His Name is Moses
I’m in Alaska. I’d like to interview someone about the climbing up here. I have no idea who or what to write about. And he falls into my lap.
One day I’ll take some time to explain my admiration of climbing, but my flirtation with this love starts with my best friend Tessa.
Tessa’s a marine biologist who had just returned home to Juneau, Alaska from a remote river in Russia. She was on assignment testing ways to improve the depleted salmon population in the Northern Pacific; she’s an avid outdoorswoman, and the 1st person to ever belay me. With that, I guess it’s fitting that she recommended Moses as my 1st contribution to the DIHEDRAL.
Me: Why do they call you Moses?
Moses: I don’t really feel comfortable talking to someone I don’t know very well.
Me: Oh? Well you know I’m Tessa’s cousin, is that not enough?
Moses: Let’s go for a ride.
Moses is built to climb; he has long limbs with a compact torso, strong-callused hands, and short stubby fingers. Of course being built to climb has very little to do with one’s body, being built to climb is mostly about disposition. And Moses is fierce, perhaps a little off center, and perhaps a lot off center.
…Being built to climb has very little to do with one’s body, being built to climb is mostly about disposition.
I was hoping Tessa would join us on our climbing adventure, as she had just gotten back from a month long expedition, and she was the reason I was visiting Alaska in the 1st place, but she had to work, so it would just be Moses and myself for the day…and night…and next day.
Moses met up at Tessa’s around 9AM, wearing old ripped blue jeans, a fishing cap (filled with fish hooks), and a grey unassuming hoodie sans hood. (Just to make myself clear, I realize a hoodie that has no hood isn’t technically a hoodie; I just wanted you to know that it was a hoodie, but now the sweatshirt remains yet the hood is gone. How does one lose a hood you may ask…His name is Moses)
I had no idea what we were in for, but I was hoping it would make for a good interview.
Moses: Lets go for a ride.
Me: Okay, where to?
Moses: We’ll go climbing and you can ask me questions along the way, but before anything serious we need breakfast.
I’d already eaten, and I was already having reservations, but Tessa thought this would be a good idea, so I said “fuck it; let’s go”.
Me: Fuck it; let’s go.
I went to get breakfast with Moses. We didn’t go to a restaurant, we didn’t go to a gas station, we didn’t go anywhere to buy food, we went to a pier, tied up to that pier was Carol. She was ugly, she was dirty, she was incredibly old, and I had no idea why anyone would let a person keep her tied up. In this case the adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ couldn’t have rang more truly, because Carol could cook. By cook, I mean for an old broken ass boat, Carol was pretty fast.
Carol was Moses’ version of a van. It was filled with all his gear, crash pads, ropes, harness, shoes, name it, he had it. Our first stop was the marina store to stock up on pancake mix (?), Clif bars, and water…Moses didn’t have enough money to pay and wouldn’t allow me to pay, so he made some weird deal with the clerk and we were on our way.
Me: Where are we going?
Moses: You’ll see.
Of course I’ll see, I’m aware of how the future becomes the present given the passage of time Moses, but I was hoping for a little insight since part of me feels like you’re going to kill me and use my flesh for halibut bait. Also, why doesn’t your hoodie have a hood?
Well I wasn’t too far off; Moses took me fishing. In addition to his climbing gear was a shit ton of fishing gear, a kayak, camping supplies, and an accordion. I thought it would be a great time to find out what makes old Moses tick so I asked him.
Me: You can only pick one for the rest of your life, what do you pick…kayaking, climbing, fishing, camping, pancakes, or the accordion?
Moses: I think I got a hit.
He actually caught a fish, a pretty big rockfish. As he pulled it up, he asked me to smack it with an oar.
Moses: Smack it with an oar.
Me: Nope, you smack it with an oar.
Moses: Okay, hand me an oar.
He smacked it with an oar, gutted it on the boat, and we were off again.
Me: Where are we going?
Moses: I have to take this fish somewhere.
Cool Moses, way to nail down the specifics. At this point I’m thinking I may kill him and use his flesh for halibut bait.
We pulled up to a series of buoys connected to crab pots, he baited them with the rockfish parts, and we were off once again. It was futile to ask him where we’re going; apparently Moses lives life in a series of short mysteries, like some inner Agatha Christie controls his release of information. So I thought I’d enjoy the ride and try to sneak in a few questions on the way.
Me: This is a nice boat (it isn’t), where’d you get it?
Moses: I traded my car for HER.
Moses: Cars can only take you places that others have gone before, with a boat, you can find new places that no one has ever touched, and you don’t need a road to get there. I live on this boat, and I’m able to make a living with this boat. Teach a man to fish type of thing you know?
Moses is getting deep with the motherfucking proverbs. Although it sounded cliché, there was something to what Moses said. I stopped caring about interviewing him and now I was just excited to climb.
We were at sea for a little over an hour, before we made our way to a series of cliffs, unfortunately the tide was too low for us to have access to the spot we were going to climb, so we just waited for the tide to come in. I asked a bunch of BS questions like where he came from and how he got into climbing, but mostly we just had fun reaching into tide pools and skipping rocks. We took the kayak out for a little bit, he tried to show me how to Eskimo roll, and before you knew it we’re tying ol’ Carol up to the cliff. My guess is that this was somewhere along the Kakuhan Range, but I’m really not sure since Moses either had no idea where we were, or else didn’t want to say.
The Rock was super flakey and wet from the rain.
Me: Why don’t you use a cell phone?
Moses: I wouldn’t use one, and I don’t think I could afford it?
Me: Why do you have all these VHS tapes?
Moses: They’re filled with the BEST wrestling matches ever!
Me: Like what Hogan and Andre the Giant?
Moses: Do you want to watch some when we get done?
Once we made it to the top of the cliff Moses emptied our water bottles right into the ocean below like a crazy person. I guess I was ready to die? I mean he could have just released the belay as I was making my ascent, but dying of thirst has more of a Moses vibe to it, I respect that.
Me: What are you doing?
Moses: you’ll see.
This motherfucker took me foraging to collect 128oz of fresh blueberries and salmonberries…now just to give you a heads up, it’s easy to lose track of time in Alaska, as it gets late without getting dark. Between climbing and hiking and foraging and snacking on berries and Clif bars hours moved like minutes and it was about 10 PM. Neither of us brought a watch, and Moses seems pretty aloof with regard to temporal progression anyway. By the time we made it back to Carol, it was darkish and midnight.
The tide had gone out, Carol was stuck on the rocky shore for the night. Moses wasn’t concerned at all, the night was clear, the stars were as bright as I have ever seen them, and the northern lights offered a faint green hue to accent the sky. Moses pulled out a couple crash pads and sleep sacks, and I fell asleep in one of the most beautiful and remote settings a person could imagine, the waves crashing in the distance, my body exhausted from a solid day on the rock, and Moses creepily staring at me while playing ‘Anarchy in the UK’ on his accordion.
I woke up to the boat rocking in the rising waters, eagles screeching overhead, and Moses serving up a plate of salmonberry and blueberry waffles. We ingested this culinary gift from mother earth/Moses’ electric waffle maker, and talked like we were long lost brothers before setting a course due for Juneau. If you’re wondering if we were watching WrestleMania VII with Macho Man vs. The Ultimate Warrior on VHS in the wheelhouse, then you haven’t been paying attention at all. OF course we were!!!
On the way back we pulled up the crab pots, Moses secured his legal limit and released the others, we stopped at the Marina to pay for the previous days food and drinks in crab (Moses survives on the barter system, most people will trade almost anything for fresh Alaskan crab).
Before he dropped me off he gave me all but one of his crabs to give to Tessa as a thanks for lending me out and letting him borrow a car.
Me: Thanks for the climb Moses.
Moses: Thanks for hanging out; you’re a great guest…I hope our waves crash again.
Me: *Nodding. *Thinking. “You are an interesting person, but you really need to work on your metaphors.”
That was it…I went inside and he took off. I did get a chance to ask Moses a few climbing questions along the way, these were his responses.
Me: What do you think about climbing being in the Olympics?
Moses: I didn’t know it was; I guess I don’t care.
Me: Do you ever think about documenting your life, getting some sponsors?
Moses: I do document my life…(he points to a scar on his cheek, the callouses on his hands, and Carol) It’s all written down, you just have to take the time to read it.
Me: What about sponsorship?
Moses: I wake up where and when I want to every single day; I meet cool people (thanks Moses, you’re too kind) and get by doing what I love. I have a few friends who have major sponsorships, and once that happens, it’s just not the same.
Me: What do you think about the growing popularity of climbing?
Moses: I’m indifferent…not too many people make it up to where I climb, I imagine it can get pretty busy down south, but long shore belaying still seems like the wild west.
Me: Do you play cribbage?1
Me: Do you want to play?
I doubt I’ll ever see Moses again, but this strange hood-less goon gave me one of the best days of my life. As far as interviews go, I have no idea if this is the way to do it, but I don’t really care, I met an ally, a friend who fits the mold of my hero Diogenes2, and to that, I’m grateful!
I’ll end on an interesting quote from our new friend on why he doesn’t like pictures…
“We’re all ghosts here and so it’s counterproductive to pretend that we were ever even alive”
- Cribbage is one of the best games two people can play while exploring nature at any level. (example here)
- Diogenes is one of the most interesting philosophers who has ever lived. His life was dictated by nothing more than reason and the laws of nature. Also, he slept outside in a tub, naked! (more info here)