So this is the very first entry in the ZAP Project blog, and hopefully the first of many. I don't even know where to begin. Maybe just with why this project is so important to me.
At Zach's memorial, his mother April stood before the climbing community and told us, in no uncertain terms, that she wanted us to keep climbing. For ourselves, for our community, and for Zach. She knew that Zach had wanted to climb everything, from burly boulder problems to gnarly big walls and everything in between. She begged us to climb it all, every single one, so that the spirit of her son could live on in our continued ascents.
So we continued to climb, and hard, spurred on by the knowledge that he would be stoked to know we did so. But aside from a photo or two, there's not much in the way of records of our sends. And it saddened me to know that April wasn't able to see all the love and effort that was put into honoring the memory of her son, from granite boulders to limestone crags to rhyolite bluffs.
So I dreamed up ZAP, my little representation of his spirit that we could bring with us, and this blog.
But some people may think it's silly - why need a mascot at all? Why not just send, and be happy we did? Why do we need to take a little thing with us to show our support when we know we already have him in our hearts and minds?
For me, it lies a little in symbolism. I'm a sucker for symbolism, but knowing that I have a physical representation of something I love makes me feel closer to the idea that he is with us, talking us through the spookiest cruxes and the hardest pitches.
But even more than that, it lies in community. Our climbing community is large. It's made up of all sorts of people from many walks of life. It's got every personality and every age, from oldschool Yosemite piton-pounders to bolt-clipping piece-placing moms and dads to the young guns cranking out in Fontaine Bleau and Rockland. Zach, and most climbers I know, are big believers in the importance of community. His kindness and excitability at meeting new people to talk and climb and share with were part of what made him such a gem of a person, and I know we all have a bit of that within us.
But I, and people I see at the crag every day, can get so immersed in our personal goals that we forget to reach out to the belayer sitting a few feet away from us and ask them about their day, how they are, even just what route they're on. We could be missing out on hundreds, even thousands of amazing opportunities to connect with people whom we share a common passion with. We could be expanding our community, setting aside differences and making new friends.
So that's where ZAP cemented this idea in my brain. To reach out, to explain his story and to ask a friend, an acquaintance, or best yet, a complete stranger to carry out his mission for all of us would be something magical.
And that's where you come in. Because this project is nothing, absolutely nothing, without the effort and love of you, the climbing community. This is my plea - just one blog entry, a couple of photos, and pass little ZAP on to his next adventure. It takes a little time and a lot of caring. This isn't just for Zach Parke. This is for everybody we have loved and lost, who should be right up there on the rock with us.