Rock climbing is inherently dangerous. Every guidebook, every piece of climbing gear, and signs posted at every major climbing area proclaim the dangers of the sport. It's easy to ignore the dangers. Occasionally my eyes are opened- a friend will pop a tendon, or sprain an ankle. These accidents are common and heal quickly. And I ease back into believing that rock climbing is safe. But it's not.
Eight years ago, in the employee kitchen in Curry Village, a group of climbers and I stood around slandering, plotting how we would eat that night.
"I just went grocery shopping. I've got meat and vegetables." Mikey Schaeffer said.
"I've got some pasta, sauce, and a bunch of pots." I added.
"I've got $2 and a half empty jar of peanut butter." Micah said in classic dirtbag fashion. Micah was a rock monkey, living out of "the technobago", an old RV he parked in the Camp 4 lot. He supported himself on the paltry funds he made during YOSAR jobs while he climbed obsessively.
The next summer, during a rest day, Lucho, Jens, Amelia, Micah, and I piled into a truck and drove to Oakhurst. We bounced out of the valley and ate at a small taqueria. We devoured basket after basket of chips. Micah made sure they were constantly refilled.
Micah and Johnny Copp went to China to climb Mount Edgar in the Minya Konka massif. The mountain is a sub-peak of 24,790-foot (7,556 meters) Mount Gongga, the highest mountain in the Sichuan Province in western China. The pair were accompanied by Wade Johnson, who planned on filming the ascent for Sender Films. An avalanche buried the team. Micah's body has not been found yet but with fifteen days without contact, it is pressumed that he is dead.
On Sunday, Lucho and I headed over to South San Francisco. Josh "Trundlesby" Thompson was having a barbeque and house warming party. Nearly a decade ago, Josh, Lucho and Micah made a push ascent of Eagle's Way, an A3+ route on the right side of El Cap. On the summit, Micah had asked Josh to send up his shoes on the haul line. Josh attached them wrong. When he and Lucho met Micah on top. Micah told Josh, "You're an idiot." He looked at Lucho and said, "I don't know what you did but you're an idiot too." Then he threw his hands in the air and yelled, "I need to get laid!" And the monkeys were alright.
After telling me the story, Trundlesby handed out plastic cups of champagne. He stumbled to the middle of the backyard and said, "I just wanted to take a moment to remember our friend. A lot of you might not know him but some of us did." Josh nodded to me and Lucho. "But he was one of those guys that tried really really hard even though he wasn't that good."
One spring, Micah wanted to redpoint the Phoenix, a classic 5.13 crack by Cascade Falls. He woke up before dawn to get ideal temps. He fought on it for a week. He never got it.
What Micah lacked in talent, he more than made up for in tenacity. The short man had a muscular build, tiny T-Rex arms, and a huge chest. His only advantage in climbing seemed to be his chiseled fingers which he slotted into the cracks of Indian Creek regularly. He redpointed the Regular Northwest Face of Halfdome, hiking to the route for all of the half dozen attempts he made. Later, he showed up at the cafe with the strong comp climber, Matt Seagal. He announced that he and Matty were gonna make the first all Jew free ascent of El Cap. Micah had the big wall experience and Matty had the ability. The two made an early repeat of the Freerider, a 12d grad VI. Beyond his perseverance on the rock, Micah managed to push through college in classic monkey style. It took him 8 years, a number of different schools, and a lot of dedication before he he earned a bacheleor's degree in History from CU Boulder. Finishing school was a proud accomplishment. Micah was able to do more than just drag his knuckles and climb full time.
Josh continued his speech. I thought he might cry. Affectionately known as Jewpac, Micah had a fond love for gangster rapper. He ranted feverently about the influence Tupac had on extreme alpinism. As Josh finished his words, I thought about Micah. I remembered his charm, his big nose, his loud voice, and his classic dirtbag antics. Mostly, I remembered that he was a monkey, a large part of the climbing community, and a good man. He will be missed.