Prayer from Nature: A Faith that Moves Halfdome

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Photograph: “North Dome, Half Dome, Clouds” by Matt Bye

I am now reminded of a strange sensation. It is peculiar, when sitting in a parked car, for the adjacent vehicle to reverse. Often, the resulting optical illusion is that your own car is rolling forward, followed by a desperate, brief desire to nail the brakes.

The wilderness created this deception today. A flat portrait of clouds, steadily and gracefully shifting north served as the adjacent automobile, and Halfdome felt as my own. The way the sky slithered to my left gave me, even if for an instant, the wonderful feeling that this granite wonder was moving southwards rather than its grey and blue backdrop inching wayward. So my brief, devout belief that such an absurdity was possible moved for just the moment, a monolith. It is true what they say. Faith can move mountains. All we need is a moment of belief and anything is possible.

I pray for overwhelming moments of this faith, powerful enough to move mountains. Let them carry over into a freedom of confidence to go and powerfully impact the world around me.

Founder of The Network 5.12

Andrew Bellisle

This is the last of a 5 day series.  From September 22nd to September 26th, Andrew released a prayer each day.  These prayers were inspired by a focus on entities of creation.  We would love for you to subscribe to our blog to check out more posts in the future! 

Note on today’s photograph: Matt Bye is a friend of The Network 5.12.  To check out more of his work, visit http://matt-bye.smugmug.com.  To learn even more of Matt’s philosophy on capturing photos, read “Sorry Photographers, You’re not Original,” a post he wrote specifically for The Network 5.12.

Prayer from Nature: The Radiance of a Star

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Photograph: “The Milky Way over Washington’s Column” by Matt Bye

From here in front of Yosemite Chapel, I rest carefully upon the meadow’s boardwalk, gazing upwards through the chilled, night sky. The wood beneath my limbs mirrors the cold air above in temperature. Thousands, no millions of miles forth glows the subtle light of perhaps thousands, no millions of stars. And on my lumber seat, their white embers’ warmth does not reside. The crisp coolness of the air hence brings me to long for the ardor existing abreast these foreign candles. If I were drawn nigh, would my hairs lay flat again under their radiant, warming passion? The sun gives birth to the truth of this simple pleasure.

How I hope to be like these stars in that the closer one peers at my character, the more they find a radiant love exerted from my soul. So I pray, let me too become a candle releasing such undeniable warmth.

Founder of The Network 5.12

Andrew Bellisle

From September 22nd to September 26th, Andrew is releasing a prayer each day.  These prayers are inspired by a particular focus on entities of creation.  We would love for you to subscribe to our blog to receive these as daily devotionals! 

Note on today’s photograph: Matt Bye is a friend of The Network 5.12.  To check out more of his work, visit http://matt-bye.smugmug.com.  To learn even more of Matt’s philosophy on capturing photos, read “Sorry Photographers, You’re not Original,” a post he wrote specifically for The Network 5.12.

Prayer from Nature: The Wisdom of a Tree

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Photograph: “Paper Beats Rock” by Kern Ducote

Not even a photograph captures the precise detail within trees, for even their shadows prove intimidating silhouettes to an artist. I’m always awed by the intricacies of these landmarks. From the dew which rests upon their greenery, to the veins within each leaf, to the delicate patterns of bark spread between their trunks and limbs, to the roots that carve their way in and out of the soil beneath their slumber, their complexity is a wonder to rest beneath, for here I am reminded of the individual character bestowed into everything living.

And the sources of life for these trees, light trickling down through their canopies and water ascending from their roots to the proudest of leaves, collide. I imagine this collision to be a magical meeting of sorts, illuminating the souls of the giants. Perhaps if one were to witness the spectacle, they would gain sight of the deepest of wisdoms, hidden within the heart of a tree, now lit by the glorious explosion from the union of the two. What I would do to glimpse upon that wisdom, obtained from living centuries past. There are even trees that watched Jesus walk…

I pray for the wisdom of a tree. And since I too am delicately made, perhaps it is mine to gain.

Founder of The Network 5.12

Andrew Bellisle

From September 22nd to September 26th, Andrew is releasing a prayer each day.  These prayers are inspired by a particular focus on entities of creation.  We would love for you to subscribe to our blog to receive these as daily devotionals! 

Note on today’s photograph: Kern Ducote is a wonderful friend of The Network 5.12.  To check out more of his work, visit http://kernducote.tumblr.com.

Prayer from Nature: Wind’s Energetic Song

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Photograph: “The Rivers of Mercy” by Matt Bye

The full weight of the wind, released through the languished sigh of where e’re the chambers of captured wind reside within the sky, now heavily breathed forth, is freed into our world. Its force has fallen on the tips of Yosemite pines. Not even their resolute pose holds rest to the determined force of these gusts, bringing their energetic song – a song now coaxing the highest stretched, masculine limbs into a graceful, feminine sway and dance. This is how the wind perhaps best exerts her power: the seduction of the towering greens, converting their shaded canopy into a rustling ocean wave.

I gawk at her might, and I ponder her decision to so perfectly invade the sea o’re my head. How does she always seem to give birth to such life?

I pray, breathe into me oh sighing gales. Please bring my limbs to dance to your song, for I want to live under your seduction, energized as these pines.

Founder of The Network 5.12

Andrew Bellisle

From September 22nd to September 26th, Andrew is releasing a prayer each day.  These prayers are inspired by a particular focus on entities of creation.  We would love for you to subscribe to our blog to receive these as daily devotionals! 

Note on today’s photograph: Matt Bye is a friend of The Network 5.12.  To check out more of his work, visit http://matt-bye.smugmug.com.  To learn even more of Matt’s philosophy on capturing photos, read “Sorry Photographers, You’re not Original,” a post he wrote specifically for The Network 5.12.

Prayer from Nature: The Purpose of a Flower

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Rarely, as a twenty-four-year-old man do I stop to admire flowers. Yet here and now, their determined tackle demands my attention. The ones below me carry an untarnished, solid yellow, creating sharp contrast between the contour of each pedal and the shadows of grey and brown at their base. Why do our eyes hold partial to ambient shades over the dull colors of dirt? I cannot explain. Nevertheless, the draw of a flower can be felt as the aesthetics of their flamboyant bloom reach beyond logic and into our core desire for that which is elegant.

Now to wander deeper into thought about flowers, I ponder their very existence. Their birth through pollination seems the oddest thing, full of chance, especially in this rugged terrain. A lack of water and fertile soil stand against these flowers’ being, yet here they are breathing in the sun, storing moisture from the night, and sprouting roots against the odds. And yet few would admire their pedals saying, “These flowers bare such burdens.” No. For flowers carry a confident peace, holding their provisions near and bursting forth in glory.

I pray to be like these flowers, perfectly content in that which I am given, using both provisions and obstacles to step into that for which I am made, the glory of my maker.

Founder of The Network 5.12

Andrew Bellisle

From September 22nd to September 26th, Andrew is releasing a prayer each day.  These prayers are inspired by a particular focus on entities of creation.  We would love for you to subscribe to our blog to receive these as daily devotionals! 

From Boulderer to Big-Waller: How to Climb Taller

Our bivy from the last night on the wall

If I had told my college buddies that I would one day be heading up the Nose of El Capitan, they may have immediately laughed in my face.  Big-waller?!  Me?!  No way!

…at least not a couple of years ago.

But a year after graduating, I spent a summer in Yosemite.

And while there, without even meaning to, I learned a few things about how to transition from the small stuff to the big stuff.  Having now climbed Washington Column (via The Prow), Halfdome (via The Northwest Face), and El Capitan (via The Nose), I guess I could say I’m becoming a big-waller.  I feel like I’ve made a solid progression, and perhaps a couple of things that I picked up along the way could be of help to you.

So if you find yourself about to tackle the intimidating task of your first big-wall, here are some thoughts from a climber who just went through a serious transition:

For Starters

In college, I was hands-down a boulderer/sport-climber.  I was terrified of placing gear, and never climbed more than two pitches back to back.  But personally, I would get a little frustrated when old traddies would throw out claims that their level of commitment was above that of us “pebble wrestlers.”  I didn’t see them projecting a V10 for months to stand proud 15 feet off the ground.  At the time, climbing wasn’t about elevation for me, and the long fight of a boulder/sport project was (and still is) in my mind a rewarding, worthy commitment.

But the reality is, that there is a DIFFERENCE between committing to a big wall and a boulder.  No duh.  You can’t deny that.

And while I wouldn’t belt out that either is more difficult than the other (I’ll leave that argument to the Mountain Project and Rock and Ice forums.), I did drastically change my mindset to make it up the walls.  Here’s what I mean:

Mental Change

1.  Learn the technical!

Come on people!  Sure, Alex Honnald is cool.  Yes, free soloing makes you a stud.  But big-walling, most often a combination of trad and aid climbing, requires a great amount of technical knowledge to be done safely.  This past summer, I hit the books as hard as I hit the cliffs.  DON’T SKIMP ON LEARNING THE ROPES!  Knots, anchors, hauling techniques, self-rescue possibilities…learn them all.

Tip: Living in Yosemite, I would supplement rest days with reading time.  Not only did it force me to take days off, but I learned a ton and could keep my psych up during the rest!

2.  Embrace the suffering

Yep.  I said it.  YOU’RE GONNA SUFFER!  And yep, you should suck it up.  I’m not gonna pretend I never let out a complaint.  In fact, I was probably the worst climbing partner ever on every approach (two words: “Death Slabs”)!  But I always found the suffering to be worth the accomplishment.

Tip:  Change a complaint to a joke.  Negative grumbling can wreck a trip.  But light hearted sarcasm about how much you love it when your big toe breaks is better for both your own mental state and your partner.

3.  Work up to the heights

Big walls are…well, big.  And I’ve now heard story after story of climbers being caught off guard by exposure and then trapped in a panic.  My progression to the Nose was not an overnighter.  I worked my way from 1 pitch, to 2, to 5, to 12, and so on.

Tip:  Get accustomed to the exposure before adventuring on your first multi-day, tough-to-turn back wall.

Dave at the end of "Thank God Ledge"

Serious exposure under my climbing partner Dave at the end of “Thank God Ledge” on The Northwest Face of Half Dome.

Physical Change

On top of the mental difficulties of big-wall climbing, there is obviously the physical battle.

After spending 5 months climbing in Yosemite, my body actually changed.  Now understand, I’m 5’8” and a pretty a small guy.  At the beginning of the summer, I only weighed 140 lbs.  I didn’t think I could lose any more weight…but I did.  I actually dropped 10 lbs, both in fat and muscle.

For big walling, you want to be light, lean, and enduring.  Here are a few physical changes I adopted in order to embrace big-walling.

1.  EAT!!!

If you’re used to cragging around boulders or southeastern sandstone, you’re in for a shock when you discover how many carbs you burn on a big-wall.  From what I heard in the valley, climbers will drop anywhere from 5 to 15 lbs on a 3 day climb alone.  You just can’t always replace what you lose up there.  So carb-up before and after climbs!  You’re gonna burn it off. Myself…I go “healthy” with pizza.

2.  Endurance/Stamina

Everyone who has talked to a big-wall-monkey has heard it, but it’s true.  A day on a wall is like doing 1,000 pull-ups, 2,000 sit-ups and running a half-marathon in a day.  ENDURANCE. STAMINA. ENDURANCE. STAMINA. ENDURANCE. STAMINA.  Embrace and obtain them both.  The boulder in me was particularly caught off guard by the level of cardio-endurance I needed in Yosemite.  Get it done.  Go train!  If you aren’t willing to build the stamina, you’re not in for a very fun time.

And Spiritual Change

Sitting and meditating before sandstone boulders in Tennessee brought a spiritual focus to my life that has transformed me as a person.  With intense focus, I would summon the determination and physical strength built into my bones to grab sends with the hardest moves I had ever accomplished.  This would test my design to reach its full potential.

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This is very different from the spiritual journey of climbing a big wall.  To understand more of where I personally am coming from, you’d probably best benefit from reading another of my posts, “Climbing The Nose of El Capitan.”  But to try to sum up my thoughts on the spiritual journey of a wall, I will say this:

If you’ve never embraced the connectivity of this world, if you’ve never thought about how you are engrained into the existence of the universe, you will.  As your fingers meet rock, your breath seeps forth, as you wake up on a ledge and fall asleep to the stars, as you meet hardship and overcome, you will battle through a life-changing experience that will not fail to spark spiritual curiosity.

I myself find answers in the belief of a created world and a man named Jesus.

But from wherever you are coming, allow the curiosity to grow and truly wrestle with your place in this world as you find your place on the rock.  It will only add further growth to the experience.

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

So there it is.  If you are about to embark on your first big-wall adventures, I hope this has helped channel your focus to where you could use more commitment.  In fact, the word commitment might sum up what you are about to experience the best.  So go do it.  COMMIT.  To mental, physical, and spiritual change, COMMIT.  Get out there, and big-wall.

If you’re already a big-waller, let’s hear it?  What are other preparations you made in becoming one?  We’d love to have your input!

Sorry Photographers, You’re not Original

Sunrise, Palestina de los Altos

Getting out of your sleeping bag isn’t ever very attractive when you can see your breath in the air.

I was in Palestina de los Altos, Guatemala in a house that, by American standards, was bare minimum. I was just grateful for the four walls and a roof. On a mission trip last April I was getting my first dose of sleeping in the mountains; even with the shelter of the house, it got pretty cold at around 8,000 feet. After a very long day’s travel and very short night’s sleep, the prospect of getting up early to shoot the sunrise had lost its appeal for me. I could tell it had done the same for my friend and fellow photographer Nick, who was going to join me.

But my excitement returned as soon as we got up to the roof of the house, as the glow of daybreak started to illuminate the surrounding mountains above and sleeping city below us. We had taken quite the gamble with this plan – mountain sunrises are not usually the best, and it was far too cold to just lounge on the roof. Our gamble paid off, though, as light streaks of pink began to illuminate the wispy cirrus clouds above the ridgeline. I snapped my first photo, completely guessing on the exposure time and how much light I would allow into the camera. I greatly underexposed the photo, making it much darker – and far more beautiful – than in real life. As I looked at the preview on my LCD screen, I wondered to myself, “This is better than the real thing. Am I cheating?”

Then in a moment of revelation, I realized the answer was “no.” With my camera I could manipulate light, but it was still light that was already there. Just because our human eyes only see certain wavelengths doesn’t mean there isn’t more to that beautiful sunrise; just because we can change what we see through a camera doesn’t mean that we’re creating something new. I realized all this later, when I had time to process that morning, but in the moment my thought was, “That picture is how God sees this sunrise.”

That morning ended up being the single most glorious sunrise I’ve ever seen, even if I hadn’t had my camera. Never have I seen a sunrise light a sky on fire like this one. In addition, that morning changed how I view photography as an art. As with that sunrise, there are infinitely more ways to see the rest of creation than just how we see it with our own two eyes. Imagine a landscape, any landscape: the way you imagine it is different than how it looks in reality, guaranteed. There are details we cannot see, natural processes happening that we are unaware of, and laws of physics occurring that will make your head explode if you try to understand them (if you’re like me, that is). Photography can capture these aspects of creation better than us sometimes: a macro lens can expose more detail than our eyes, a time-lapse can capture the movements of the heavens, and different focal lengths on convex glass prisms can change the amount of light coming in contact with a photo-sensor. The point is, even if a camera exposes things our eyes can’t see, those things are still there.

My take on photography since that morning has been this: I cannot create beauty, only capture it. Photography only captures different aspects of the beauty of creation. That’s why I love this art – it doesn’t let me suppose I am a creator. Instead it humbles me, forcing me to realize that I am part of this beautiful creation. Who am I to think I can create something more beautiful than what is already out there?

So I’m sorry photographers, but you’re not original. And there’s so much beauty in that.

Photographer,

Matt Bye

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Matt Bye is obviously a talented photographer, and we feel blessed to have his involvement in The NET5.12.  His recent focus on photography has been displaying the beauty of creation through the lens depicted in this post. Matt will now be SELLING some of his works!  The main pieces for sale are the ones displayed above, but to view more, you can visit his Flicker account (http://www.flickr.com/photos/matt-bye/).  Inquiry about prints and prices can go through the contact page of our website!  Just let us know you’re interested, and we’ll put you in touch with the artist.  For anyone who purchases his work from our site, he will be donating a percentage of the profit to our organization.  Thanks for reading folks, and happy photo shopping!