Valley of the Gods. Photo Tim Peterson / LightHawk


A Story of Heritage, Climbing, and Finding Self

Dani Reyes-Acosta
Sep 4, 2018 · 5 min read

“Bumping!!” I sang, cheerfully, as my left fist locked off, my right hand pulling the trigger to release the piece. The echo rang out from the walls surrounding us. The variability of leaning, jagged, straight, and detached rock did not belie the perfection in symmetry, illustrating the divine geometry that we, the worshippers, came to celebrate.

Johnny cruising on Annunaki in Bears Ears. PC Dani Reyes-Acosta

Here we had solitude. The black streaks in the sandstone didn’t betray us with the sun’s glare; we’d remain hidden in her shadows, scampering around and up and over the blocks around us. Impossibly, we were the only party at this wall today, but that wasn’t a total accident: we’d selected the routes for their shade, their inaccessibility, their remoteness. We liked it like that. The shade protected us as we skipped between climbs, lost children enjoying the abandoned playground.

Here we had camaraderie, but also found our own individual rhythm. Each one, on lead, breathing, plugging gear, pulling rope, swaying into the cadence our chosen climb gifted.

Just a few climbs at Indian Creek, Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. PC Dani Reyes-Acosta

The chalk was pointless, the sandstone offering purchase with her granularity, the countless specs of ancient silica welded together to present this surface here, to me, now. The sweat, in its infinitesimal multitude, was thirsty, chupando with its beads any chance of help it would have given me. Fine, no magnesio. No different than normal.

Who was holding the rope that day — Mader? Johnny? I asked, quietly, facing all of them: “Please, give me the space, the support to go up — but no spray. No beta. I can do this.” They solemnly nodded, totems of the energies I’d harness on the ascent.

One piece in, then two. A few more, and I was on the shelf, splitter now above me, beckoning with open, perfect hands. I visualized the chain of gold I’d weave as I snaked up the corner. Pounding heart was no longer an issue. The beat had fallen away, back where it belonged as the silent bass in the music of my mind.

Months later, living in the land of my ancestors, I’d recognize that beat. The backbone of son Istmeño, of cumbia, of the drumbeat of the Colorado Plateau, of the plains of Spain, that beat was as steady, wild, and varied as the striations of cacao, rust, ochre, and brick that streaked the same rock into which I was folding myself.

Here I had a home. The chaos of color, the wildness of place, the sanctuary of solitude — it was made for me. This patria respires with the breath of my people past, present, and future. Our joint wildness — of human and of place — had been woven together over time so intrinsically that without the other, each would suffer.

Here, I found myself. At the chains, overwhelmed with gratitude, euphoria, and adrenaline, I heard the howl emerge from my chapped lips before I could stop it. Head thrown back, I called out. My fellow creatures below answered, a chorus of yips, barks, and bellows

This is our patria. This is our homeland.

Note: this story was originally published for the limited edition 85 for 85 art activism project raising funds for the Wilderness Society’s lawsuit to defend Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

Back by popular demand (and for a limited time) in Oct./Nov. 2018, you can own 85 for 85 to experience the relationship other artists, photographers, writers, and illustrators all have to the lands around the Monuments.

This is also the story of my first lead climb — an empowering moment wherein I began to truly own my journey as a climber. This is also a story that touches upon my multiracial heritage, a topic I’ll be exploring in the coming months.

About 85 for 85:

We are bringing creatives who care deeply about the protection of public lands together to make something for good: a book of 85 collected appreciations, centered on two gems very dear to our hearts — Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

Guess what? Through November 11, you can purchase this limited run art book. Check out a few more art samples below. Or, just buy the book now.

Above, a contribution from artist and activist Sarah Uhl. Learn more about her creative journey on Instagram at @sarahvirginiauhl.
From left to right, contributions from: photographer and artist Tyana Arviso; illustrator and designer Paky Callahan; designer Savannah Holder.

About the Author

In her work and in her personal life, she is inspired not only by the potential of creating inspiring, measurable narratives, but also by impacting the future of our public lands, our public health, and our community well-being. When not in the office, she can be found chasing adventures on snowy mountains, rocky crags, rolling trails, and pitching waves around the world.

Learn more about her work here, or follow her creative dabblings on Instagram.

Thank you for reading!

Feeling Fired Up Yet?

Dani Reyes-Acosta

Written by

I help frame up the future with brand strategy that makes next-gen consumer connections @nomadcreativa

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