This piece is written by NMLFF Ambassador, Gretchen Gerlach.
Far from the multi-pitches of Yosemite, the cracks of Indian Creek, and the flares of Joshua Tree, the coconut palms of the Big Island of Hawaii will have to fulfill my desire to get off the ground.
In January I made a tough decision to leave my beloved life of dirtbag-climbing-glory in pursuit of a different career. From the ancient deserts of the southwest to one of the youngest rocks in the world, I moved (with my beloved truck and home “Bison” in tow) to the Big Island of Hawaii. While the Island might be one of the best known volcanoes and floating masses in the Pacific, its rock is typically seen as unfit for rope climbing. Sharp, chossy, young, and undiscovered, the Island’s lava fields do not boast many opportunities. Instead the ex-climbers I’ve met have set their sights towards the coast lines for some intense deep water soloing adventures, or adopted an arborist style in the cloud forests, or headed down under, rappelling into caves and lava tubes to satisfy their longings for the sport.
The choice to move was influenced by a combination of factors pulling me towards the topics. It was solidified when three different people recommended I pursue a job opportunity on the Big Island. A horticultural therapy program, Pacific Quest is located in the remote Southern most tip of the Island. Similar to the wilderness therapy organizations on the Mainland, PQ provides a kind of holistic therapy that uses the healing power of nature and growing food to help youth from around the country overcome a wide variety of challenges. I have a degree in Sustainable Agriculture, a desire to work in alternative therapy, and a phobia of any job that requires me to work indoors from 9-5. Two weeks after my first interview I was getting on a plane, leaving 2014 and 6 feet of snow in Montana, to 2015 and 70 degree weather in tropical paradise.
Despite the void of traditional rock climbing, I came to find that the Island is not short on adventures. With a sampling of nearly all of the world’s types of ecosystems and environments, you just have to know where to look to find the right kind of recreation. To name a few:
Ocean - surfing, boogie boarding, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, sailing, boating, deep water soloing, swimming with dolphins and away from sharks.
Alpine - snow (yup, it’s up there, and you can ride it), hiking, trail running, (not to mention the long history of distance races such as the Iron Man), skydiving, cloud and star gazing.
Volcano - exploring vast lava fields, caving and spelunking in lava tubes, spending quality time with Pele, and watching the glow of molten lava light up the earth.
Rainforest - canyoneering in gulches, tree climbing, planting, foraging, harvesting, and hunting.
While my heart aches for alpine starts, solid rock and hours spent planning new strategies to reach a summit, an addiction for the mysterious adventures that the Island continuously provides has taken hold. With each passing week, I grow more confident in my choice of the unknown. I am grateful to have been able to move my dirtbag lifestyle across the ocean and I’m proud that my choice of home need not influence my choice of career but rather reinforce my passions and priorities. For the foreseeable future, I will be reporting for No Man’s Land from the remote, the unique, the stoked, the supernatural, the one and only Big Island of Hawaii.