I got an email from Statigram the other day offering to collect my “best Instagram moments of 2013.” I thought Why Not and clicked a couple times, and a few minutes later, I received in my inbox a 15-second video of my five best moments, complete with a piano soundtrack. It was nice. Facebook did something similar and offered to show me my 20 Biggest Moments. That was cool. I scrolled through my Instagram photos and thought, Man, I had a pretty fun year. Scenic, even, if all you saw were the 1-inch by 1-inch photos I posted from my phone.
Memory is a funny thing. As proponents of the “Three Types of Fun” system often point out, your brain has a way of forgetting the bad parts of life, and you only remember the good parts. I didn’t post either of those “Year in Review” things to social media, but I did take a look back and try to remember some of the other moments. Things that happened peripherally to all my Instagram climbing and other outdoor shots. The stuff you don’t brag about in captions.
For instance: One of the first visceral things I did in 2013 was climb up about 40 feet on an easy route in the Ouray Ice Park and drop a 30-pound block of ice on my right knee, which then bounced off the inside of my left shin and right shin. I tucked my face in between my ice tools and gritted my teeth, waiting for the hammering pain to go away. A few minutes later, I posted a photo of my friend Jesse’s wife Melanie toproping her first ice climb ever. Yay!
On April 3, midway through a mountain bike ride near Sedona, I stopped and took a photo of my girlfriend rolling through a meadow in front of Bell Rock as the sun dipped, giving everything a nice golden glow. Fifteen minutes later, I misjudged a step and launched myself over the handlebars, then slammed into the sandstone in sloooooow-moooooootion OHHHHH FUUUUUUUCK, giving myself a deep thigh bruise and smashing a bone in my wrist. I spent the evening sitting in my van in the parking lot of a supermarket, icing my thigh with a bag of frozen corn. Jealous of my life much?
In early May, I stood on the only spot not covered in pigeon shit in a corner at the base of the east face of Grey Rock at Garden of the Gods to belay my friend Jayson, trying in vain to keep the rope off the literal 150-cubic-foot sea of dried crap covering every surface within 20 feet of the wall. Later, I posted a quite majestic photo of a climber on the arete to the left, a silhouette high above the valley below, not a clue of the mess of excrement just to the climber’s right.
And so it went, throughout the year.
Wow, I remember that sunrise. I also remember the pungent wet-dog smell of my sleeping bag when I unzipped it a few minutes earlier after several days in the backcountry, and I don’t own a dog. There’s that photo of those two guys climbing on the route next to us. I took that about 45 minutes before we rappelled off the second pitch in a downpour. Sometimes instead of weeping with joy when I reach the belay after a scary pitch, I concentrate on taking a photo of my partner following me.
Don’t get me wrong; I had a fun year. I bet you did too, when you look back on it. But be honest: wasn’t it also a fun year, fun-in-quotation-marks-fun? Everybody knows that’s what makes that sunrise/sunset/summit photo worth it: the cold, the heat, the mosquito bites, the mud on your shoes, the dirt caking your skin, the sand in your eye, the shivering, the bruises, the blood, the sweat, the vomiting—oh, you didn’t vomit? Well, trust me, I felt a lot better afterward.
Here’s to all the Instagram- and holiday-card-worthy moments—and here’s to all the pigeon-shit-infested, accidental bloodletting, dirty, sweaty, morale-crushing times that come before and after them.