Ruth Riffe, Paul Humphrey & Half Dome

Ruth Riffe, Paul Humphrey & Half Dome
Ruth Riffe, Paul Humphrey & Half Dome

Friday, November 5, 2010


A month or so ago, when staying in Ouray, CO, I decided that 39 isn't old enough, though. I vowed to make at least 40 years. So stay tuned...

This is the letter my folks sent out when I showed up. They were a young evangelical couple. Dad was ordained the same week I was born. They were starting a church in Huntington Beach Ca. From there to here...Mr. Toad's wild ride!

Still Here,

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tumors continue to shrink

Paul here.

The tumors from my cancer seem to be shrinking for now. I am near the end of the first round of the clinical trial. I will take a one week break from the meds, then get the FULL DOSE every day after that.

Sure hope it keeps working!

Hopefully this blog will be a good way for folks to follow my adventure.

A more climbing related thread is on Check out


Reprint of the rest of October News


Paul David Humphrey

The last time many of you heard from me I had ended my involvement in the YM155 clinical trial for my stage IV Metastatic Malignant Melanoma. The drug combo they had me on, especially the decarbazine chemo component, crippled me further. My leg swelled with lymphedema, to the point where I could not take the heated room for yoga and work. Hurt too much. My options did not look good. One new drug, PLX4032, was on the nightly news one day. We followed up and were referred to UCSF Mt. Zion Melanoma Center to see if I might qualify.
After a wait…we got an appointment. The place is a ZOO! Long wait for the doctor…then, BAM, a whirlwind! Prodded, poked, weighed, pressure tested and then consulted by at least four fast talking specialists about best option, next option, etc. Damn. The lead, DR. Daud, was obviously on my side but hyper over worked. He said test me to see if I have a B-RAF gene mutation. OK… The dermatologist took four samples from a tumor on my collarbone. Deep cuts. I was blood tested, etc. then kicked back out the door with a “We will rush this through.”
A week later we get “the” call. We thought. Instead we are told that the sample was not usable. “What?”
“There’s no melanoma in the sample.”
“Excuse me, so I don’t have melanoma?”
“No, you have melanoma, just not in the tumor we biopsied.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Yeh, it’s odd.”
That was an understatement. What was going on here? I called and called. But getting the Doc there is like ringing up Obama, ain’t happening. New appointment instead in a few days. Ruth and I were very confused. No answers for a few days though, and I don’t wait well.
We finally got to UCSF. I do have melanoma. But they biopsied a lypoma. They need another sample to start all over again. Another wasted week! I was pissed. Ruth was frazzled. They biopsied another tumor on the other collarbone. They looked at it this time to ensure it was melanoma cells. Then off it went to Roche Labs, the drug company that makes the pill. More waiting…
We decided that if I waited in the RV in Santa Rosa, I would fade away. So new plan, on the road. We decided to go traveling while awaiting the news of whether or not I was a mutant. I wrote about much of it on, a climbing (sort of) web-site and forum. Never thought I would be posting to a place on the web regularly. But here it is. My ID on the site is my nickname, DISASTER MASTER. Check it out for more info.
Malignent Melanoma Survivors who climb

My Up And Down Life, Disaster Master
Ruth and I stayed in a cabin in Wawona, inside Yosemite NP. It was lent to us by a yoga student and dear friend. That was perfect, since I was cane bound and could barely walk, let alone climb. We saw Wawona grove of redwoods. Walked up the hill. Paid for the shuttle ride down. In the handicapped section, no less. We got little Walkman’s to listen to a John Muir impersonator. Tourists.
It took me a while to shift from always road trip to climb mind to just have a good time mind. Strange. I used to poo-poo the tourists when I went rock-climbing above them. Now one of them, I regret that. Even BS like cancer can widen your view. So cranky but curious, we left Yosemite for Utah. Over Tuolumne pass past mono lake and across the lonely highway through Nevada.
I had RSVP’d us for a party called “Sushi Fest”. It was a sushi all-you-can-eat dinner in the desert, near Moab, UT. I know, sounds weird. The chef was an old acquaintance from climbing and collage, Doug Lafarge. He loves sushi. And he makes it at climbing areas through these internet-notified parties at world class rock climbing areas. Still strange? IT was great! Stuffed myself on excellent raw fish. Ruth is not a sashimi girl, so less for her. Many people were there including Jim Donini, a world renowned climber. He and his wife invited us to their house in Ouray, CO.
After climbing ”Supercrack of the desert” hard 5.10 crack climb at Indian Creek UT, we wandered the Moab area for a few days. Then off to CO. This no plan road trip was working out. I was getting weaker daily, though. And Ruth had to do all the driving, and put up with my pain and mood swings. She is remarkable!
Jim Donini was off to climb in Yosemite when we got to Ouray. But his wife, Angela was there and a great hostess. We were given free reign of the guest studio over the garage with a view of the mountains. And assess to the hot tub. Ruth loved that. There was mineral hot springs in the town of Ouray. So we checked those out. They felt great on our tired bones. Went climbing in the park near the pools. Not a very stressful spot to live. Called the Switzerland of America.
I kept getting sicker, though, and spent several days lying on the futon mattress on the floor of our hosts’ cabin. Nice view, though. The fall in to place nature of this trip was fantastic. We seemed guided along the way, every day. Good weather. Strangers turned friends in minutes. Amazing views. But I was dying, still.
I had begun to make my peace with that when, RRRIIINNNGGG…..a call.
I AM A MUTANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The test came back the right way. I was BRAF positive. This means that the drug PLX4032 would likely work for me, attacking cancerous tissue, but not the rest of me like the last chemo component of treatment. Wow. Unbelievable. Yet my mood darkened….I am too used to body-slaming-blind-sided disappointments of late. I dared not believe. Not yet. So to the annoyance of Ruth, I sulked with her to LA to see relatives on the way to appointments at UCSF in San Francisco. Family was fun, but my mind still lurked in the shadows of uncertainty. Would this end up being another waste of our time? I did not have much left, and did not want to spend any good time as a guinea pig. I wanted back on the road.
But onward to SF and scan land.
I lost my wallet, my ID, cards, medical info, hundreds of road trip dollars from my mom’s account that my sister got when mom passed. Worse mood for Paul. Near breaking point for Ruth’s nerves. She still drove all the way from La to the Bay. What a woman! Then parked in downtown SF at night….Ay, yie, yie.
Up the next day for testing. The dos are excited. Ruth is excited. I am….numb. I won’t believe it until the pill is in my hand. Everything goes well until… late in the day we talk with the doc. He says that something is lighting up in my brain on a scan. It could be melanoma, which would disqualify me, not only for this trial, but most others as well.
“It’s not a cancer!” I insisted. “It was there three months ago and was noted on other scans as unlikely to be Melanoma. It could be a malformation, or evidence of my past head injury, or evidence of pain management.” (The part of my brain lighting up controls pain signals and consciousness. Interesting…???)
The Doc’s face lit up, really lit up. He said that could be the ammo he needs to convince the drug company to let me on the trial. He needs the old reports, though. Otherwise I will likely be rejected. AAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!
Back to Santa Rosa. I found the scans and reports and faxed them off. The weekend came. No word. Four more days of waiting… Ruth and I almost gave up hope. After all, the company wants clean numbers. I have a variable they don’t need. And there must be many people vying for this treatment.
Then the word…I’M IN! They just need to book a room at the hospital to start. Just a few more days. Ruth is smiling for the first time in a long time. I am still guarded. The pill is not in my hand yet. What a rollercoaster.
Finally we get it, October 20, 2010, 10:45 AM. Pill Swallowed. I sigh, yet the crankiness remains. I just don’t believe anymore, not in anything that might cure me. It all seems too late, a long shot, a pipe dream. The trials coordinator tells us I was the last one admitted to the study. Other people in the building right then were being told the drug would not be available to them. A cruel victory for me.
We left with a bag of pills, a schedule of appointments for the next month, and a weird off kilter feeling. Down the rabbit hole again. One pill makes tumors smaller… two????
I have been taking the wonder pills for 7 days as of this writing. I am beginning to believe in miracles! My energy is returning. I was able to do a complete hot yoga class, the first in 2 months. My cane is forgotten more often than not.

I know, incredible. It seems to be true. The ones on my neck and front torso are smaller for sure. Some on my back too. Most important, the main large masses in my groin seem better. My leg pain is less. The swelling is down…. I can barely believe it. But it is true.
If all goes well I will try and teach a little yoga again, then climb in Joshua tree NP next month.
This dreadful disease Melanoma, so down-played still by most, is a drug resistant bastard. The tumors may grow again. But for now, I seem to be a step ahead of cancer. It bites my heels, so I gotta run.

Mastering on,

Super Topo Thread review: Oct. 6, 2010

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 6, 2010 - 05:43pm PT

I got the test results back from the Doc today.

I AM A MUTANT! That's good. I tested BRAF positive, a gene mutation. Us mutants can (hopfully)get the latest PLX somthin' drug through a clinical trial. Short term positive results, tumor shrinkage occur up to 60% of the time! That's odds I like. Problems with long term effects, who knows, but HOPE my friends.

Mastering on,

Super Topo Thread review: Oct. 5, 2010

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 5, 2010 - 04:47am PT
Still in Ouray. We are soaking in the hot pools, great for the bones, and even climbing some more. Who knew there was so much to climb IN town? Went to the town park for no commitment sport climbing. Fun stuff, did a 5.4, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9+ and a 5.10c bam, bam, bam all in a row. Not bad!

Ruth's back has a pinched nerve now from bombing Oinion Creek near Fischer Towers on her old rigid mtn. bike. So that's why they put suspension
on those things!

The gimp patrol hobbles on. No doctor news. I think the yare waiting for me to die before they approove me for more tretment. Mean time, the bumps multiply. I have at least 20 tumors on my front and back now. Makes me a little self concience in the pools.

I was in the locker room at the hot springs and had to put on my compression hose for the lymphadema in my leg. Talk about some strange looks. A couple of kids whispered. "Look at that skinny guy. He's putting on panty hose!"

"No, gromet dude," I replied. "This is the latest in extream training tights. All the top athletes are wearing them."

"No way, do they work?"
I really had them going.

Climbing on,

Super Topo Thread review: Oct. 2, 2010

Old post from

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 2, 2010 - 07:58pm PT
Paul here, still....

All these kind posts sure help both me and Ruth. We went to another crag neaar moab and climbed about 5 routes, 5.6 -hard 5.10. Ruth did her first desert crack, yummy. Swore at me the whole time, then loved it after getting to the anchors. We are climbing therapy patients lately. Get it out, work it out, climb it out.

Jim and Angela Donini invited us to Ouray, so we went. Jim is off to YO but Angela is here. We are in their guest apartment right now.

Travel day today. felt bad. Had to pull over and hurl at one point. I am a bit down.

The tumors are almost double the size as before the trip. I can barely digest now. The tumors push on my intestines and prostate. Pissing even sucks. got an apitite if I try to climb, otherwise not.

Tomorrow will bring new moments, some of pain, some of pulling down some more on new rock near town, I hope. Hot springs too. I feel sooooooo weak. All I want is time with my Love and a rock to top it off.

The tumors are also in my genitals. Can't get it up, but I can ctill get up. At least some muscles are working still. (Too much information?!)

I say these personal things to remind everyone that you can loose almost anything, including your wang, but not be impotent in the least.

Try till You Die, then one more time.

Love and redpoints to you all,

Super Topo Thread review: Sept. 28, 2010

Past post from

Topic Author's Reply - Sep 28, 2010 - 02:40pm PT
A quick update from a free wi-fi spot in Moab UT:

Went to sushi fest in Indian Creek. Fun!


I got my ass up SUPERCRACK. Had to hang several times (TR) since I am very weak and have no lungs left. Also, the back pain, wah wah, wah. But I made it to the chains!

One of the biggest efforts in my life. The moves were fine, just sick, I guess. On to Colorado!

Super Topo Thread review: Sept. 23, 2010

Old post about my cancer from

Topic Author's Reply - Sep 23, 2010 - 07:55am PT
(wish ST had spell check)

There are no coincidences. I have no fear of the afterlife. As I told my preacher daddy, I have a Quiet Blasphamous Faith. It makes sense to me, but is so personal that it need not be told. As my favorite philosopher said, the way that can be told is not the way.

My angst comes from a feeling of loss. A loss of health. I have been very angry at the loss of my strength. But that atitude fostors only a poisoned feeling in me. This can not stand.

It occured to me, strangely about the same time you were writting your post, that instead of anger, I really should feel grateful. Grateful that I once had a healthy body that alowed me to be a Bad Ass. Many people are born into this world in a diminished corpse. They will never be able to do the things I, we as climbers, are able to. My body was strong enough to carry my soul up. I am blessed to have had a window of time when I had high adventures, made my own way.

I am calling my new outlook "The Gratitude Attitude". Its the coin flipped to the other side. I feel better thinking about things this way. I hope it lasts.

It is tragic in a way that these bad-ass lessons hit us often near the end, or in the midst of increadible pain.
But like my dad said once, no one learns anything by being comfortable. In fact those in comfort often seek only to maintain that bubble. Pop the bubble. Step out into the void and fall if you must. It will wake you up.

We are off to tour the valley today, maybe TR something.

Life is a trip, hard, rediculous, joyful and sorrow filled. I regret trials and tribulations only while in them. Once through them, I always find out that I have grown, I have expanded, and I have continued.

Climbing on,
Paul and Ruth

Super Topo Thread review: Sept. 22, 2010

Old topic post from

Topic Author's Reply - Sep 22, 2010 - 08:34am PT
Paul Here.

No word on the tissue samples yet....

I am weaker by the day. 5.7 takes 5.10 effort now. it sucks. Two months ago I was climbing .11+ solid. Yesterday my girlfriend and I went to Fresno Dome. I wanted to take her up her first Grade 3 multi pitch trad climb. That morning I woke up and threw up. Said screw it we are going anyway. Racked up in the lot. everything was fine, except the massive pain in my leg and gut. My girlfriend had a wrecked knee too, so we are all gimped up.

Never ones to stay home though, we gave it a try. Only 5.7, the cancer had me breathing hard, and I feel WEEEEEEEEEEEK! Moved too slow and vomited from pain at about 120 feet or so.

Not good. I knew I could drag my carcass up still, but not guiding my inexperienced girlfriend. She looked nervous. Who wants to see their leaader barf on the route? "That looks hard," she said.
"It's not. I'm just dying babe, thats all. You can do it." But her eyes showed too much concern.
SO. I rapped off of a couple nuts (booty!), cleaned it and abandoned.

It is beyond frustrating to die slow, to have the rack on your back and feel so heavy you cant stand up. I don't quit, and deciding that was the smart thing to do felt like being stabbed.

I could have gone sport climbing. All the logistics have been engineered away. But I had to sell my rack 6 years ago when I grounded from 80 feet and shatteered my back (tree climbing). It was the rack or the rent and medical bills.

I came back fron that, climbed again, but on borrowed gear and with my rope gun posse helping me along. But I want all the way back in.

My mother died last year. I used much of my small inheritance to by a trad rack again. Used to be good at all this. When I found out I was sick I decided to go trad climbing. Not because it is easy or convienent. But because it is hard and scary and forces me to face fear, not cower from pain. And I wanted to honor my mother by climbing with her (re incarnated as my rack of cams).

Life is sufering. That I don't mind.
Dying is Bullsh#t. Make me healthy or dead. This limbo is a torture of the soul.

We are going to Indian Creek for Sushi Fest. Perhaps there will be a few hardpeople there to get a rope up for me so I won't barf on my belay.

Vomit, retreat, pandamonium. I am still going climbing, if I can.

Super Topo Thread review: Aug. 26 & Sept. 16, 2010

I am posting old Melanoma related posts from another site.

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 26, 2010 - 07:47am PT

Had a rough few past days. Infection in the lymph nodes is causing more swelling and gnarly pain in my leg. Bought some expensive compression tights. Look like a sexually ambivilent superhero, but they help.


Disaster Master

Sport climber
Arcata / Santa Rosa, CA Topic Author's Reply - Sep 16, 2010 - 05:34pm PT
Got a few e mails asking if I am still alive.


Just kidding. Yes, I am.

Hard month. The cancer is growing fast, and I feel tht it will be hard for me to actually climb by the time I get to rock!

I have swelling and pain in my right leg. My balls are swelling, at last, but not in a good way. And my energy is tanked.

I got biopsied today to see if I am a BRAF mutant. (Thanks Gunkie for the heads up, thats the drug I'm trying for.)If I am a mutant, I will get a new drug that had good potential. If i'm not, Bye-bye.

Freinds lent us a cabin in Wawona for the next week. I will get to rock,cane inhand or on my hands and knees, damn it!

then Sushi-fest in IC.

Lots of typos, to tired to care. Props to all still attempting to pull down.

SuperCrack or die!

...or Supercrack and then die!

Either way, I am f-ing going climbing.

Super Topo Thread review: Aug. 24, 2010

I am posting old posts about my cancer battle.

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 24, 2010 - 01:39am PT
Paul Here.
Keep it going.

Tip of the night: Its hard to remember if a mole is growing. Get a camera, some whatever to imbibe however and a woman / man / aassorted. Strip down and take pictures of each others moles. SAVE THE PICTURES! Continue debouchery. Repete six months later and compare pics. Prevention is fun!

Taught yoga to about 20 people this morning. 105 degrees, 90 minutes, hot sweaty stinky fun. It always makes me feel better to help someone else fell a bit better themselves.

Then it was off to try vitamin C IV treatment. Consulted with hole-istic Doctor too. In the end, while I was still hooked up to the drip, she said it probably won't be enough by itself (the Vitaminc C drip). Still charged me $250 for the privilige and $150 to tell me so. Then more news. Most people spend well over a grand a month at alterntive spots like this. Got money, got credt, got hope? No?

OH, yeah. Oh, well. Oh, Sh#t,

Well, as Bart Simpson once remarked, "I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both Sucks and Blows!"

Enough whining. On with the unknown.


Super Topo Thread review: Aug. 23, 2010

I am posting old posts from to update people on my cancer.

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 23, 2010 - 07:08am PT
Well, the experimental clinical trial treatment for Metastatic Melanoma I am on is not working. I don't think I want to feel bad from treatment any more in the hope of feeling good later.

Instead, I'm going climbing. Good food, good love, and other "altrnative" tretments may be in the future.

But my new motto is "move it before you loose it."

Climb on,
Paul Humphrey

Super Topo Thread review: Aug. 19, 2010

I am posting old posts from

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 19, 2010 - 07:10pm PT
Paul Humphrey here.

I might have to find a new way to master this disaster. The experimental chemo / molecule IV doesn't seem to be working. Its getting Laaarger!

On to the next thing?

Big questions, crappy options.

At least I'm not on a pump this week being poinoned for a cure.

Perhaps a long road trip is in order. Anyone remember me?
Anyone want to climb if my girlfriend Ruth and I drive through this Fall?

Mastering on...



My seams are frayed.
My soles are worn.
And I'm a Happy Man.

I've had Manzinita
shake my hand
and wave me on my way.

I've talked with Falcons
and laughed with Squirrels.
Seen Resurection grow
from Redwood burls.

I've clung to the edge
of cliffs so high
that beneath me
the Raptors and
Songbirds flew by.
And I've cried
with the Owl
and his voice forlorn
at the coming of the Shadows.

So, when need comes
to venture out of
sight of the Wild,
into Traffic And Concrete,
still my temper is mild.

"Good Morning" I shout,
Middle Finger raised high,
not from disrespect,
just to point out the Sky.
And perhaps people stare
when I stand in the Street,
hands covering ears
and whistling sweet;
like a Songbird...

But it seems
a far better sound
than Horns and Screams
and revving Engines
all around.

Soon enough freedom returns
and I am on my way;
the Sun shining down
On a Wild filled day.
I relax,look around and say
"Yes, I am a Happy Man."

-Paul Humphrey

Super Topo Thread review: Aug.11

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 11, 2010 - 09:58am PT
Paul here.

I hardly ever climbed with my shirt off. If not in the shade, I used sunblock 60% of the time. I thought I was aware.

I lived in Brazil when I was 12-13. Got several lobster burns there.

Spent a lot of time outside. I was a mountaineering, backpacking, rockclimbing guide off and on.

Hung off a lot of cliffs in the sun bolting sport routes in Humboldt and other caolifornia locations.

But the first mole was on my right thigh, just below the shorts line. Only as big as a pinky nail. It was always there as far as I can remember. Then one day I noticed it looked scratched and puffy. Turned out it was Stage II Melanoma, and had already began to burrow into my lymph nodes.

An operation removed the mole, as well as nodes in my groin. They said all clear.

Six years later it came back. The cancer can lie in wait for years. It can bypass some nodes and lodge in others. Its liquid death, guys.

I'm a pale male, for sure. But almost everyone is vulnerable.

The small expense of removal is insurance against unexspected early death.
I know, you're broke, don't have insurance, are an optimist. Shut up! Cut it off!

Super Topo Thread review: Aug. 11, 2010

I am posting past posts from a forum on that I started a little while ago. Go to that site for more from "Disaster Master"

Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 11, 2010 - 07:46am PT
Paul Humphrey here.

I have been diagnosed with terminal stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma. It started as a mole that was taken off 6 years ago. Thought it was gone, but it returned. Now it is all through me, in my lymphic system and all through my abdomen.

I am on experimental therapy using Docataxel and an experimental molucule called YM155. They hook up a portible pump to a implanted port in my chest and pump in the YM155 24/7 for seven days. Then I get two weeks off.

I would love to hear from other climbers who have gone through Melanoma treatments, or are in them now. CLIMBIERS NEED TO CHECK THEIR SKIN, EDUCATE THEMSELVES, AND NOT DIE YOUNG LIKE I MIGHT. Hopefully, this post will at least remind someone to slather on the sunblock daily before they climb.

My Other Blog, "Paul David Humphrey"

Check out my other blog, "Paul David Humphrey at the address below:

Ruth's Poem

My girlriend Ruth wrote me a poem in response to my battle with malignant Melnoma. Here it is:

So you think you're the only one

Life is here now, what are you waiting for?

Do over?

More time

A better body

So you think you're the only one

With wet dreams?

Who was first

Or last

So you think you're the only one

Who's alive?

Or dying

Painfuly reminishing

So you think you're the only one

Who's laughing?

Grin to grin

Smile, erase the face

So you think you are the only one

To become?

Yes, become

Become what?

The only one? Yes.

by Ruth RIffe

from Mountain Freak Magazine "Free To Be"

Free To Be
Paul D. Humphrey

A friend recently told me of an amazing rock climb he had completed. “Perfect rock” he exclaimed, his arms and hands drawing maps in the air. Just where he needed them, ideal hand-holds had appeared, edges and pockets, coaxing him on until the final climactic crux just below the anchors. Sounded fantastic. A perfect route for sure. But perfect rock? I don’t think so.

Climbers are often a dedicated bunch. Many spend their whole careers seeking out “perfect stone”. They rate their routes on solidity as well as difficulty, and seem ill at ease on less than solid stone, or “choss”. Others lurk at the other extreme where the worse the rock and the more meager the protection opportunities the better. These folks focus on the barely attainable, coaxing both aid and free routes out of the most improbable stone. Neither of these groups, though, have ever climbed Perfect Rock...

Not if you think like a Taoist.

I was first introduced to Taoist philosophy in college. At first I read it to act intellectual. But I was too busy thinking about being brainy to understand much of it. Now I read through those books and simply enjoy them. Every once in a while I learn something too.

Chang-Tzu, a semi-mythical Chinese philosopher, wrote down many stories with Taoist themes. One of my favorites is the story of a giant gnarled tree. I will paraphrase:

There once was a huge tree who’s limbs were so twisted and gnarled that it could not be used for lumber. Its bark emitted a pungent sap that would not dry enough to use the tree for firewood. A woodcutter spoke with Chang-Tzu about it. “This is the ugliest tree I have ever seen! It is worthless for any purpose.”
Chang-Tzu agreed. “The virtue of this tree is in is worthlessness. By being unusable for any human purpose it is free to be a tree.”


Climbers can only exist on the rock because of its imperfections. We climb its fissures and holes. Our rock may be beautiful, but it is not perfect. Perfect stone is beyond our use. Our skill can not overcome it. It can be so rotten it cannot be hooked or pitoned, or so monolithic our hands find no purchase. It excepts no welcoming protection. It is what it is, perfectly worthless.

Two of my favorite cliffs have sections of perfect rock. One is a sea cliff with a hundred foot headwall so loose it crumbles if you sneeze on it. It revels in its ragged decay. A single hole in its center is the only weakness, and it is occupied by a nesting Cormorant. She could not have chose a safer home.

The other wall is small, perhaps fifty feet by forty, and is flanked on both sides by climbable stone. Perched high on a forested ridge, it looks west towards the sea. Its limestone is smooth as cream, and it flows in a hold-free curtain of blue and yellow stripes. You could frame it and sell it as art. But you couldn’t cling to it, I bet. It’s Free To Be.

I was at this second wall, climbing exceptional rock around the corner from Perfection, when all these meandering thoughts fused together in me. It was a nice moment. The heat came on strong that afternoon. The raptors spiraled high on the thermals. Sluggish and fatigued, I scrambled up a gully to a small cave. It was nearly cylindrical, a twisting tube four feet across. I lay down just inside its mouth and let its cool breath lull me to sleep as I remembered something I had written years before...

Follow me up
through bent and folded layers,
up into the Sunshine
of a hundred-thousand years ago.

I have been sitting here since then,
thinking crystallized thoughts,
Pondering 36 million sunsets.
Here under the sky again.

Trace my folds
and bands of crystals,
formed by a heat
greater than passion,
forged together and
set far below.

I was once like you,
walking in the Sunlight
for a few score
of fog-lit mornings,
before the borders failed,
and I disintegrated.

You will soon enough be like me,
solid and stoic,
warming and cooling
with the summer Sun
and the winter snows;
thinking crystal thoughts,
for another
hundred-thousand years.