Happy New Year! It's been a little over a month since the return from the Slacklust: Coast to Crest trip, and I am finally releasing the project through various outlets. Here is the story I wrote for one of our sponsors, Gregory Packs, and a few of my favorite photos. Over the next few weeks, I will be releasing wider edits from the project. Please stay tuned and follow along on InstaGram @dankrauss.
"Man it’s cold” I thought to myself as I pulled my head out of my sleeping bag. “Is it morning yet?” No... It was still pitch black outside. I did this every hour for the entire night. David’s booming snores filled the pop-up camper on top of the van. Everything inside the tent was wet from freezing condensation. When I finally saw the frosted grass turn orange, peeking out of the tent's air vent, I begrudgingly got out of my now-ice-covered sleeping bag and pulled on my puffy jacket. My whole body shuddered as I climbed out of the tent and walked the 500 yards to the hot spring.
We had spent the night at the Mammoth hot springs, day 7 of our 2-week trip. It was the first water my body touched that whole week. We were filthy and our skin raw from climbing in Joshua Tree and Bishop with no rest days. When I picked up my towel and swimsuit that morning, they stood up straight, frozen solid. It had apparently reached temps near zero that night, and wouldn’t warm up past 20degrees F for another few hours.
I figured the hot spring would be empty at such an ungodly early hour, but to my surprise found a middle-aged woman sitting in the tub, wearing nothing but a toe ring. She didn’t say much, though I could tell she wasn’t pleased to see me.
I undressed and hopped in, my cares and worries melted away with the icicles in my hair as it made contact with the warm tub of water. The field of yellow was glowing in the sun. Salt deposits gave the appearance of snow on the ground and blades of grass were frozen from the steamy hot spring. I stared back at the Grandfathers, slightly dusted in snow and slipped into a quiet moment of pure bliss.
We live in a world of instant gratification, with the ability to share our achievements instantly, in a wide range of mediums. Every day a new record is broken. It feels like everyone I see is in the rat race to be the best, the fastest, the hardest climber, or break the newest highline record. What happened to just going outside to raise the stoke meter?
I get more inspired by seeing someone cross their first highline, than seeing someone break a new record. That look in their eye when they set that first foot back on solid ground. The wide-eyed, shit-eating grin, half-stoked, and half-terrified. I’m all for pushing the limits of human potential, but that’s not what gets me out there. I relish personal stoke, pushing personal boundaries, competing with yourself and enjoying every second of it.
When I planned this trip, that’s what I wanted the goal to be. Just plain fun. Enjoying the land, the solitude, and the random company that camping provides, swapping stories over a hot fire. We weren’t going to climb the hardest routes or rig the longest lines. We wanted to enjoy the most beautiful places, bask in the diverse landscapes and climates, and explore the only state that can have you get a tan on the beach and summit a snowy peak within 24 hours.
Over the 2-week trip, we climbed some classic routes in Santa Barbara, highlined under highway 1 and between a redwood ravine in Big Sur. We spent the most time in Bishop, bouldering at the Buttermilks and The Happies, then switched it up some multi-pitch trad on Cardinal Pinnacle and sport climbing in Owen’s River Gorge. In Joshua Tree, we opted for one of the out-there lines, strung across the Astro Domes. The last time it had been rigged was almost 5 years ago, probably due to the fact that this was a mere 45-minute hike, and most lines in Joshua Tree are 5 minutes from the car.
Aesthetic was key and the point was bliss. We certainly reached our goal and can say the trip was an absolute success, though we each had our asses handed to us at one point or another.
The team consisted of David Kingston, of Pasadena, Calif., Wilson Cutbirth, of Sedona, AZ., and Heather Larsen, of Golden, CO. Each one of them had their own special set of skills, but they all shared that unassuming, humble personality. Competition wasn’t their goal, only to enjoy their passions at their maximum ability.