Beginnings | The Climbing Life Guides

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Welcome to The Climbing Life Guides blog page! This blog will keep you updated on activities of our company, new certifications of staff, life experiences of clients, and life experiences of Nelson Day, the lead guide. This blog is written by Nelson Day. If you are reading a blog on this page, Nelson wrote it, and in future blog posts, and reference to “I” will mean Nelson. That being said, I am excited to start blogging and am excited you are interested in my life events, guide activities, and personal climbing pursuits.

Now for a little background of my company:

A reasonable/common question you may ask might be “why form a new guiding company when there are already so many out there?”. A large portion of the reason I wanted to form my own company is due to my pursuit of a “lesser” American Dream. Anyone who has read Walden by Thoreau, specifically the first chapter labeled “economics” will understand what I mean by the “lesser” American Dream (if you haven’t read this and have any philosophical interests, it is a must read!). I am currently the plant engineer at a power plant, and while I worked hard to gain my mechanical engineering degree and associated certifications (I am a registered professional engineer), I have found my soul drawn away from lucrative pursuits and towards quality of life experiences. For some, hope resides in the anticipation of the next big raise, the next large material purchase, the next promotion at work, or maybe your next paycheck. I have grown somewhat weary of these pursuits, and find myself motivated mostly by the hope of my next excellent life experience. At this point in my life, I am more interested in a rudimentary minimalist lifestyle that gives me the means to focus on pursuing life experiences. That being said, my main passion in life right now is rock climbing. And everything that goes along with it. For me, my happiest moments are when I am under the stars in a remote location after a long climbing day, sore muscles, a couple big burritos in my belly, an IPA in my hand, and my only concern is entertaining the very difficult question: “what do you want to climb tomorrow?”. These moments are precious to me, and these moments are what give me motivation to make it through the work week knowing what is ahead. I have been an engineer for 10 years. And for 10 years I have focused on various materialistic type conquests. In the end, these pursuits have lost their meaning for me, and I feel the biological clock ticking. I sometimes feel trapped by the age old dilemma: you work all your good years away, and by the time you can retire, you no longer have the physical prowess to pursue your passions. It seems totally backwards. We should work through our old years at the beginning of our life and grow younger, and when we retire we should be in the prime of our life, right? Well wouldn’t that be nice… Really it comes down to a simple question: what do you want to do with your life? I have been asking myself this question, and the answer has become more and more clear. I want to pursue my passions. If my passions can somehow support me in some manner, even better! I have always enjoyed teaching, and more specifically I have enjoyed teaching things I am passionate about. I love rock climbing. Everything about it. So for the last year, I have been working at becoming certified through various agencies to provide me with the proper credentials to give legitimate instruction in rock climbing. I realize that teaching and guiding rock climbing is not a lucrative profession. Due to my financial obligations at this point, I cannot instruct full time. I must maintain my engineering position to “feed the machine” until I am able to reduce my lifestyle to a more minimal existence that is sustainable on a lesser income. That will happen eventually, but for now, I am limited by my own “slavery to debt on things I really don’t need”, as Walden says (paraphrased). For me, the formation of this company is my hope at freedom. Freedom from the requirement to show up at work 5 days a week. Since my main hope is freedom, I find the need to employ myself rather than be employed. In order to do this legitimately in the United States, I must form a company. And so here we are.

Polly feeling "the moment" on top of the Aguille de Joshua Tree

Polly feeling “the moment” on top of the Aguille de Joshua Tree

I still vividly remember my first experience with rock climbing. I was in Yosemite National Park with my sister Polly Dacus. Our family met at the park for a family reunion of sorts, and Polly had been rock climbing for quite some time at this point. I can only imagine how she must have felt during our family reunion with all that epic rock and natural beauty surrounding us. It must have been very difficult to focus on family type activities. It ends up she brought her gear (strange coincidence?), and she convinced our parents to let us get on the rock for a day. Polly led a couple of climbs near Camp 4, and Eric Dacus, my brother in law, was kind enough to let me borrow his harness and shoes. There I was, in his harness (it actually fit pretty well) and his uber tight climbing shoes, trying to figure out how to tie a figure 8 follow through. That knot took me a while to learn! I remember Polly’s lead up to a large tree which served as the belay, roping up, and feeling the rock under my hands. After 10 feet I was hooked. It was the beginning of a draconian severe thirst for more. Over the next few years, I began gathering gear of various types (I mostly didn’t know what I was doing and just started buying random stuff) and dreaming of my next climbing adventure. I met up with Polly again that fall in Joshua Tree for a full value climbing focused trip. And at the end of that trip, I led my first lead ever, The Bong on The Blob formation. I was terrified! And ecstatic at the end of my successful first lead. Polly is a notorious trad climber (she really does have a LOT of connections), and we were working out of the book “60 favorite trad climbs in Joshua Tree”. Since I learned a large portion of what I know from her, and she is an avid trad climber, I learned trad first. I didn’t even know that sport climbing existed. I started buying cams, and before I knew it, had a basic leader rack. My first year of rock climbing, I led 5.8 trad for the entire year. At the end of the year, I took my first lead fall on Dappled Mare in Joshua Tree. It was the second pitch, and I placed a yellow Wired Bliss TCU about 10 feet above the belay. I charged above it trying to muscle through somewhat technical terrain, and slipped. I remember falling and going “oof” as I stopped against the TCU. In my mind, I couldn’t believe that this tiny piece of gear stopped me! I was terrified and yet amazed as I looked back up at the piece, solidly placed in a crack. I “got back on the horse” and finished the pitch to the second belay station. I remember having a total noob experience at this point. I really couldn’t remember which way the route went. I ended up asking some very patient climbers coming up behind me (or maybe very frustrated) if the climb went left or right from the belay.


The Witching Hour (sunset) at Joshua Tree

The Witching Hour (sunset) at Joshua Tree

So, to avoid an excessively long post, I will end my first blog post here. My climbing experiences and personal gratification experienced through them give me a lot of excitement at the possibility of providing the means for others to have similar experiences. And now that I have obtained the appropriate certifications to provide guidance at a professional level, I am even more excited about being able to provide instruction and guiding legitimately to others interested in getting into this excellent sport. Thank you for taking time to read my blog, and I hope to see you on the rock soon, whether I am guiding/instructing you or just happen to see you out at the crag.


August 20, 2013. Posted by: nelsonday