About a year went by since I had the chance to hang out with my friend Jon.
However, we both seem to catch each other at exciting transitory times in each other’s lives. After a few failed attempts over text message to meet after work during the week, he invited me to come for a weekend hike in Franconia, NH with his dad. So after work on Friday, Jon and Bryan came by my apartment to pick up my gear and me. We started th2 4/ 1/2 hour drive North and dove headfirst into conversation about book we’re reading, places we’ve been in the past year, and what’s next in our lives. Great friends are those you fall right back into fluid conversation with, even after not seeing each other for over a year; and that’s precisely what happened with Jon and me.
And this wasn’t the first time we had been through this. When I was 11 years old, I was at Jon’s house playing in the backyard. I fell out of the tree-house and broke my left humerus bone and dislocated my elbow. I had to take a year off of the swim team I had signed up for that week but I healed and everything was OK. Jon and I went our separate paths after high school, not falling out of friendship but both of us developing separate social circles and lives. We crossed paths again over the discovery of our shared found passion for rock climbing. During winter-breaks we would meet up our local climbing gyms and climb some routes as we caught up about our separate but strikingly parallel lives. After moving to New Haven after school, I found that Jon was working occasionally at the local gym there. As we started climbing together more, we planned our first trip together to central Mexico to climb at El Potrero Chico with our eyes set on the route “Time Wave Zero”. 2,300 ft and 23 pitches of mostly 5.9/10 climbing with a 5.12 crux; it is currently one of the longest sport climbing routes in North America. We increased our training up to 4 – 5 days per week in the months leading up, started climbing with weights, and began practicing our sport technique in the gym. But 3 weeks before the trip, we made an awful miscalculation. In my over-confidence, I skipped the a second bolt on what I deemed an “easy” route inside and missed the resulting slack that would be left in my line. Jon said something before I made my reach at the crux of the route but it was too late. My hand already slipped off and though Jon had a solid hold on the belay, the slack in the rope was longer than the 25 ft fall that I took.
I landed with my hands stretched out behind me to break my fall, which they did. Both radius and ulna in both wrists shattered along with all of those little bones at my wrists. Two big rubber S’s at the end of each arm. My butt hit the ground pretty hard as well and I sustained compression fractures in 3 of my lower thoracic vertebrae. Thankfully, the EMT was quick and Yale New Haven was under a 7 minute drive away. However, I can tell you with distinct memory that there were exactly 24 pot holes on the road on the way to the hospital.
But this was in 2013. I had plates, bolts, and wires and a full-torso cast to hold me together while I mended. I took all kinds of awful painkillers that I hated. I lived at my parents’ house and took medical leave from my work.
But life went on.
I had therapy. Then, I had my plates removed. And now it’s 2016 and I’m whole again: surfing, taking karate classes, and lifting weights. I haven’t climbed since the accident but I will. For now the fear of falling is overshadowed by the fear of my own ego: the significant downgrade in my climbing ability hits me in a way I couldn’t have expected.
My mother jokes that Jon is bad luck but I don’t think of him as the guy who’s there right before danger strikes but rather as the one that is rushing to the rescue after the accident occurs.
All of this set some context for our conversation on the drive up to Franconia from New Haven. I shared my recent plans to leave my job and travel the world, Jon shared that his next chapter in life would take him to California where he would start a Masters program. We stayed at a Hampton Inn close to the state park which was a blow to my outdoorsy-ideal but we woke up well rested and well fed for the hike ahead. We even got fresh waffles in the morning and free life-advice from the middle aged women in the hot tub the night before.
It’s hard to sum up the highs of the conversations we had on the mountain but it was clear at the time that we’d be able to figure out all of life’s problems on the hike; the mountain held all of the answers. When we reached the summit of Mount Lafayette, the weather was perfect and there was nothing that paired better with the particular brand of philosophy we were spouting than a classic Summit Sandwich.
- Triscuts (Cracked Pepper + Olive Oil) – 1 box
- Cabot Cheddar Cheese (Seriously Sharp) – 1 block
- Pepperoni – largest stick available at Shaw’s
- Use the the unfolded Triscut box as a cutting board to prepare cheese and pepperoni slices with any available pocketknife or multi-tool
- Prepare open-face style sandwich by placing Triscut first, then cheese, then pepperoni
- Enjoy and eat some Austin Peanut Butter Crackers for dessert
- Curse yourselves for not packing the Long Trail beers then hoof it back down the car