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A memory of my friend Mark Morison
Road trippin’. Isn’t that just about as good as it gets? I mean, who says no to a road trip? It sort of embodies everything that we hold sacred in climbing: travelling, camping in beautiful places, meeting like-minded people, seeing new and incredible crags and mountains, shooting the breeze long into the star-studded night around a crackling fire with your best mates, and of course you get to climb, and climb, and climb. It’s hard to beat, that’s for sure.
In 2002, I found myself at Mark’s place in Merced, just outside Yosemite Valley. I had just finished a short guiding job, and was resting up a bit. He had a few days off work, so we quickly decided to do a short impromptu road trip before I flew back to SA. Nothing too fancy, nothing too long.
Those who knew Mark will know that he was a real character, larger than life and with a huge heart. He was one of those guys who couldn’t even bring himself to kill a cockroach. He also had one of those ‘Furry Freak Brother’ type combi vans with a raisable roof and all the paraphenalia that befits a typical road trippin’ truck, complete with peace sign hanging off the rearview mirror.
We took little convincing, and within hours we had packed, done some shopping and were ‘on the road’.
Our trip took us through Tuolumne Meadows, to the east side of the Sierras, down past Owens River Gorge, along the high Sierra mountains to Bishop and the Buttermilks, then all the way back again. Of course, we climbed some great routes: sport and trad, single- and multi-pitch. And we even did a bit of bouldering. But somehow, for us, it was way more than just the climbing. It was a journey of two kindred spirits, travelling, exploring and discovering. Climbing where we liked, stopping where we wanted. Eating, drinking and talking about life past, present and future. It was like nothing else existed in that week. There was a sense of freedom and liberation. A feeling of deep contentment.
One night, under a hanging full moon, after a long tiring day of climbing, we found ourselves submerged in some natural hot spring pools amongst the plains just east of the Sierras. We lay there soaking our aching muscles and passed a bottle of Bushmills back and forth until the last drop of that Irish nectar was had. We checked the time. We had been there for just over three hours. We were just living the moment, and time had stood still for us.
The bond and connection we had on that trip was brought about by our mutual love for climbing and being in the mountains. And I still often cast my mind back to that road trip with Marky Mark. It was one of the most memorable times of my life. And although Mark is gone now, thinking of that trip always brings him back to life in my mind.
Be safe in the hills
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