melissa i strong

rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily

The Lost Season


Me 11 miles in at Lake Husted


It has been a crazy year to say the least.  The calamity began in March shortly after our return from Hueco with and avalanche that took a dear friend and fortunately spared another--one of my long time greatest friends and climbing partners, Lisa Foster, survived.  Myself and many suffered greatly because of this loss.  Picking the up pieces, being a supportive friend and moving forward was all we could do and still are doing.


In the spring I began training with David Mason ( and was determined to up the anti for this summer Rocky Mountain National Park, RMNP, season and the winter in Hueco!  Feeling like training was working and waiting for the snow to melt up high in the park I put up a new boulder problem – my first first ascent, Ain’t No Thing but a Chicken Wing, V8! (


The next glitch (minor compared to death) was an injured pulley. I have heard tales of fingers snapping loudly but when you hear it from your own body the rupturing noise is louder than imaginable especially coming from a small finger.  Slowly rehabbing attempting to make the best of the situation and trying to move forward was most of my summer.   Four solid weeks of absolutely no climbing was the result of my finger but man I did a lot of pull ups!  Getting back on the path feeling weak and still not healed I picked up where I left off with David attempting to gain what I had lost.  Being cautious I had to fight the urge to run into The Park and try hard.  I picked back up at Phase 2 week 4 of training—thankfully we had expanded our climbing wall last fall and I had an amazing training facility in my garage!  Being injured in Colorado is not so bad when you still have two legs to take you places and that is what I did—hiked to new destinations in RMNP on the hunt for new boulders while enjoying the splendor that surrounds us.   And I did find what I think will be and amazing bouldering field 12 miles in –the plan would be to hire some horses and set up camp for a bit next summer.


Finally feeling like my finger was solid again I was hopeful to take advantage of Sendtember and Rocktober.  However, the next obstacle presented itself--the flood, devastating the front range of Colorado sweeping hard work, dreams, homes and roads away.  Great strength and fortitude was shown from the community as we picked up and moved forward.   (


I have waited this long to climb I can be patient was my maxim.  Then the government shuts down closing our dear Rocky Mountain National Park.   I guess this isn’t going to be my season in the Park I thought.  Keeping my head down and spirit up I return to my garage to train, train and train some more—feeling so grateful to have our climbing cave but also missing the outdoors.  After the park opened I did get a day in at Elk Land in between the early snowstorm and sent a boulder problem, which is what I needed to boost the psych level.  Elk Stone V10 went down quickly after trying it a handful of times two springs ago it felt good to return and do it!   The training is paying off—Thanks David Mason!


             The lost season has taught me so much.  Since living through these shocking times I have been so grateful for the people around me, for the roads I drive on, for having a home and business still, for being able to climb inside and out.  It has also taught me acceptance—some things cannot be fixed but being strong, looking for the brightness in the dark, not succumb to darkness and helping others out of the dark times was about all I could do through these challenges.


             In between the craziness I have continued to work diligently at the other aspects of my life including the restaurant I manage, our growing guiding concession in Hueco Tanks, Wagon Wheel Co-opt (, and organizing the 21sts Hueco Rock Rodeo.  This year the American Alpine Club, AAC, asked Wagon Wheel Co-opt to partner with them at Rock Ranch offering guided tours at the Ranch.  The 2013, 20th Hueco Rock Rodeo was a great success and I was asked to organize the event again.  So far we have a great line up with a slideshows from Hueco local Sam Davis, professional UK climber Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and Dave Graham premiering the Island 2!  There is also going to be a great line up of professional climbers competing and some will conduct clinics including Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Jimmy Webb, Sean McColl, Angie Payne, Nina Williams, Kasia Pietras and more!



             Life has returned to a new state of what I consider normal now and we have a few weeks left in Colorado before our Hueco season starts.  It is always difficult to leave my home, friends and my Dunraven family but once I get to Hueco I am home again.




Lisa Foster Lake Husted

 Lake Husted


looking back at Lost Lake

Lake Louise ahead

Ships Prow

me and Karla

Chasm Lake

Chasm Lake