Saturday, March 29, 2014

Water in the Desert

In the desert, anywhere water flows, is magical. A sacred space, a beacon for life. Filled with echoes of the indigenous...  Color, heat, wind, intensities and sharp contrasts. A place for sweat, burning muscles and exposed skin - discovery and insight...  (images from a a few hours in Anza Borrego)

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Storied History in 35mm...

Lost seconds of Time's passage, span continents.
Marked with F stops and shutter speeds.
Ghosts of cultures and circumstance,
2,000 seconds captured from slipped decades.

Found again at the crossroads.
Where forgotten light meets rebirth, 
Story splashes across 35mm slides.


Thank you John, for sharing this gift.
All images ©John Hoskins' Collection circa 1951 to 1975.
The collection is currently being archived by Bennett Barthelemy
and represented by Anca Colbert -

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ancient Art

Cracked lips, bleeding hands, sunburnt... A bit of vertical therapy. Definitely suffered from a lack of sun, exposure and LCDD (lead climbing deficit disorder) for far too long... Ancient Art in the Fisher Towers is one of the more unique formations on this planet... So psyched to have bluebird skies, a solid partner, and the gift of the sharp-end again...
Exquisite mud of the Cutler Formation... the summit of Ancient Art is the darker spire...

The Stolen Chimney... ©Barthelemy Collection


The move is a leap from this knife-edge... ©Barthelemy

Some summits just demand that you pose...

Desert Medicine

Desert Medicine 
(b.b. 3-15-14)

The sharp end again,
Of the knife-edge traverse.
Ancient mud, faded echoes, embraced ghosts
Of the Colorado Plateau.

Feet at the edge,
In blowing sand and the swirl of virga.
Over 1,000 slipped nights,
Fade into the ache of a single sunset.
500 feet of warm air
To the solid earth, turned over.

At the other end -
A welcome closure.
To jump again,
I choose sky. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Inside the Swell

Day one in the desert proved prophetic in terms of loosing of oneself. I managed also to sacrifice my fleece and phone to the depths of a slot canyon. Actually nice to be partially cut off again. It was a day to randomly run into old friends in some rather obscure places and to watch Molly, a dog who's owner says water is like "acid" to her, manage to succeed through some 8 miles of slot canyons and frigid thigh deep puddles - she even survived a brief minute as an incredibly well-fitting doggy-chockstone in a v-slot of scrambled rock that held her back-half and required two of us to extricate her vertically.

Day two had me up at sunrise and running too many miles of slots to find the missing gear and to no avail. At midday, localized weather whipped up ominous dark clouds against cobalt blue, rain was falling around the Swell but managed to stay dry in slot canyons we maybe should not have been in...

The need for vertacality is becoming extreme... today should provide...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Through the Looking Glass...

An old friend, Looking Glass Rock, Utah ©Bennett Barthelemy

I'm on a wavelength far from home
I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
I dial it in from south of the border 
-Wall of Voodoo-

Snowy days are dreaming days for me... 

A mountain snow inversely speaks to me of the vastness of the desert. Waking to the whispering of warm winds at dawn, the promise of heat as the sun rises. Awake in the wide open dichotomy of cyan blue over Entrada red.

There is comfort in the vastness. A place where perpetual wandering, a perpetual losing of oneself - is welcome. The desert creates unconscious forgetting. In the desert there is space to re-create, the needed warmth to grow...  It offers the promise of renewal. To dream with Chinle, Windgate and Navajo again.

It is the direction I travel. To sleep beneath stars - and to bring the sun back home.

A stone's secrets... Utah ©Bennett Barthelemy

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Gift of Collaboration...

It is always a gift to be with individuals that are incredibly passionate and seem to be quite well-connected to their muse… I have had the good fortune of getting to spend a bit of time with some men and women that are to me true artists. When I see them at work it is apparent that they are doing exactly what they need to be doing…

Way back in 2007 I co-authored a feature with Keith Ladzinski for Rock and Ice Magazine, it appears on page 61… Keith worked his magic with the camera and I put some words behind the images…

For me, being able to spend time collaborating with storytellers like Keith - or cutting edge athletes/explorers, scientists, environmentalists/activists, academics, healers, incredible parents/mentors - has offered some of my most illuminating and worthwhile experiences to date.

I look forward to being able to continue engaging this synergy - it keeps me going and keeps me hopeful…

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Unwinding From The Winding...

Wonder what it says about me when my favorite shot of the day is this one... Hmmm...

Unwinding from the winding - primed to wind and unwind again...

Thanks to all for a good day...

Monday, March 3, 2014

Wanderer's Muse...

My latest article in Ojai Quarterly that hit the streets yesterday... The mag has just gone national so pick it up if you see it out there, some good content for sure.

Thanks is due again to Caron Moyers for her modeling talents and for surviving in the 100 plus degree temps this day in the Sespe Wilderness!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

This Pull Skyward - thoughts on dreams, tears and healing...


I was jolted awake and sat upright in my sleeping bag. It had to have been past midnight. I could see stars twinkling through the pine forest we were camping within. My friend's dog had not been alerted by whatever had awakened me, and she as well as my climbing partner, still slept soundly. Then I heard it. The unmistakable high-pitched scream of a mountain lion nearby – but strangely my companions did not stir at all. I was motionless and listened for several minutes. Nothing. The trickle of water from the stream nearby was all I could hear. Had I imagined the cry of the mountain lion?

We were here at our basecamp in the Trinity Alps Wilderness of Northern California and not far from the Stonehouse. We had plans to climb Stonehouse Buttress, a 1000-foot long vertical and quite technical climb up a mountain of granite. Our search prior had yielded very little information about it, save the first ascentionists that wrote a tiny blurb in a 1972 Ascent Magazine that they encountered “Yosemite-style climbing”. It sounded promising… On the hike in it looked intimidating as hell.

I was nervous for sure and took the auditory anomaly that had just awakened me for pre-climb jitters and settled back in to sleep – tomorrow would be a massive day. Then it happened again. I was jolted upright, awakened from a deep sleep. It was still nighttime. I waited, I listened. This time I watched as a streak of light flashed through the trees - A huge shooting star. I watched it race across the sky and impact and explode in the next valley over with a massive flash of light - the earth literally shook. I looked to my friends and they still slept. I was now fairly convinced I was losing it. I appealed to the spirits of the place and asked forgiveness for our trespass. I didn’t know what else to do. I cried for a moment. I pulled it together finally but was afraid to go to sleep, fearing I would be again awakened…

I did fall asleep. And I was awakened again. This time as I sat up I could see we were all underwater and the surface a few feet above us. I watched a water-strider glide across on surface tension from beneath. I was worried my friends would try to breath in so I instinctively took my hand wand waved it and the water was instantly gone. We were alone in the dry, dark forest again. Something was happening and I still had no idea what. I sat and I listened. As I looked straight ahead I could see lights twinkling through the trees, but we were hours and miles from the nearest city or even home. And that’s when I left the forest…

The next morning I was of course back, awakened at dawn by the dog nuzzling me... It was a strange way to start a climb. As we approached up the talus I tried to explain to my climbing partner what happened. We cast off on perhaps the most physically and mentally demanding climb I had ever encountered. Sections of rock seemed glued together by what resembled the solidity of crumbled up saltine crackers mixed with water that had been left to dry in the sun. I felt committed. We had just one rope and some of the anchor choices demanded the use of large blocks of dubious holding power. A retreat would have meant leaving a ton of gear and trusting suspect rock that made the option very unappealing. We reached the summit spire and rappelled to a nearby spire that allowed for an easy walk-off. But on pulling the rope to retrieve it, it stuck. I figured it a sign and made use of the knife and left Stonehouse with a half a rope. A fair trade I reasoned…

We spent another night in the shadow of Stonehouse. I requested a different camping spot. This time we slept among boulders and closer to the trickle of water. It felt comfortable. That night I had powerful dreams. I dreamt that the water we slept next to was curative water. The dreams were hopeful, healing dreams and incredibly welcoming after the mind-bending intensity of the night previous and the climb… Before the long hike out, I knelt at the edge the stream and drank deeply…

It has taken some time for me to realize this, but I believe for millenia, this kind of experience has been commonplace and searched for. It is a distinctly human experience, but sadly one that is getting more and more difficult to access as we mover further away from the natural cycles and rhythms of unpaved earth. After I got over the fear that I could be “losing it”, I shared what happened with a professor of Native American studies at Humboldt State University. He seemed totally unsurprised by my recounting. He smiled, asked a few more specifics before responding.

“You were in the high country. The Trinity Alps has been neutral territory for four local native tribes for generations. The Hupa, Karuk, Tolowa and Yurok all go there to seek power, often to be healers…”

This happened in 1995. At the time it did not make “sense” to me. Although unique, it now feels somehow elemental and even “normal” having spent a thousand nights in wilderness. Last night however, I was awakened again, but I was beneath the roof of my home. I think because I have been brought into this train of memory again by recent events, and through the sharing of this experience to others from nearly two decades ago… It is incredibly fresh again, unforgettable... I realize, that for me, the pull from the high country and from mountains is truly a gift to be explored and shared because it has the power to inform us on so many levels.

It was through the magic of the internet at three A.M. this morning, in the glow of electrons, that I found this - thoughts shared by some of the local Northern California indigenous and published by an ethnographer… I found it an intriguing way to describe this pull skyward…

Pg. 122"A person who is well prepared ... can go into the "high country," the physically and spiritually highest mountains. He will encounter spiritual beings associated with specific places, and they will teach him – "talk to him." ... these beings are immemorial spirits ... . ... training really ultimately means just sitting down with spiritual beings and talking with them."

"There’s great power in tears. ... If you don’t shed your tears your prayer won’t work, and you won’t get what you’re after."

“When spirits appear unbidden, in a dream for instance, they come to announce that a person has a certain option, or potential. It is now up to that person to realize this potential through application of will power ... . A person might dream of powerful beings or a place where "power" is available, for instance, but it remains to obtain the spirit’s blessings and to bring them under control."

Thomas Buckley : Standing Ground : Yurok Indian Spirituality. U of CA Pr, Berkeley, 2002.