Even ghosts can’t stop them from climbing

My dear friend and climbing partner Benji Fink He died in his sleep in Vail, Colorado. Apparently, he drifted off peacefully, exactly the way he lives. He was 44 years old. Despite not hanging out with Ben for over a year, I can honestly say he was more than a friend, more like a brother – such was his open and loving nature. This tall, athletic man, who lived by hunting, fishing, biking, skiing, and climbing, grew up in North Texas, near where I grew up. Gentle, helpful and patient, he was loved by animals and children. Women also seem to be drawn to his simple demeanor, ironic sense of humor, and gentle Southern accent. I once wrote that Benji can talk sweetly about a nun’s panties, which is true, but relationships never seem to last beyond that inevitable moment when inamorata asks, “What next?”

In a world of anxious people, all scrambling to advance toward some imagined horizon and goal, Benji was truly content with his life as it was, whether he was working in a paint shop or repairing condominiums at a ski resort. While the others were struggling for security, Benji was simply looking forward to getting up at 3 AM and killing some ducks, rocking Wolcott, and then taking a nice nap. This complacency didn’t go well with a string of girlfriends who wanted…well…a little show of ambition, maybe, or maybe just commitment. At his crowded memorial party in Vail, a group of local women stood up and talked about how much they missed the old NCB – NonCommittal Benji.

Although I know that Benji died the way we all hope to check out – painless, happy with life, in his sleep – I can’t get over the fact that he’s gone, and I doubt I ever will. I guess that’s because Benji was a mind touchstone to me, like a rock in a sea of ​​whiteheads. I’ve been swimming in the rough waters of life for a decade, struggling, but it was comforting to know that Benji was there, perhaps taking a nap.

Another reason I broke up with Ben’s death is because he was a character in some of my most important memories, and as everyone knows, our life stories are the building blocks with which we build our true selves. Now, overnight, Bungee is gone, and this big piece of me is gone with him.

Two weeks after Benji’s death, his mother, Donna, sent an email to suggest I write something about him. Knowing how much Benji loved his mother, I couldn’t refuse, but several stories came to mind: kayaking in the icy darkness before dawn to Benji’s secret spot on the Colorado River, stabbing a blind duck and getting the maximum pinteel; We play a “waving game” in the ’90s at Rifle, sitting on the road and waving to famous climbers as they drive out of the valley to see just who was cool and who was an idiot (lots of ‘unhesitating’ people at the time); but the most remarkable story in My memory happened sometime around 1995, shortly ejido Los Remotos, about an hour from the Chihuahuan Desert near Mina, is called Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

aA new day, the exit in the desert to look for houses to uses … For medicinal purposes, Benji and I spotted a huge stone foreground from afar, surrounded by steep walls of gold and gray limestone, standing two thousand feet above a cactus scrub like a gigantic boat of the gods.

“Damn it,” Benji said, “we have to climb that thing.”

And so—we skipped for the time being our superstar encounter with a truck full of nightmare-looking feds who searched our car, found the homes, and inexplicably wished us to get a Bowen Dia and let’s go—a plan was made.

That night we spoke with our fellow Gutierrez-Villarreal brothers and discovered that not only did they know of the towering formation—named La Popa, after the ship’s tube stud—but one of the brothers, Mimo, was working near the wall, throwing industrial waste. He decked out in his plastic Hazmat suit even as we talked, and got ready for work drinking some beer called Indios.

Early the next morning, we found that the allure of the first ascent was stronger than our fear of green men, mummies, and nagolis.

“Yes,” he said proudly. “We get waste from all over the world. Germany, Los Estados Unidos, Peru, Canada. But this desert is a very strange place. Sometimes the little green guys run next to the truck at night and hit No Karga. Yes, of course. And mummies walk in the desert at night, and Los Naguales…”

“Wait a minute,” Benji said. “What is the mobiles? “

Transformers form, Memo said. “They look like normal men but can turn into animals.”

“Dude,” said Benji, looking at me worriedly in the eyes.

I said, “I don’t believe in these things.” “Are you?”

“Could. This is Mexico, man. Strange nonsense going on.”

Early the next morning, we found the allure of the first ascent stronger than our fear of green men, mummies, and nagolis, and packed our gear, food, and water enough for five days of thirst. We also searched around for our bag of peyote, which we had planned to eat that morning for… sustenance.

When Homero, one of the other brothers, was sure of what we were looking for, he brought several bottles of rubbing alcohol and pointed out the white masses, like potato bits, floating in the liquid. Tried to be useful, he cut all our peyote buttons and soaked them in alcohol. Turns out, the locals had no idea they could eat peyote. Use it as an ointment. And so, slightly disappointed, we thanked Homero and told him we were looking forward to rubbing peyote juice on our aching muscles when we got back, then set off in two Nissan pick-up throttles, following two murky dirt tracks, shooting through lakes of deep dust that shot like geysers through the windshield, rolling over Washboard grooves toward the large front.

The road ended at a place on the map called Los Remotos, which consisted of a red mill and a brackish water tank. After a little wandering we discovered a cave that had been dug into the earthen wall of a nearby arroyo. Out of the cave came a short man, exhausted, weather-damaged, in dirty black pants and a filthy brown shirt, and muttered something in a language that was probably Spanish. Using a mixture of Spanglish and charades, we learned his name, Luciano Espinosa, and discovered that he had access to a mule named Macho. He told us that macho can, in fact, carry six gallons of water up the steep ankle piled a thousand feet to the base of the wall.

Luciano disappeared around the Arroyo turn and reappeared an hour later, driving a yellow mule. We strapped our water and a box of gear into a wooden saddle that looked like a kennel roof and sprinted toward the wall. Luciano’s breath was ragged and macho cursing on his strange Spanish-like tongue Huarache Forward like a child trying to throw a heavy horseshoe.

The sun was pouring down like a tin hammer, and the hill kept advancing and continuing, and continually descending. After about two hours of soaring, Macho backed his hooves to the ledge of a 15-foot drop and refused to budge. Cursing Luciano and pulling the reins, Benji stood behind the mule hitting his yellow butt with Sottoll’s leg. Macho’s eyes rolled white into balls, and he patted, catching the air with his front feet, then leaning back, plunging into a pillar of a dagger-headed cactus cactus.

We all rushed down and cut into the saddle. Luciano was groaning, “Es de mi tio! It’s my uncle, my uncle! “

Amazingly, the macho struggled and wandered off to harvest some prickly pears. He seemed unharmed.

“We’ll carry from here,” Benji said.

Luciano helped us move our gear to a small cave made of two rocks a few minutes from the base of the wall, and as the sun set, he took the reins of Macho and prepared to begin descending the hill. The weather has changed and the locals are calling for thick fog nebel It was swirling like a puff of wool. We gave Luciano a headlight and five bucks (tried to turn it down), wished him well and watched until his light disappeared into the fog. Then we got busy ourselves in setting up the camp.

About an hour later I was boiling water for ramen when Benji said, “Dude, turn off your headlight.”

Nori cut off. Bungee pointed down the hill. I looked and held my breath in terror. The entire hills were scanned with frightening golden lights.

At the time, Mexico was a magical place for us. It’s only been five years since we stumbled upon the gigantic walls of Potrero Chico, and rose mysteriously like Mazhar just two hours later across the Texas border, and the country still looks weird, weird, and not exactly friendly. My friend Duane Raleigh made one trip to La Huastica, a rock near Monterrey, in the 1980s, and the police robbed him at gunpoint three times in one night. Recently, on an expedition to a large, plug-shaped, 800-foot-high massif called Cerro Gordo, Benji and I found an orange stone with these words scraped into a patina: A Todos Los Gringos Que Pasan Aqui, Matanlos. Version! Which, roughly translated, means: to all those gringos who pass here, kill them. Whatch out!

And now we’re in Los Remotos, Mexico, looking down at a group of lights going towards us for…what?

We discussed urgently in a rough whisper.

“what the hell?” “I don’t know.” “What do we do?” “Are they coming to kill us?” “Maybe they just want to say hello.” “Or do you rob us?” “Or what?” “Did we eat that houses?” “number!” “Are you sure?” “yes!” “What the fuck is this?!”

Benji drilled the periscope and took turns scanning the slope. What we saw through Benno was even more terrifying. It was hard to discern exactly because a dark mist obscured the pedestrians, but it looked like a group of about 40 people, with huge anvil heads and spinning legs, clutching lanterns and heading upward toward us.

We were completely trapped. picked up the wind and nebel Dense as pedestrians approach. Benji and I set out uphill, leaving our camp littered and disorganized, wedged ourselves into a narrow ankle hole and spent a cramped and uncomfortable night shivering with cold, too afraid to utter a word.

The next morning dawned, sunny and cool, perfect for climbing. We crawled out of the hole and Bungee scanned the slope with his binoculars, handing it to us a few moments later. I looked and shivered. No people, but the slope below us was covered in shaggy ponies.

I said “Naguales”.

Below camp we took up PowerBars and discussed what to do. The wall above looked stunning, steep and long, with rafts standing off rocks like Cadillac fins and surfboards. It kind of felt like a flatland climb like Ben and I dreamed of during the long, hot, sticky Texas summers. However, there have been those who alter the paranormal form of anxiety and who may or may not return to kill us in our sleep. To go or stay? Such a puzzle.

Smash an imaginary bungee by carrying his bag. He said, “Let’s do it.”

Of all my memories of Ben, this moment is my favorite because it points to his great trait: Benjamin Matthew Fink was far from satisfied. In fact, he was the most playful guy I’ve ever known. I’m sure most people would have turned their tails up and down that day. I definitely wanted to. But since Benji wanted to go ahead with it, we ended up creating perhaps the best road without big fences – certainly the steepest – in Mexico.

Last year, after 20 years, Alex Honnold and Josh McCoy made the first iteration of our path, Javelan (5.13 a, 900 ft) and its quality confirmed. Benji called me back and we talked about adventures to come. I am sad that these plans will not come true, but I am very grateful for the time we spent together. I can only imagine Benji enjoying himself somewhere on the other side, hunting, fishing, climbing, skiing, biking and napping.

Jeff Jackson is an editor at rise of And the rocks and ice.

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