Alex handed me the book locked away in a ziplock bag. I casually joked with Alex that he shouldn’t take all the credit for letting me borrow the guidebook because it came from Greg. Alex laughed and said even the ziplock bag was Greg’s. The jokes fell flat as Greg looked at the contents of the ziplock bag. Inside was a climbing guide to the City of Rocks in Southern Idaho. He hadn’t seen the guidebook since lending it to Alex a few months ago. Greg looked on, not with a sense of possession, but with a long and wistful gaze. My jokes about who owned this book tumbled, as they burned away in the truth. None of us owned this book. This book, with a cover that had been ripped and carefully taped back together, still belongs to Matt Greene. But Matt hasn’t been back to reclaim this book since handing it to Greg in the summer of 2013.
I never met Matt before he tragically went missing in the high country of Yosemite in July 2013, but I feel as if there must of been at least once where he and I crossed paths. In the beginning of 2013, I was a total amateur rock climber, wide-eyed, and just entering into the local climbing community. I stood in awe of the athleticism on display and the buzz of adventure in the air. I am almost sure I saw Matt climbing at our local gym or heard him talking of an upcoming adventure with a respectful envy. I am even more sure of it now that I have flipped his guidebook open, seen the wear and folded corners, and read his scrawled notes in a neat but hurried handwriting.
I could write more about the tragedy of losing Matt, but sadly, I did not really know him. I will save that for others more apt. I could write more about the desperate and now determined search for Matt, but you can read more about that here and here. All I can speak to is the sense of knowing Matt from leafing through this very well loved and appended guidebook.
The first thing that jumped out to me when reading Matt’s words is that he not only noted when he had done a climb, he noted the accomplishments of the people he was with, “This route – MUST DO!! Alex led clean 8/7/10″. Seeing these small accolades for his climbing partners calls to mind a cheer of excitement from the belay as his friend sent a tough route. The second thing that jumped out to me was the articulate notes in the front end of the book, “Recycle Plastic, Aluminum, and Glass here”. I can picture Matt walking from campsite to campsite asking fellow climbers what to do with the recycling, and knowing that this book would end up in someone’s hands, took the time to log that information away. After leafing through the entire book, I let the bookmark fall to the table and scanned through a detailed and personalized page of notes that Matt hand crafted for Greg. In looking at that page, I can picture the casual conversation at the gym about how Greg would be visiting City of Rocks and that Matt would bring the guide in for him to borrow. I can also see Matt returning home and taking the extra time it required to scan back through the guidebook and give Greg those extra few personal details: noting the climb that he knew Greg would love or the hot springs that he knew his family would enjoy.
It is true, that I didn’t know Matt at all. But it is safe to say that I would have really liked him. And wherever you are Matt, I hope it is a peaceful place with a nice breeze blowing through an alpine meadow, the tall towers of granite you loved surrounding you. And maybe someday your close friends and family will get a full picture of what happened to you so that they can carefully mend the rip that your loss has created.
Authored by Andy Munas