake and thought we were probably a little off when we finally got to an ice flow and even in the low visibility, looking up and left we could see the iconic test piece WinterDance. The flow in front of our face looked to be about WI3 or so and we both agreed that we should hop on it since it would take us too long to try and figure out something else to climb, especially without the guidebook on us (later we discovered this to be a climb called "over easy").
I took the lead and it was pretty straight forward, 30 meters or so of WI3+ish followed by about 15 meters of plunging through snow that I'm pretty confident was at least a few degrees below 30 and seemed stable to me. This brought me to a little tree on the right hand side on the gully that after a little bit of digging I found a bunch of tat on from other peoples rappels. I belayed Nadav up and when he got over the painful thawing process of his freezing fingers we looked up the slope together and quickly decided we would stay roped up and climb together through the snow to see if we could find some more ice higher up.

I took in about half of the ropes in a mountaineers coil or kiwi coils as they are often called in the US and tied them off before starting to follow Nadav of the snow slope. It was pretty easy going and the drainage was narrowing up before a short step of low angle ice at its narrowest point. When Nadav made it over the ice he started to notice some sloughing in the new snow. As he stepped off the ice, there was some serious sloughing coming down and when he tried to move forward again, another nice amount released. we looked at each other and with a quick exchange decided to back off and rap from the tree that was now about 10 meters below me.

I took a step to the right, placed my ice tools in the snow in front of me and started to remove the coils from over my shoulder in preparation for the rappel. Nadav started downclimbing the low angle step and the next thing I remember is snow starting to fly down the drainage and myself trying to hold on to something while getting knocked around by the snow and slowly losing control. I was very aware of the fact that I still had coils on me and that they were not tied off to my harness anymore, so there was nothing stopping them from coming tight around my body and I have some memory of trying to unwrap the rope from around me while it was coming tight. This leads me to believe that Nadav probably flew past me and pulled me down and maybe had I still been in on the anchor, things would have ended a little differently.
The last thing I remember was a pain in my left ankle, probably from snagging one of the points of my crampons on some ice, followed by the sensation of tumbling in mid air.

Nadav says that when he stood up on the ground he instantly hoped that I hadn't taken the same plunge as him, then he noticed all of the rope in the snow and started following it until he found me partially buried and unconscious. He says he yelled at me for a minute or so and checked his cell for service but didn't have any.

The first thing I remember is hobbling down the approach trail on two arms and a foot with a rope going from my harness to Nadav, I guess it took me a while to fully understand what was going on but by the time we hit the main trail out I was lucid enough to tell Nadav the he should run and get his skis out of the car so that he can pull me out on them like a sled. A few minutes later he was back with reinforcements, a few guys that we had met in the parking lot earlier that day had agreed to come and help pull me out. Two of them came straight up to help drag me out while the third went all the way to the trailhead to go grab some skis for a sled. The whole process is a bit of  a blur but I'm pretty sure it didn't take more than two hours to get back to the trailhead . From there it was another forty minutes or so to the emergency room.

I guess it was time to retire this helmet in any case.

As a result of the fall, Nadav and I both broke our helmets. We are both amazingly fortunate to have come out of this incident at all and the fact that he had no major injuries meant that he could carry me out. I still can't stop thinking of how bad it could have been had we both gotten injured.

After a day in the Bozeman hospital, I have a fractured Calcaneus (Heel bone), a fractured MetaCarpal with a laceration at the base of my left pointer finger, some rope burn on the left side of my neck and a bunch of general aches and pains but that's about it. The Orthopedist said that I should be fully recovered and back on the sharp end within four months which I feel is something I should be able to deal with.

Still haven't figured out the next step of my trip, I was supposed to be in the stated through April 30th and I still have to figure out how to get back to the east coast with my car. In any case, I plan on hanging out in Bozeman for a few more days to let the swelling subside and maybe even wait for a 7 day checkup and getting the stitches out of my hand.

Last time I broke a bone, it eventually led me to going on a bike tour that I still consider to be one of the more formative experiences in life. I wonder what this experience will bring.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

So that's where the name comes from

I've always been a big planner in life, I like to figure out the things that I want to try and achieve and I usually manage to find a way to make it so that all sorts of awesome experiences just sort of come along as a byproduct.
When I started this blog a few years ago it was for the first real big trip that I would take on my own into an area I knew very little about. The catalyst for this trip had been something that my late Grandfather, Ellie Borowski had always said. He, as a man who spoke and read more languages than I can count, insisted that learning new languages is easy until the magical age of 25, and I at the time was 25 years old.
So, I told my family that I was off to learn a new language, Spanish. And what better way to do so than a 5 month bike tour through Central America and Colombia? Needless to say, there was no shortage of eye opening and amazing experiences during that trip, and as a bonus, I even learned Spanish.

Now I'm on a new mission, I'm playing with the idea of working towards a mountain guides certification. Still not sure where in the world I would undertake this 5 or so year process but after the last two weeks, I'm pretty sure that this is truly a direction I would like to pursue in life.
As mentioned in my last post, I was already in Bozeman, Montana, enjoying world class ice climbing and some great skiing.... Along with top notch beer and lots of good new friends.
A post came up on facebook from my buddy Alik Berg, the self proclaimed Canadian Sport Wanker and probably one of the farthest things from one that exists. He had just returned from 6 weeks in Patagonia and I told him he should come play in Bozeman, to which he replied "You should come up to Canmore, the ice here is way better". So, about a week later, I upped and drove a nice 10 hour day, into the Canadian Rockies and ended up in Canmore where I made myself a little nest in between the back of the couch and the row of closets in Aliks livingroom that I would call my bed for close to two weeks.

Waking up the first morning in Canmore, it was a little cloudy and I really had no idea just what the area looks like, it wasn't until later that day that the clouds lifted a little and gave me my first glimpse at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.

Just a little taste of some of the views

Kirstin Bartsch on the sharp end at Haffner 

Finally getting back into the swing of things after getting a few ice leads under my belt this season

We spent a day skiing at the Vermillion Burn, right across the border in BC, all the trees are dead which is pretty sad for them but makes for some awesome skiing.

Kirstin, Dropping off a pillow above Floe Lake

Alik Berg,  putting up a mixed line at the Grotto 

Alik on lead again at Evan Thomas, on a pretty thin SnowLine WI4 

A warm day in March was the perfect excuse to go climb early season rock on Yamnuska

I would take "Yam" as my local crag any day, up to 10 pitches or so of multipitch limestone adventure climbing!

Scott and I following Alik up the top pitch of  GreyScale 5.11d, 6 pitches
Alik belaying Scott up the final moves.

And some more spectacular views off the top of Yam, looking North at a seemingly endless world of rocks.

The next morning was another early start, I went out with Phil Lester to ski the French-Haig-Robertson traverse, you can see Mt. Robertsons jagged ridge in the background.

Phil is getting ready for lunch as we skin up the French Glacier.

Working our way across the Haig glacier, we were lucky to have spectacular weather and visibility. 

A little more skinning before the bootpack up to the Col between the Haig and Robertson glaciers.

Slightly variable snow conditions but stability was good, and by good I mean bulletproof. 

The fast descent into the warmer temps led us across some avalanche debris that was at least a few days old.

Avalanche conditions were looking good so we Alik and I went out for my 3rd consecutive long and full day, we woke up at 4:30 for the two and a half hour drive up the Icefields Parkway to climb this 700 meter gem called Polar Circus WI4+/5

First ones on the route since the last storm cycle, here is Alik on lead on pitch 1 after about an hour of wallowing through deep snow and breakable crusts.

Alik following up the slightly sun effected but still solid 2nd pitch.

The base of the infamous and unformed pencil in the background as I get ready to take over for close to an hour of trying to stay afloat for the snow traverse.

Staring up at the final 4 (better to have done in 5) pitches after finally making it back to firm ground after the snow traverse.

The lovely soaker pitch, luckily the sun came out a little later to help my pants dry. It's hard to see in the picture but this thing was running with water for a good chunk of the way. 
Alik, about half way up the first pitch of the final 100 meter headwall. 

Topping out with a smile!

And happy to be getting off the route before things warm up too much

After having spent a fair bit of time playing around in the Rockies in the US, I think I finally understand the source of the name now. It's all about the big chunks of rock in Canada. When Robin Williams said that "Canada is like a loft apartment over a really great party", he was clearly thinking of the wrong kind of party for me.

Next up: Back in the states and heading to Colorado for a level 2 Avalanche course, one of the things that I'll need if and when I start training to become a mountain guide, or wait.... Maybe I've already started?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fresh places to make some tracks

Coming up on a month in the states, I booked the ticket just a few days before the flight and though I had considered coming to play for some of the winter in the US, I hadn't really though too seriously about where and what I was going to do. I kinda figured that I'd head to Colorado, pick up my skis and figure out what I want to do from there.
Just before taking off, a friend told me that I should come play in Cody, WY, a place known for its amazing multipitch ice climbing routes, there was a big festival going on and they already had a motel room lined up for a whole bunch of us to crash in. I'm not sure exactly why, I guess even I've got some of the vices of normal people that seem to pull me into routine sometimes, I just felt like I "should" be going back to Colorado, to do more of the stuff that I've done out there already. The Cody Ice Fest was a great catalyst that pulled me away from my creature comforts and into an area unknown to me and even though we didn't really get to climb in Cody to much it started a tumbling snowball that seems to be leading me into new areas that I've been wanting to visit for a long time.
At the moment, I'm about a week into a stay in Bozeman, MT. This place is home to both amazing ice climbing in Hyalite Canyon and spectacular backcountry skiing with conditions that in general are way more stable than the notoriously sketchy Colorado snowpack.

Viviane looking just as disappointed as I was when we decided to bail off a route in Cody before we even started climbing because the temps were rising and rocks were falling in the bowling alley style chimney that we decided not to climb in.

Viviane, Craig and Keenan slugging up the last bit of the approach to Cleopatra's Needle in Hyalite.

Me, leading the last little section of the first pitch of Cleo's. Moments after this shot was taken, my right crampon popped off my boot and made for a few interesting moments as I wobbled around, trying to get a screw in calmly so that I could fix my crampon and finish the pitch.

Hanging out in the cave while Keenan belays Craig up the crux pitch of Cleo's (WI5)

Nick, getting at it on Ross Peak in the Bridgers right outside of Bozeman

Kyle stopped to scope out the best line.

We all went out skiing in Hyalite this last Saturday and since Nadav forgot to bring a puffy, he decided to get up close to everyone in order to stay warm. Notice the pile of skis on top of eachother.

Speaking of piles, not sure if I've ever seen so many BD poles in one place before.

We set out to try and ski Emigrant Peak, above paradise valley on Sunday, this was one of the spots with relatively decent snow coverage, lets just say that Jerusalem had more snow a this winter than some of the spots on Emigrant.

This however is Ellis peak in the North Gallatin range, no shortage of snow was happening here.

Ian is skinning up, close to the top of Upper Ellis with the ridge to Lower Ellis standing out in the background and a little bit of Bozeman sticking out on the left.

Since I've been on the theme of going to check out new places, it looks like the next stop is Canmore! I should be heading into Canada in the next few days so I won't be picking up the phone but should still be having WIFI every once in a while if you need to reach me.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


I spent last Saturday volunteering with Climb4Change, a new non profit running under the Israel Climbers Club that has been using rock climbing as a platform for coexistence programing with 13-17 year old Arab and Jewish youth. There are few things in the world as good as the feeling of tying in to a rope together in order to create strong bonds between people and I believe that this program can have a true effect on people.

Here is a short clip from the day I spent with them, it was their first time climbing outdoors after three months of almost weekly meeting in the Jerusalem climbing gym. We spent the day climbing at Zanoah and had a blast!

The group could really use whatever donations are possible, all of the gear they are using is handy down and loaner gear. If you would like to help out, let me know and I'll put you in touch with the right people.

On a side note, I'm heading to the state for a few months, so expect to see me driving into Colorado in about a week and a half or so! Will be looking for lots of climbing and skiing partners so start freeing up your calenders, waxing your planks and sharpening your tools!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Taking the... um... Climbers out for a walk

By most standards I've been climbing for a pretty healthy portion of my life, doing my best to keep progressing with this pursuit that has become such a defining chunk of my identity. Some of you may know this already but back in 2009 I started a new journey into my climbing when I enrolled in the Climbing Guides course that was being run by what was still the Israel Alpine Club at the time. The course was divided into two parts, a prep stage where we learned advance rescue techniques and the actual course that we had to pass a rigorous exam in order to continue on to. I successfully passed the midway exam on my first go and informed the director of the tour guides course that I was also enrolled in at the time that I was going to be gone for about a month because of my sister Kaziah's Bat Mitzvah in DC, for those of you that don't calculate travel times the way I do, it looks something like this:    1 Bat Mitzvah weekend  + 2 days of international air travel + a little climbing = 1 Month :)
Only that about a week into my trip I was up climbing in the Gunks and took a big fall where I broke my ankle and was eventually instructed not to lead climb for 18 months! 18 months sounded like a lifetime and ended up feeling like one too. During that time I met Erin and Sam that was cycling around the Asia and the Middle East on their honeymoon to remember. They inspired me to go on a bike ride that lasted five month, crossed eight counties and brought to the creation of this very blog that I have been doing my best at updating periodically ever since.
Riding a bike for five months gave me lots of time to contemplate just about anything and everything possible, amongst these was the thought of a couple of large bins worth of climbing gear that I may never actually get back to using, I ran through questions in my head like; Will my ankle be strong enough to ever risk a fall again? Will I ever find the calm needed to act deliberately while knowing that I could fall and keep my cool? Even if I do heal up right will I still be drawn toward the sharp end of the rope and climbing as I had come to know and love it?
After returning to Israel it took me some time to ease my way back into climbing but when it did eventually happen I found myself in a clearer place than I had ever been where I was doing things in a fully deliberate manner and had a much more complete awareness of the risks I chose to take.
The Israel Alpine Club had since become the Israel Climbers Club, possibly because of the lack of an alpine environment in Israel, and as demand has risen again, it became time to open a new climbing guides course and I decided to re-enroll and pickup where I had dropped off.

Here are some pictures of the ten days that I spent in Jordan recently, 4 of them were part of the guides course.

Haggai and I volunteered to mentor Benji and Yuki for a day or two before the course started, so this is Benji tying in to three ropes so that he can mock lead an actual trad route in Wadi Rum.

Benji, leading the awesome crack pitch on Little Beauty

Standing on the top of the Volcanic Tower after climbing First Road (300m T.D.), Haggai and I looked over at all the snow that was still on top of Jabel Rum from the storm a few days earlier

Patric in the yellowish puffy was our official delegation from the UIAA that came to approve that the course is up to European standards.

Wadi Rum will forever remain the place with great walls and amazing sand dunes where I first realized the true difference in skill sets between expert climber and expert guide.

As climbers, we are used to being with partners of relatively similar comfort levels, walking on easy terrain with serious consequences is usually done unprotected with the confidence that each climber is responsible for himself.

As a guide you need to be confident in yourself and at the same time able to protect your client so that if he takes that wrong step, you are there to correct it quickly and prevent a little stumble from turning into a catastrophic plunge. As you can see from the picture, Nadav is demonstrating what a client with a seriously underdeveloped survival instinct might behave like at the wrong moment while I'm working hard at keeping him alive.

Omer Shavit is playing client on our day of rock instructing training where we practiced the art of taking a long multi pitch climb and turning it into a running lesson in rope work and climbing technique.

This is me leading the final pitch of The Pillar of Wisdom on our day of practicing Rock Guiding with Elad Omer.

Nadav honing his shortroping skills as he practices taking in the rope hand over hand for his mock client Tal Niv, the first and only Israeli to have received full certification as an international mountain guide (IFMGA) to date.

I'm trying to hide from the desert sun while taking my.... um.... climbers out for a walk on a shortrope.
Fifteen days of apprenticeship and one final exam to go, five years after first setting out to become a Rock Guide, I will hopefully be completing my goal. After that, it will be time to find a new goal to chase and the ideas are already starting to brew.

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