Photo by Damon Corso
There is only one Michael Reardon. A force of nature in constant motion, this talented free soloist based out of southern California has had his hand in the climbing and film worlds for two decades now. He is an “Outlaw” — a civilized wild man who might spend a day hammering out hundreds of ropeless pitches in Joshua Tree but spend the next at home in Oak Park, near Malibu, walking the family dogs, editing film clips, and talking teenage angst with his daughter, Nikki, and wife, Marci. Or you might find him tearing across the spine of the High Sierra, on the Palisade Traverse. To keep up with Reardon is nearly impossible, so we decided to let him do what he does best — get out and climb, and tell his story in his own words, with this new Michael Reardon pro blog.
April 15, 2007
3:12 am. I always wake up at 3:12 am. Too late to party, too early to start the day, and there are times that I’ve done both. Here at home I keep it simple and sit up. Used to my habit, my wife Marci remains asleep, pulling away and curling her body around Bailey, the 6-pound Papillion with a Napoleon complex. Ninety pounds of white fur stirs at my feet as the other half of the wonder mutts, Reno, stretches to let me know he’s also awake. Pajamas on, I stagger to the front door and let Reno out for a midnight relief in the bushes that separate our home from 30 square miles of wilderness. I join him in watering the plants. It’s a boy thing, proven further when Bailey stumbles out to our little party. Too tired to lift a leg, he squats like a girl then thrusts his chest forward, challenging anyone disparaging his technique.
I see myself in them. We bark, sometimes loudly to get our message across. We stand firm in our convictions, rarely admitting when we are wrong. We back our actions with our bite, sometimes to devastating consequences both personal and otherwise. But really, we’re furry sissies peeing in the bushes and living in the moment. Life is not short if the adventure is lived, and what an adventure this climbing life has been!
Photo By Damon Corso
Routes I’ve soloed roll off the tongue in a parade of vague remembrances - Equinox, EBGBs, MRSR, The Vampire, The Pirate, Romantic Warrior, Sea of Tranquility, Shikata Ga Nai, Ghetto Blaster, Swamp Thing, The Palisade Traverse, of Death and Panties, and thousands of others, each an adventure of their own. Those California climbs mix with routes soloed in Vegas, Utah, New York, Colorado and 20 other states, which blend into adventures in Canada, Mexico, England and Ireland. Living in the past I could relax, but that would mean giving up what I enjoy the most, which is living now and aiming toward the future. Like all climbers, I have my projects and dreams, each a new standard to test myself against.
Something stirs in the bushes and the boys perk up their ears. Their fur stands out; their nostrils flare. In the darkness, just out of reach of my eyes, like a peripheral ghost that refuses to come into focus, that something freezes. Bailey snarls when I toss him into the house. Mountain lions and coyotes prowl these hills, and the little fuzz ball is barely bait. I turn toward Reno, ready to tackle him but realize I’m too late. Four legs have crouched back, loading the springs in his knees and time stops. In moments like these, the senses don’t just open up, they envelope everything. It’s one of many reasons why I solo.
My mind races back to the thousand routes I soloed in 30 days at Joshua Tree. It was my Everest in the desert and supposedly impossible. I’ve been told that many things are impossible, but my friends and family, the Outlaws, refuse to acknowledge such nonsense. We refuse to live our lives based on someone else’s limitations; we live life based on our expectations. And these expectations soar with every season.
Photo by Damon Corso
I realize I’m holding my breath. The exhale cracks like a starter’s pistol and Reno unleashes himself into the night. I run after him, cursing under my breath as the bushes swat at my face and tear at my clothes. A path opens, up and I start to gain on him. A coyote yips ahead of us; Reno responds with a throaty growl; I laugh like a maniac. Three feral beasts lost in the hunt. Suddenly, the barks stop and catch up to Reno, a chill crawls up my spine. Single coyotes lead dogs astray until the predator becomes prey, as the hidden pack of coyotes circle for dinner.
Every route soloed is my coyote. Enjoyable to chase and admire, but I have to always be cautious that I don’t go too far and find myself surrounded by trouble. Those routes in the resume were done after years of physical and mental training. I’ve also walked away from climbs my wife could do in heals, because I live for the adventure every solo provides, even the ones unfinished.
Reno’s fur distends completely, making him three times bigger than any of the coyotes. I pull the trump card of being human and howl as loud as I can. Reno does several false lunges, and the pack decides to find easier game. As they disperse into the night, Reno and I share a shiver from the adrenaline that readied the body to perform beyond the mental paralysis of fear in order to stay alive. We’re victorious for surviving, but humbled to remember that not every coyote is an easy chase. I’m reminded that not every climb is a quick dispatch. I can never be complacent, so I train harder.
Life, like the climbs we partake, is a series of moments that makes the palms sweat. As climbers, we are all an exclusive band of misfit children the world will never understand, but among ourselves we share these stories over pints and around campfires. Here in the modern age, I look forward to sharing a pint with all of you around the campfire of this blog, but hang on tight because the last 10 years were just the warm up. It’s going to be a helluva ride.