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You guys, listeners and friends, have been with us for almost two years. We dearly love creating this podcast, but sometimes life and death and love and sorrow happen. The next podcast is going to be a couple weeks late, and we think you deserve to know why.
Last Friday, on March 6th, my friends Nolan Smythe and Aaron Livingston were blasting up Logical Progression (5.13), a free route on the 2,800-foot El Gigante wall in Basaseachic Falls National Park, Chihuahua, Mexico. Nolan, leading up pitch 14, copped a rest on a comfy ledge. The ledge crumbled beneath him, severed his rope, and this world lost one of it’s finest. You can read about the horrific, freak accident here.
After the accident, thank god, Aaron mustered his formidable climbing and guiding skills to rope solo to safety, where he was rescued some 30 hours later by local climbers. I can’t express the feelings…I can’t even say how relieved so, so many of us were to hear of Aaron’s rescue.
But we lost Nolan. Aaron, much more than his best friend, lost Nolan.
Here’s the thing about Nolan. There are people you lose in life, or you hear of others losing, and the bromides float around, like, “He was the nicest guy you can imagine.” “He never had a negative thing to say about anybody.” “He was the most loving person.” The thing is, those platitudes and cliches are born of some magical truth, sometimes. They exist because these people exist.
Nolan was one of the finest, kindest, most openly loving people I’ve ever met. I poked fun at him for it. He said “I love you” often and hugged like it was a habit he couldn’t shake. In the six years I knew him and climbed with him and worked alongside him and sat around campfires with him, I never heard him disparage another person. He was fascinated by life and driven like a child in a toy factory. He loved climbing and BASE jumping so much you simply couldn’t believe it, how this dude could just go and go and go. Choss, big walls, butt-dragging boulders…it didn’t matter. As long as he was with his vast group of friends and partners, his psyche was enough to fuel an entire adventure.
Nolan made you feel like you were the most special, most important person. But the truth is there is an enormous community grieving right now because he made everyone feel this way. My heart and my love goes out to them. My chest aches for Aaron Livingston and I can’t wait to give him a hug Nolan would be proud of. For his family and Savannah Cummins and the Moab crew and our Bishop family and Jackie and Audrey and so many others.
So, we’re going to delay our next podcast about 10 days because I don’t feel like talking about climbing and joking around right now.
Because we were going to record this notification, I also reached out to some climbing doctors to give us all a bit of info and guidance vis a vis the Coronavirus. Michael Pang and Radhika (Rad) Ratnabalasuriar were kind enough to write up some climbing specific precautions and we speak about that a bit at the end of this abbreviated pod.
We’ll be back around the 25th or so. We’ll be psyched. For now, we’re going to lay low and think about and support our friends.
It’s a good time to tell your buddies that you love them. Apropos of nothing at all. Nothing is guaranteed in this life except what we choose to do in this exact moment. Let’s fill that moment with love.
Please consider donating here to help assuage the costs of bringing Nolan back home, and to allow his loved ones the time to grieve. It would mean the world to so many of us who cared so deeply for Nolan.
Photo: Nolan going up Jedi Mind Tricks in Bishop, CA. Aaron coming down. The best climbing partnership I’ve witnessed in 21 years of climbing…
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