Updated: May 10
Or do. But don't let these photos inspire you. That might be hard.
I met Earl through my day job* at the Wake N Bakery which I often fondly refer to as my side hustle. Earl is a regular, and I take my time to get to know those folks, especially when they're as inviting as he is. When I first shook his hand, I was taken back by how rough and calloused his huge, strong hands were. Shortly after I learned why.
Earl loves rocks. He's a stone mason by trade and an avid climber, skier in heart. At the ripe age of 70 years old, Earl gets out there more than anyone I know fifty years younger. He'll ski the White Walmon glacier on a Friday, multi-day camp in the snow through the weekend, then go climb a local water fall Monday morning bright and early.
To say the man is an inspiration is an understatement, and his "use it or lose it" mindset makes me question why I'm on the couch watching Netflix on any given day.
Last week Earl invited me along to a regular climb of his that no one else has ever done, and for good reason. After five years of study, inching closer and establishing routes, Earl up and down climbed Nooksack falls. Without ropes.
Two years later, there we were, staring at the falls. Gushing intense snow melt, indicators showing the river running high. I've been here numerous times previous to meeting Earl, I've seen the immensely saddening signs at the entrance to the short trail remembering all of the lives lost of people either attempting something similar or falling victim to tragedy by way of heart breaking accidents. This is not a climb for any aspiring mountaineer, climbing gym rat, or even an advanced free climber. This is Earl's climb, and if you wanna know more about it, the only smart thing to do would be to work at the Wake N Bakery for a year or so and get to know him. He likes his coffee black.
All jokes aside, this man is no joke skilled with decades of experience under his belt. No one should attempt what he does without a mentorship.
With so much of the climb fitting into the 'scramble' category, every step must be solid. The entire route is a no fall zone.
He's been climbing this route almost daily for the last two years, sometimes twice a day. His favorite part? The rainbows- And inspiring the kids of Whatcom and Skagit county who participate in the local Special Olympics. Earl started giving back to his community of less able bodied kiddos when he experienced his daughter's struggles of living with a disability. He takes iPhone clips every time he goes, and lots of rainbow shots, too. The kids who can't participate in the climbing parts of his volunteerism are his computer buddies, helping him string together his 30 second clips into full videos.
When he asked me to come with him last week, he wanted some help getting the shot. Little did he know I came prepared with my Canon, zoom lenses, and GoPro. In so many words, I understood the assignment, and Earl was pleasantly surprised.
The flow of the river was so strong, the mist obscured shots and all the rocks were dewy. How he's able to anchor his hands in these conditions is beyond me, but then again I've never met anyone with hands like his. With trust and safety as number one priorities, Earl showed us spots to perch from I never dared to try. We didn't push any boundaries, our adrenaline pumping, we lined up for the shot. He climbed it top to bottom and back up in less than fifteen minutes. Minds = blown.
After the first climb, we followed him to the top of his route. He invited us down, but Noelle
and I only made it to the first bench before our fight or flight signals chirped in. No way. Maybe when we're in the midst of summer heat and a decent dry spell.
The man is something of myth and legend. Moving quietly and humbly within his community, doing his work and floating through the mountains, trees, rocks with grace and power. He's not your average guy on any level, and you wouldn't exactly know it unless you asked how his day was while he picks up his post-climb drip.
Making friends like this is what makes my *side hustle* worth it, and I look forward to more days following this crazy dude around, and to all the other friends I don't know yet but will soon be connected to at the bakery.
Enjoy the gallery, and don't try this at home. Or preferably ever, unless you are lucky enough to follow this mountain goat called Moose around his stomping grounds.
If you liked these photos, feel free to buy Earl an 8 oz. drip at the bakery for the next time he stops in with a story and a smile.
Until next time~