|Photo: Jonathan Alexander|
That's right! After a few eager months of working out the details, what started as an awkwardly hungover Wednesday was suddenly redeemed by the sight of a FedEx truck out the window, and the driver carrying my new Asana Sir Lands-A-Lot pad to my door. I loved it! I know I've told a bunch of people about the pad over the past couple months, but as a proud new "parent" I feel compelled to repeat it again here...
Having used the Sir Lands-A-Lot pads a few times on trips to NV and CA, I had been wanting to buy one of my own for a while. Earlier this spring, I decided it was time for a new pad, and went to the Asana website to see what the color options were... and then saw that they also had a customizable pad called the Disturbed. Now I faced a bit of a dilemma: do I get an awesome pad that I already know I like, or a different style that I can customize? Or can I do both?
I emailed Asana to find out whether the pad concepts could be combined, and soon had a reply from Adam Healy basically saying "we don't really do that, but yeah we'll do it." I knew I liked these guys! And sure, maybe that willingness to work with customers is true of climbing companies in general, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten that same consideration if I'd called Nike asking for a customized shoe. At least not until my NFL career takes off! In any case the pad I wanted was a possibility, and after a few weeks of Adam helping me shape thought into reality, here's what we came up with...
The main pad measures 48" x 36" x 3", and the attached "Shorty" pad measuring 36" x 24" can either be stacked on top or deployed to the side to cover pointy rocks and nasty roots. The interior is bright red for better visibility in photos, while the dark and light green exterior allows me to minimize my visual impact on other user groups while making our heavily forested approaches. Depending on my need, the Shorty pad can also be flipped over to show either the red or the green side while walking: green if I want to blend in a bit during summer, or red as a big "please don't shoot me" sign for bouldering during hunting season. In use, the pad is light and comfortable to carry, as well as comfortable to fall on. On a past trip to California, I found that the comfort of these pads extended indoors as well. With both pads laid end to end and fitted with a single sheet, it makes for a wonderful night of sleep.
Of all the bouldering I've done, some of my favorite problems haven't been the hardest. Rather I've frequently been drawn to technically easier lines where the results of falling would be a bit more drastic. So far it's worked out for me, but a couple months back one of my siblings helpfully reminded me of the saying that there are old climbers and bold climbers, but there are no (or few) old bold climbers. At first I joked that I should have it embroidered on a crash pad as a "don't be a dumbass" warning. After thinking about it a bit though, I decided that some sort of symbol representing the phrase might actually be a good idea.
Thinking about the old/bold contrast, my mind immediately went to a yin-yang design, with an old man to represent the old, and some sort of animal representing boldness. So I looked up Chinese zodiac animals, going along with the yin-yang theme, and found that boldness is represented by the tiger. And suddenly felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. For me, the tiger already had a meaning. It represented my friend Jonny, the boldest climber I ever knew, who had died while climbing in China a couple years before. And here I was with a Chinese symbol that could basically be interpreted as "tigers don't grow old." For a couple weeks the design stalled. As perfect as it initially seemed, was it somehow insensitive in light of this new connection? Or was it all the better a reminder of the message?
After a good deal of meditation on the concept, I decided to go for it. Knowing I wasn't nearly talented enough to pull it off, I searched ever more widely before realizing that the artist had been in front of me all along. In case of great timing, Earth Treks had a poster design contest for an upcoming competition, and the winning submission came from my friend Erin O'Brien. Impressed with her work, I explained the design I was trying to create, and was thrilled when she agreed to do it. Now, Erin will tell you that she works best when given a deadline, but I'm not sure I agree. Yes, she took longer to do it than she said she would... but after every delay she came back with an even more amazing design, and I can't thank her enough for all the time and energy she put into it.
After that, I sent Erin's design off to Custom Patches, and it was just a matter of waiting. Again, the wait was longer than I'd anticipated, but the final result even better than I had expected. When the patches were complete, I had one sent directly to Asana, and they finished up the pad and had it out to me just in time for my return from Yosemite (more about that later).
I still blown away by how much I love this pad. A huge thanks to everyone involved, but especially to Erin for the patch design, and to Adam and the rest of Asana for making it happen. You guys are amazing!