As I bend into right triangle pose, extending my left arm skyward during my rest day morning Ashtanga session, I lift my drishti (gaze) just beyond my left fingertips and am distracted by erratic movement in the brilliant blue atmosphere beyond. Refocusing my gaze, I quickly realize I’m observing two young male bald eagles pirouetting in aerial dance only a couple of hundred feet above our quiet camp near Priest Draw, Arizona. I call out to Maggie so she can share the experience.
The sky dance of the eagles leads me to contemplate our unusually gratifying nomadic existence. We travel with the seasons, focusing mostly on pursuing lofty rock climbing goals. Fortunately, rock climbing is not the only criteria by which we choose our intermittent home location, we also need an exceptionally good hang. A place where we feel comfortable staying a while. Scenic surroundings are a must. Priest Draw just happens to be near the top of our personal list for all-around stellar locations.
Our criteria for a good hang is fairly simple and subject to change depending on mood, current climbing strength and varying weather conditions, which are becoming increasingly difficult to predict due to global climate change. Yes, it’s something we have witnessed firsthand over the past four years of travel. Storms occur with increased intensity and are less predictable. Weather forecasts commonly change overnight and are exceedingly less accurate. Maybe it’s just budget cuts to NOAA that are to blame. But erratic forecasts are definitely not helpful toward trip planning and climbing schedules.
The top criteria for a good hang is the presence of abundant and inspirational rocks to climb. Priest Draw fits the bill with steep overhanging roofs of limestone which are loaded with a lifetime worth of challenging boulder problems. Adding to the top notch hang rating is the plethora of proximate, unobtrusive primitive dispersed camping here in the Coconino National Forest. We are surrounded by beautiful ponderosa trees under a brilliant blue sky by day and dark star-laden skies by night. Nighttime at 7000’ of elevation in northern Arizona brings cool temps, bordering on cold this time of year. Days typically provide sunny mid-60 temps for most of the month of April. Occasional afternoon thunderstorms break up the monotony but don’t affect our climbing schedule significantly.
The final indicator that we’re in a good hang is the melancholy we feel when it’s time to part. We leave later this week and head north to Maple Canyon for the summer, where we’ll be camp hosts extraordinaire. Our ultimate hope is that the winter/spring months spent falling off boulders from west Texas to southern Utah and northern Arizona will help us in our quest to push redpoint limits on our various projects in the land of cobbles.
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