Summer, 3245 b.c.e, Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq): Ashur, a wiry and restless lad
with big forearms and a mane of black hair, was tired of working. Life had gotten routine—tending to the leeks, barley and date palms in the
summer heat was numbing his mind.
“Dad,” he said, “this sucks.” His father, Sidu, stern yet compassionate, and who considered staring at the same patch of dirt for one’s life to be virtuous,
didn’t even pretend to listen. Meanwhile, Ashur longed for an adventure, and so, one sultry morning while the pelicans swooped up their breakfast on
the banks of the Euphrates and his dad snored away in their mud hut, Ashur stuffed a cloth full of salted fish and dates and was off on the world’s
first recorded “road trip.”
The scent of freedom wafted up his nostrils immediately. As he moved upriver toward the Mediterranean, Ashur planted his father’s dates in nearby towns
and shared his planting technique. Impoverished towns would soon flourish. Civilization was born, thanks to the road trip.
Inevitably, Ashur met and fell hard, stricken with love, for a young girl. Since he had gigantic forearms, he could impress her with his climbing. And
he did. The river boulders in Mesopotamia were chossy, slimy and mud-pasted, so he plodded north toward the emerald-encrusted limestone and boundless
seas of the Mediterranean. Once there, he realized he could make money doing first ascents above the water, solo, with only crushed limestone to dry
his hands, which he carried in a small sack made of antelope skin—it was psicobloc at its finest. Ashur recorded his exploits in sea-cave drawings—the
first cave drawings in history—of a boy hucking dynos and high-stepping on greasy slopers.
Ashur eventually settled down in the British Isles with his Egyptian sweetheart, but not before stopping in Petra (where he encouraged them to stop chipping
and start clean climbing) and making a quick ascent of Mont Blanc, via the Cosmique route. At the base of Mont Blanc, a local farmer with
a large pointed nose and penchant for poetic musings dreamt that one day there would be flying carts able to bring the peasants to the top of the mountain.
Ashur chastised the Gaul, citing bad ethics.
The exploits of Ashur are legendary, but the deeper meaning is clear: the road trip not only founded civilization, but kept it from imploding. It is because
of the likes of Ashur that each summer Rock and Ice presents its annual Road Trip issue, catering to instincts responsible and irresponsible
at once: self-preservation, blowing off steam, the new.
Our focus this year is the Rocky Mountains, a geological spine of rock and snow roughly 3,000 miles long, rising to 14,000 feet at times, beginning in
Canada and petering out in New Mexico. Visit one area or spend a summer ticking them all. Either way we present the best climbing (trad, sport, bouldering,
alpine) the Rockies has to offer, including local gems you may not even have heard of.
In another great adventure, Jess Roskelley and Clint Helander (see “The Fine Line,” page 46) managed the first ascent of the gigantic, arduous sawblade
of Mount Huntington’s South Ridge. Bold climbing is in Jess’s DNA. Literally. This issue’s What I’ve Learned features Jess’s father, John Roskelley,
a prolific high-altitude climber with sage advice to share.
Elsewhere in this issue, California’s Pine Creek (“Ecstasy,” page 52) appears in a photo essay worthy of its ribbon-cutting granite, and, as part of our
ongoing tribute to 50 years of Ascent, we revisit the Eiger with Clint Eastwood in the filming of “The Eiger Sanction” (1975), Hollywood’s first feature
climbing film to actually take place on the cliff … and Eastwood gets everyone’s respect.
Not already a subscriber?